Census BBQ scores more points

A SpawGlass employee cleans the pit used to cook the meat on Saturday for the BBQ plates that were handed out at the last Census Drive-thru BBQ in Harlingen.

HARLINGEN — Stand up and be counted.

The City of Harlingen held another Census Drive-Thru BBQ event Saturday with that purpose in mind. In less than an hour, more than 100 people had shown up at the Harlingen Sports Complex to complete their 2020 United States Census and pick up some barbecue chicken.

“We have BBQ chicken and beans,” Harlingen City Manager Dan Serna.

“We are encouraging everyone that hasn’t completed their census to come out,” Serna said. “We have census representatives on hand to help people complete their census.”

The city had another Census BBQ two weeks ago, which attracted 400 people who showed up for BBQ in exchange for a completed census. Residents followed the same process again Saturday.

It was a simple task, really. People pulled up and stopped beneath a tent where census takers took down their information in less than five minutes. Once their census information had been recorded, they were directed toward another parking lot where volunteers like Serna and Harlingen City Commissioner Frank Puente Jr. handed out BBQ plates, which also included brisket.

“I like to get involved with the community and interact with our constituents,” said Puente. “Plus I like to set a good example so I brought my son.”

His son, Frank III, 12, seemed to be enjoying himself.

“I’m setting a good example for other kids to come and cherish the time with their fathers,” he said.

Serna emphasized the importance of the census.

“This is all in an effort to improve census response, which is directly tied to federal dollars that come into our county to assist with infrastructure, social service programs, and housing,” Serna said. “So it’s important that everyone gets counted.”

More specifically, he said census information determines the amount of federal dollars for such necessities as drainage improvements. Those monies can also serve as home improvement loans for people in low-income housing. More census numbers mean more money for the community.

“The more dollars that come into our county, the more we’re going to be able to do for our community,” Serna said.

If not for the event, Josie Huerta and her daughter Aaliyah Herrera, 17, might not have been counted at all.

“My teacher told me about it,” said Aaliyah as the smell of chicken drifted from their car windows.

“We are very grateful and thankful,” said Herrera.

Serna gave a “shout-out” to SpawGlass Contractors for showing up early Saturday to prepare the chicken, as well as other city employees who’d turned out for the event. One of those employees was Harlingen Deputy Police Chief Alfredo Alvear.

“We have a need for funds and resources from the government,” Alvear said. “The turnout is good.”

Things were going fairly well Saturday. It went well two weeks ago when the high numbers exhausted the food supply. The city had to give out vouchers to 91 people, said Irma Garza, public information officer for the City of Harlingen.

“They came out to pick up their food at 10,” Garza said. “We had theirs already to go.”

Garza urged people to complete the census, if not at these events then on the Internet. It’s only a few minutes of time for a world of difference.

twhitehead@valleystar.com