Houston Bike Brigade
Category: Culture

Raising Up Families, Raising Up a Community

Regions’ Bike Brigade celebrates associates, supports Houston nonprofits.

Cliff Ligon remembers how it felt being the new kid at school.

The uncertainty of navigating new places. The anxiety of meeting new people.

“As a former Army brat, I know firsthand how hard it can be on a child’s psyche and academics to start at a new school early and often,” said Ligon, who grew up to work in banking and now manages Regions’ Bellaire branch in the rapidly growing Houston market.

So, when Ligon learned about RaiseUp Families, a nonprofit promoting stability for low- and moderate-income families, he jumped at the chance to help. And he’s brought colleagues along.

How RaiseUp Families Works:

“RaiseUp Families’ purpose and goals hit home for me on many levels,” said Ligon. “First and foremost is their mission to help children grow up in the same place and in the same schools. Second is RaiseUp Families’ work to empower their clients to achieve a piece of the American dream. I love to tell anyone who will listen about them.”

Because he knows homeownership matters. Financial security matters. And a rewarding career matters. RaiseUp helps moms, dads, and their families reach these milestones and more.

Recently, Ligon beamed with pride as Regions Bank’s Houston market executive, John Stacy, presented four of Regions’ signature LifeGreen® bicycles and $2,500 to RaiseUp Families. The presentation was incredible – taking place in front of thousands of baseball fans at Constellation Field, home of the Triple-A Sugar Land Skeeters.

Regions also presented bicycles and $2,500 grants to Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA) and the Young Women’s Preparatory Network as part of its annual Evergreen celebration – a time when the bank honors its associates and recognizes their great work in the community. The Houston event was the second Evergreen nonprofit bike presentation in just a matter of days.

RaiseUp Families will award the cruiser bikes to teens through an essay contest. The Young Women’s Preparatory Network will also award their bikes to middle and high school students, with those who have demonstrated academic success and had no absences entered into prize drawings.

“A bicycle promotes a sense of independence and empowerment, the same qualities RaiseUp Families, MECA and the Young Women’s Preparatory Network provide to the clients they serve,” said Stacy.

“We’re proud to support the impactful work these three nonprofits are doing to support our Houston neighbors, work that our associates are personally engaged with through volunteerism.”

The nonprofits benefiting from the grants – and the bikes – were nominated by Regions associates like Ligon.

“I’m extremely grateful that Regions is not only supporting RaiseUp Families, but that they’re supporting me through this donation,” said Ligon. “It’s one thing to tell an organization that you and your company believe in their cause, but it’s something totally different for Regions to put their money where my mouth is. It makes me so proud.”

RaiseUp Families is equally grateful.

The contribution will directly benefit HandUp, a nine-month program the nonprofit conducts where clients work directly with a case manager to create a path toward self-sufficiency.

“RaiseUp Families remains dedicated to ensuring every parent who wants to give their children a better life is equipped with the knowledge, skills and resources to succeed,” said Angela Burgess, executive director of the nonprofit. “Our goal is to double the number of families served by the HandUp program this year. Regions’ support is helping forever change the lives of those we serve.”

And Regions’ support is about more than a grant or bicycles. Ligon and colleagues are teaching financial wellness to clients of RaiseUp Families through the bank’s Next Step financial education series.

“It brings me so much joy to see and hear the reactions clients have in realizing it’s within their reach to become homeowners when they thought it wasn’t and never could be,” said Ligon. “We’re able to help provide people with a path to owning a home.”

How MECA Works:

Music has surrounded Lilia Garza her entire life, so it was no surprise when Houston’s Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA) program immediately struck a chord with her as a teenager. She’s been involved with the nonprofit ever since.

“My mother was a musician, and she wanted to instill the discipline music provides in my siblings and me,” said Garza, manager of Regions Bank’s Generation Park branch in Houston.

Garza plays guitar. But she’s learned about much more than music thanks to MECA. The nonprofit is dedicated to reaching underserved communities through art, cultural programming, academic excellence, support services and community building. It’s that last aspect that is Garza’s forte.

“When I became involved with MECA’s support services, I learned I have a real passion for community building,” she said.

MECA agreed, adding Garza to its board of directors earlier this year. Now, she provides support in a variety of areas.

“I’m involved with their volunteer services, help with college readiness mentoring and tutoring, teach financial education to people and their families and promote other support services MECA provides,” said Garza. “Being part of MECA allows me to use my business skills and my heart in making a positive contribution to society.”

Garza’s greatest reward is watching budding musicians like she once was and being part of their growth and development.

“I have the opportunity to watch a child learn a musical instrument, use the discipline they gain to excel in their academics and see them become positive, influential contributors to our community,” she said. “I feel I’m fulfilling a purpose. It feels great to work for a company like Regions that supports me in this by awarding this grant and our bikes.”

Making Life Better

Garza, Ligon and Stacy know that while grants and donations help, the work of these nonprofits is never really over. There is another family to serve. Another community to reach.

But there is also a sense of togetherness. An acknowledgement that people and businesses in Houston are behind them in their effort.

That’s what the donations during Regions’ annual Evergreen celebration signify – a small, tangible reflection of the bank’s mission to make life better.

And an ongoing commitment from the bank’s people – to continue to serve.