CORPUS CHRISTI — A neighborhood that has been in decline for years is expected to receive a community boost to improve literacy, education, job skills training, healthy habits and energy efficiency at home. Citgo Petroleum Corp. on Friday unveiled the names of 10 local nonprofits that during the next year each will get a portion of a $500,000 grant for programs that benefit Hillcrest and Washington-Coles residents. The grant funds are a part of a $1.5 million pledge Citgo gave this past May, known as Hands for Hillcrest, to work with nonprofit groups to help the community, which is its nearest fence line neighbor.”This is part of our unwavering promise that we will support this neighborhood and commit to the fullest,” Citgo spokesman Larry Elizondo said during a news conference at the Oveal Williams Senior Center. Hillcrest and Washington-Coles are neighborhoods rich in history and are some of the city’s oldest, as development began in 1927. Some say the decline began in the 1950s at the start of construction to build Interstate 37, which cut through the neighborhood and divided it from the rest of the city. While many residents moved away, many of those who remain are passionate and have fought for years to keep the neighborhood from slipping into urban decay. In recent years, they have tried to reverse the rough reputation it has gained.The neighborhood has a higher high school dropout rate and concentration of poverty than Corpus Christi’s average. Early education, adult literacy and mentoring programs for children in school are a part of the focused efforts with the Citgo grant. Corpus Christi Literacy Council plans to work with adults in the neighborhood to improve their reading skills and also help residents gain the training they need to get a job, including interview skills.About 120 children in the neighborhood, age 5 and younger, will be eligible for a program facilitated by United Way called Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that which mails an age-appropriate book to the kids each month.”It will be the beginning of their own library,” said Catrina Wilson, president and CEO of United Way of the Coastal Bend. The nonprofit is helping implement several education programs in the neighborhood as a part of the grant, she added. Northside homeowners, those who are elderly, disabled and low-income will be given priority for a weatherization program run by Nueces County Community Action Agency. The group will spend an estimated $7,000 per home to retrofit each house with energy efficient items. That could include insulation, LED light bulbs, roof repairs and other improvements to help keep a house cool when it’s hot outside and warm when it’s cold outside, Agency CEO Joe A. Martinez said. He expects the program within the neighborhood to kickoff in the next month.Community in Schools will work with about 85 high school students who live in the neighborhood and attend Miller High School, to help them stay enrolled. The assistance could include purchasing caps and gowns for seniors, providing vouchers for students who need eyeglasses and home visits.”We are trying to help remove barriers that prevent them from being successful in the classroom,” said Gloria Taylor, executive director of Community in Schools of the Coastal Bend.An ongoing improvement effort in the neighborhood will include Citgo volunteers will lead an ongoing effort to improve the appearance of the neighborhood, which could include picking up trash, mowing grass, painting homes and any other assistance residents request, he said. Citgo did not specify how money much each nonprofit would receive for their programs.

The following organizations received a collective $500,000 from Citgo to spend on programs that benefit the Northside community comprised of the Hillcrest and Washington-Coles neighborhoods.

Big Brothers & Big Sisters
Communities in Schools of the Coastal Bend
Corpus Christi Literacy Council
It’s Your Life Foundation
LEAD First Foundation
Mary McLeod Bethune Day Nursery
Mission of Mercy
United Way of the Coastal Bend
YWCA Corpus Christi
Nueces County Community Action Agency

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Contributed photo The Surani family of Corpus Christi works together to help youths with public health issues. Most recently their It’s Your Life Foundation has won awards for a 3-D animated film they plan to use to help teens understand the risks of sleep deprivation. From left are: Zoya Surani, Saherish Surani, Salim Surani, Zehra Surani and Sara Surani.