Laguna Atascosa to host fundraiser for Food Bank RGV

Federal officials are seeking comment from the public on a proposal to expand access to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and Bahia Grande. An open house is scheduled for Oct. 16 at the Los Fresnos Fire Department. (File photo/The Brownsville Herald)

HARLINGEN — Those looking to help a local cause are able to while learning about scenic wildlife areas in the Rio Grande Valley from local nature experts.

The Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge will host a Beer with a Biologist parks chat and fundraiser for the Food Bank RGV on Thursday, Sept. 17.

According to Melissa Robell, an Americorps VISTA intern with the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, the nonprofit has had a lot of success and interest in their previous Beer with a Biologist fundraisers, so they were inspired to create one that specifically gives back to the community.

“With the Rio Grande Valley, we’ve been hit especially hard with COVID-19, rate of unemployment and the amount of people that have not been able to have food or other basic necessities,” Robell said. “Food Bank RGV is passionately committed to improving lives through food assistance, nutrition education and access to community services.”

Food Bank RGV serves Hidalgo, Willacy and Cameron counties. According to nonprofit personnel, a $1 donation enables the nonprofit to serve five complete meals.

The fundraiser will be streamed on Facebook Live from 7 to 8 p.m. on the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge page.

The event will introduce nature organizations in the Valley and will feature speakers — Christopher Quezada, John Brush and Javier Gonzalez.

Quezada joined the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in 2019 and is the visitor services park ranger. He has a degree in computer science and fell in love with the refuge system during a year-long position with the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.

Brush is an urban ecologist at the Quinta Mazatlán World Birding Center in McAllen. He develops and delivers programs, such as birding and nature tours and workshops. He helps coordinate third-party programs, such as the City Nature Challenge and the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge in McAllen. Additionally, he supervises habitat restoration and invasive species control for Quinta Mazatlán.

Gonzalez is a naturalist educator at the South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary. He grew up in McAllen and discovered his passion for nature through many trips he took with his father to the Island as a kid. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Texas — Pan American in Edinburg.

“Learn more about these internationally famous destinations, find out how to best stay connected with these organizations during COVID-19 and join us to raise funds for the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley,” Robell said.

Those who would like to make a donation, are able to at or by texting “BIO” to 44-321.