Paving the Way to a Better Life in Winchester Heights
“Colonia” means “community” in Spanish, but the term has come to refer to residential border neighborhoods that are deplorably lacking in basic infrastructure. Winchester Heights is an unincorporated rural community considered by many to be the worst colonia in Cochise County, near the Arizona-Mexico border, within the catchment area of the Arizona Community Foundation.
Home to nearly 600 residents, this isolated community is composed of mostly Spanish-speaking migrant farm workers, many of whom have lived in the area since the 1960s. The roads are unpaved, the community has no school bus stops, no park or recreation area for children, no street lights, no fire station, no health clinic. The Arizona Community Foundation's local affiliate, the Cochise Community Foundation (CCF), conducted an assessment of the area in 2007 and asked residents about their highest need. Their answer: roads, which are nearly impassable for much of the year.
CCF hired a community organizer to help residents form a nonprofit corporation to address the challenges that exist in their area. Within nine months, their new community organization, La Union Del Pueblo, was registered with the state government and had obtained its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service. They have a three-year strategic community improvement plan. They applied for and received two grants from CCF: one for road improvement, the other for bus stops and to expand their organizational capacity.
LUDP partnered with Cochise County, CCF, and EuroFresh Farms—the agricultural firm and major employer in the area—to upgrade three and a half miles of road in the colonia. This included blue staking the area, securing road equipment and necessary permissions, and shoring up funding. To that end, the residents took up a collection and contributed $2,970 towards the project. After the upgrade, the county will adopt the roads into its maintenance system.
As important as the roads are, the real measure of success is this community’s capacity to work toward a healthy future for themselves and their families.
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Arizona Community Foundation