Mario Guerra Retires as Director of Response and Recovery

 

SAN ANTONIO — In 2010, Mario Guerra joined the BCFS System family as a member of the Emergency Management Division (EMD) after 35 years of service in the San Antonio Fire Department – a career that began with one water hose and two singed eyebrows.

Upon hearing about his retirement, Kevin Dinnin, President & CEO of the BCFS System, asked if Mario might be interested in further aiding people and communities in need, explaining plans for a new Emergency Management Division (EMD), and how someone with his applied experience would be an asset to build and grow the EMD team. Mario was intrigued by the position and the chance to be a part of something meaningful and lasting. Before he had even officially left his role at SAFD, Mario began his service full time under BCFS Health and Human Services’ EMD.

It’s about legacy. It’s about creating a system for the next person.

When Mario first came on, the EMD branch was composed of five people, Mario included. Today, BCFS’s EMD employs more than 3,500 personnel, each providing critical emergency support in moments of human need on an international scale.

In his eight years of service and experience with EMD, Mario responded to wildfires, hurricanes, and other disasters. He has written and recorded procedures of service and care that span hundreds of pages, each full of information that can instruct future response teams on the lessons learned from his own team’s history in working through some of the most dire moments of human need.

Mario’s efforts were not only about working through people’s worst moments by meeting physical needs, it was also about providing emotional support to those who felt hopeless. In his role with EMD, Mario had the opportunity to serve as a Shelter Manager at some of the sites that provided emergency shelter to children who had made their way to this country alone, without their parents. In many cases, Mario was the first smiling face some of the children had seen in a long time. His positive demeanor gained him a reputation among those he served.

“How are y’all doing?” Mario would ask the children when they came to the site.

“Fine,” they would respond.

“You guys hungry?”

“Yes.”

“Are you tired?”

“Yes.”

“Am I ugly?”

“Yes!”

“What do you mean I’m ugly,” Mario would say, mockingly wounded from the insult he had brought upon himself, the kids laughing boisterously. “You just met me and you’re already telling me I’m ugly!”

Mario wasn’t only the first smiling face the kids would see, he was also often the one to see them off when they went on to their next destination. Before they left the shelter, Mario would hop on the bus with the children and give a heartfelt rendition of “Las Mañanitas,” a traditional Spanish song often sung in celebration.

Looking Back, Moving Ahead

As Mario’s full-time status as EMD’s Director of Response and Recovery comes to an end, he has agreed to serve in a pro re nata (as needed) role with the organization, making for 43 years and counting in a career of service to others. Mario leaves behind a record of policy and instruction that will have a lasting impact, and that will help future EMD professionals better respond in the heat of emergency situations.

“It’s about legacy,” Mario says. “It’s about creating a system for the next person.”

As he plans for the future, Mario is excited to invest more deeply in his family. He was the fifth sibling in a family of six children, and he was the first to get a high school diploma and a college degree. Today, he has a family full of college graduates, with his wife and all their children holding bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Mario hopes his seven grandchildren can continue to build on the success his family has discovered so far.

In addition to loving his family, Mario hopes to catch up on books and documentaries (about the Roosevelts among other things) now that he will have the time to do so. He also wants to do a bit of woodworking and take a few vacations with his wife, like their upcoming trip to Canada and Iceland, filled with baseball games along the way. His wife, Mario proudly states, has been incredibly supportive and patient with him throughout his career of emergency response.

“I’ve been fortunate enough – blessed – to have seen how things kind of tie together, bringing people back full circle to where they were before disaster hit,” Mario says.

“Everything we do is to help people. This whole agency is meant to do that.”

 

Inhale Confidence. Exhale Doubt.

Youth from foster care in BCFS-McAllen’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program joined youth from a variety of boot camp programs to hear Aida Rodriguez’s hopeful message.

On January 15, 2018, BCFS Health and Human Services-McAllen held the inspiring “Inhale Confidence. Exhale Doubt.” event at the Amador R. Rodriguez Juvenile Boot Camp and Educational Center in San Benito, Texas. The event’s theme—“You Set the Stage for Your Own Success”—was reinforced for the 56 youth in attendance with a keynote address from nationally renowned comedian, actress, writer, and activist Aida Rodriguez.

Youth from foster care in BCFS-McAllen’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program joined youth from a variety of boot camp programs to hear Rodriguez’s hopeful message. Her talk resonated with her audience as she spoke about overcoming the stigma of being labeled “bad kids,” and how their futures are based upon the decisions they make each day. Afterward, she visited with each youth to listen and talk with them about their own stories.

Aida Rodriguez is best known for her top 10 finish on NBC’s eighth season of Last Comic Standing. She has toured the United States as both actor and comedian, has a growing list of acting credits, released her 2017 comedy album, I’ll Say It for You, and hosts her weekly Truth Serum podcast, where she presents each episode as a platform to support up-and-coming entertainers and the issues of the entertainment industry. 

As a keepsake, youth at the event were gifted personal journals with uplifting, motivational quotes on which they could reflect and write their thoughts and feelings from the inspiring day.

The event culminated with an emotionally powerful balloon release where youth were asked to write with a marker on a helium balloon the one thing they wanted to let go of in their life and then release it to the sky as a symbolic gesture of letting go!

BCFS-San Antonio PAL Program Receives Royal Treatment

Ms. Black Texas Supports BCFS-San Antonio’s PAL Program

BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio will get some royal treatment when Ms. Black San Antonio Chaunice Holley is crowned Ms. Black Texas on February 25, 2018, at the Walking Resiliently Fashion Show and Coronation at the Carver Community Cultural Center on San Antonio’s historic east side.

Chaunice volunteers with BCFS-San Antonio’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program for youth from the foster care system. When pageant organizers asked her which organization she would like to help through her philanthropic efforts as Ms. Black Texas, she identified BCFS-San Antonio after seeing how the outstanding work that BCFS-San Antonio performs helps prepare youth for a stable, well-rounded adulthood. Proceeds from the ticket sales to the February 25 coronation will benefit BCFS-San Antonio, where Chaunice will speak to those in attendance and invite them to donate to BCFS-San Antonio’s PAL program. Youth from PAL will participate in the fashion show portion of the event, modeling formalwear and casual attire.

Chaunice is a licensed vocational nurse instructor pursuing a nursing degree at the University of Texas at Arlington. She is the eldest of six children and served in the United States Air Force as a cardiac and labor & delivery nurse. She was raised by a single mother in what Chaunice describes as “an addicted home,” experiencing poverty, homelessness, and struggle; some of the same challenges through which youth in foster care work to overcome.

“My plan of action is to partner with BCFS Health and Human Services…to create programs and policy to generate awareness through educating the community and the power of the media.” – Chaunice Holley, Ms. Black Texas 2018.

Andrew Carter, Regional Director – South Texas

Regional Director – South Texas based in Harlingen, Texas

Photo: Drew Carter

HARLINGEN – BCFS Health and Human Services is excited to announce Andrew Carter as the new Regional Director – South Texas at the organization’s international children’s campus located in Harlingen, Texas.

As BCFS’ Regional Director − South Texas, Andrew will be responsible for the full coordination of the highest level of care and protection of the children temporarily residing at the campus. He will supervise all Program Directors and staff while promoting best practices, conducting risk analysis and ensuring compliance with government regulations, state licensing and accreditation standards.

Prior to joining BCFS, Andrew served with the Texas Highway Patrol as a Sergeant, later a Lieutenant, and from 1998 to 2005 he served as a Sergeant with the esteemed Texas Ranger Division. In the last decade, Andrew served in a variety of management positions in the oil and gas industry.

Carter holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Le Tourneau University in Longview, Texas.  He earned a Master Peace Officer Certificate and is trained in Incident Control Management, EDN, Safety Leadership, and Crucial Conversations. In 2000 he was named National Police Officer of the Year.

“We are very fortunate to have someone with Andrew’s background at the helm of the South Texas region. He is a dedicated public servant with strong management and leadership skills and an impeccable service record,” stated Asennet Segura, Executive Vice President/COO for Community, International and Residential Operations.

Carter will start his tenure with BCFS Health and Human Services immediately and will be based at the Harlingen Office.


BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries. 

BCFS partners with Del Rio schools on teen dating violence

BCFS partners with Del Rio schools to instruct youth on healthy relationships and teen dating violence prevention

DEL RIO — The statistics are staggering. One in four high school girls have been victims of date rape, or physical or sexual abuse. Only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting the victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence.
Domestic violence outreach coordinators and child abuse prevention specialists from BCFS’ Del Rio Family Services Center visited local middle schools, high schools and alternative schools this month to educate students on dating violence and unhealthy relationships. BCFS met with approximately 980 students between 6th and 12th grade to lead discussions on the warning signs of abuse, and what to do if you’re in an unhealthy relationship.
BCFS leads community education and outreach events every month aimed at ending cycles of abuse in Del Rio for good. The organization amped up its outreach the past several weeks in honor of February as national Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.
BCFS encourages parents, other trusted adults and friends to look for the warning signs that a teen might be experiencing dating violence. Suspicious bruising, failing grades, and a disinterest in activities or hobbies they once enjoyed are all cause for concern. Signs that a teen may be at risk for carrying out dating violence include issues with anger management, insulting or mean-spirited comments toward their partner, and threatening physical harm if there is talk about a break up.
BCFS Health and Human Services operates programs throughout Del Rio to serve those in need, including free counseling and crisis intervention through the Services To At Risk Youth (STAR) program, and domestic violence treatment and prevention through the Del Rio Domestic Violence (DRDV) program.
DRDV provides safety, support and resources to victims of domestic violence through legal assistance, referrals to access community resources, emergency medical care, and safety planning. Last year, the program helped over 100 adults and children through face-to-face services to stop the cycle of abuse, including violence intervention and safety planning.
“Our main goal is fostering safe and loving environments,” says BCFS Senior Program Director Raquel Frausto Rodriguez. “When someone affected by abuse looks to us for help, we use resources, counseling and education to try to help them see that violence is never the answer, and that there are more effective ways to handle problems.”
BCFS’ STAR program aims to reduce family conflict and prevent delinquent behaviors, runaways, truancy and child abuse by helping youths and their families learn to resolve crises and develop coping and parenting skills. Services include free counseling in a home or office setting, crisis intervention, training for parents and youth, and emergency residential placements.
BCFS’ Domestic Violence Hotline is available round-the-clock at (830) 768-2755.
For more information about BCFS’ Family Services Center in Del Rio, including help for someone in an abusive relationship, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/DomesticViolence or call (830) 768-2755.
*Statistics provided by Love Is Respect, Break the Cycle, and the National Dating Abuse Helpline.
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BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected, assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities, mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services, medical services, transitional living services for at-risk youth and those in the juvenile justice system, residential camping and retreats for children and families, and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.