Helping developmentally disabled: Locals form Alhambra chapter

July 16, 2017

HARLINGEN — To Freddy Elizondo, this is history.

For the first time since 1969, there is a new Alhambra organization in the Rio Grande Valley.

And it’s right here in Harlingen.

Elizondo is the new grand commander of the Harlingen Alhambra Toro Caravan No. 271 and is joined by fellow members Felix Sanchez, Jesus H. Reyes, Jaime Resendez, Robert Perez, Herman Muniz, Jose Luis Morales, David Elizondo, Salvador Mendoza, Nestor Nata, Guillermo Martinez, Willie Leal Jr., Jose Hernandez, Tony Gutierrez, Rogelio Esparza, Orlando Elizondo, Joe Elizondo and Ramon Mejia Jr.

Alhambra is a Catholic fraternal organization of men and women dedicated to assisting the work of the church, supporting the developmentally disabled and providing a social forum for its members and their families. Founded more than a century ago, the Order currently has members in the United States and Canada.

“There are so many activities for regular persons to do — soccer, baseball, football, golf — these children, men and women there are only so many things they can do. We want to have barbecues for them, pizza parties and take them on trips.”

Members belong to Caravans, the local structure that organizes the Order’s events and community support. Caravans have discretion in developing these activities.

“I think this is going to be awesome for these people,” Freddy Elizondo said.

A signature program of the Order is the Alhambra House Project. Caravans assist in establishing and providing ongoing support to residential programs that offer home-like environments to persons intellectually and developmentally disabled.

Freddy Elizondo said fundraisers will be planned in the near future and could include selling raffle tickets or a golf tournament.

“We are taking baby steps here,” he said. “Our main goal is to provide a home for people. They have these all over the United States.”

“Typically, Alhambra Houses provide homes for six to eight people,” said Gerald Foster, Alhambra Past Supreme Commander. “Our hope is that every new Caravan adopts a goal of establishing an Alhambra House in their area.”

Other programs across the country provide support for developmentally disabled persons and their caregivers in different ways. A summer camp in Michigan, for example, takes children for a week-long experience, offering a unique educational setting and providing families with an opportunity for a vacation.

Alhambra Caravans are often family-oriented, with activities ranging from pizza parties to holiday gatherings.

Caravans also offer a support network for those who have developmentally disabled relatives or friends.

Caravans are often formed around local parishes providing members with opportunities to be more deeply involved in parish life.

In addition, Alhambra’s Memorial Program recognizes historic church places and events with permanent markers.

What is the Order of Alhambra?

• A fraternal organization of Catholic men and women ages 18 and older dedicated to assisting persons who are intellectually disabled or handicapped.

• Provides assistance, education and residences for persons developmentally disabled

• Identifies, marks, preserves and commemorates Catholic historical places, events and persons of international importance.

• Promotes fraternalization and sociability among its members and their families.

• The primary efforts are to provide assistance to persons intellectually disabled through its charitable programs and projects.

• Places an emphasis on fraternalism and sociability to provide a cohesive force of human and financial resources to achieve its purpose.

History of Alhambra

William Harper Bennett founded the Order of Alhambra on Feb. 29, 1904, in New York. At that time, it was a Catholic fraternal and social association named after the Alhambra, a Moorish palace in Granada, Spain.

The emblem of the order is the red tower of Castle surmounting the crescent of the Saracen typifying the triumph of Christianity over the Moors.

The International Order of Alhambra is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland.