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Breaking News! Grocery Access Legislation Introduced

Thanks to advocates like you, legislation was just introduced in the Texas House and Senate that would create a Texas Grocery Access Investment program. This investment would support business and create jobs. It also would bring grocery stores to communities where it is difficult to buy fresh and healthy food, help families be healthier and fight obesity, and ultimately drive down the costs associated with unhealthy living.

It’s critical that you ask Texas legislators for their support. We believe that everyone deserves the right to healthy food in their communities. If not for yourself, speak up today for the health of your more than 3.4 million fellow Texans who lack access to grocery stores. Ask House and Senate committee members who oversee this legislation to grow businesses and create jobs by supporting Texas Grocery Access Investment.

Click here to ask Texas legislators to fund this bill now!

Texas Grocery Access Investment Act – Highlights

The Texas Grocery Access Investment Fund is a grant and loan program to bring new grocery stores to underserved communities, as well as support renovation and expansion of existing stores to ensure access to fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, poultry and seafood products.

This critical program aims to help healthy and affordable food retailers overcome the higher initial barriers to entry into low-income and underserved communities—barriers like land acquisition financing, construction and workforce development.

A modest, one-time public investment of $10 million for the 2016-17 biennium in the Texas Grocery Access Investment Fund would improve public health by providing access to healthy foods in order to reduce diet-related diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. This program is an investment in the economy of underserved areas since grocery stores create quality jobs and contribute to the revitalization of rural and urban communities.

Grocery Access Investment – How it Works

  • The legislation would create the Texas Grocery Access Investment Program at the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). 
  • The program’s fund will be comprised of money appropriated by the Texas Legislature, as well as federal, state, or private grants or loans and/or any other financial assistance to be utilized for the construction, expansion or renovation of grocery stores to provide access to healthy foods in underserved areas. 
  • The agency would be able to contract with a non-profit or community development financial institution, which would administer the program, establish program guidelines, raise matching funds, promote the program statewide, evaluate applicants, underwrite and disburse grants and loans, and monitor compliance and impact. 
  • TDA will develop rules, regulations or other procedures to carry out the program. No more than 10% of the funds appropriated can be used by the agency for administrative and operational costs to manage the program.   

Back to Closer To My Grocer home page




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Don Bremner - 3 Time Heart Survivor and Advocate

I had my first heart attack at the age of 51 about an hour after a hard game of squash.  Up to that point I was in excellent health and maintained my fitness by running 10Ks and half-marathons.  I knew about my family heart history but like many thought, ’I’m fitter and healthier with a much better diet than Dad had’ believing it wouldn’t impact me.

But that changed an hour after a squash game in 2004 when I felt nausea, dizziness, sweating, and threw up several times. Twenty minutes later there was no pain but tightening in my chest. Being a guy I made a practical decision to drive 17 miles home to my wife. Do not do this.

Once home the paramedics were called quickly and I started receiving medical attention. The great work they do includes communicating with the hospital so they are prepared to receive you and this can be life- saving.

They put paddles to my chest in the wagon leading to a stent in RCA. Home lunchtime Wed. I went back to the gym Saturday to ramp up my fitness slowly.

In 2005 I experienced a similar event and had another episode in 2012.  I am very fortunate to survive these events and feel compelled to share my story and help others.

I have made it my mission to talk with groups of people to help them learn the risk factors and warning signs associated with heart disease – especially men!  I have found that guys have a terrific ability to ignore warning signs and not admit when their body is telling them something is wrong. 

I explain the importance of good nutrition and exercise.  But I also explain the critical role that genes and family history play in one’s risk for heart disease.  My dad died at age 59 from cardiovascular disease after three events.  His dad also died at 67 from CVD.  My brother had a double by pass at age 49 and is thankfully still living at 76.

My message is simple: know your risk, know your numbers, and don’t ignore warning signs.  Listen to your Doctor and act on their advice. Your loved ones and friends will thanks you.

While I have made many presentations over the years I recently made a trip to the New Mexico Capitol to share my story with lawmakers.  With the help of heart and stroke healthy legislation we can continue to not only raise awareness but improve effective systems of care for patients. 

I look forward to sharing my story with anyone willing to hear it and encourage you to share your voice in any way you can. 

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Wear Red Day at the Texas Capitol

On Wednesday, February 4th, the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate helped to turn the Pink Dome RED in support of National Wear Red Day on February 6th.

A group of twenty American Heart Association volunteers and staff were in the galleries as Texas House Representative Patricia Harless and Texas State Senator Donna Campbell presented resolutions recognizing National Wear Red Day and highlighting the need to bring awareness to heart disease among women. The Texas House Floor was a sea of red as many of the Texas Legislators championed the day by wearing red.

HR 163 by Representative Patricia Harless, along with Representatives Donna Howard, Myra Crownover, and Jodie Laubenberg, and co-authored by Representatives Helen Giddings, Ana Hernandez, Celia Israel, Susan King, Linda Koop, and Geanie Morrison was read on the House Floor with a large group of the Representatives sanding at the front in support. SR 55 by Senator Donna Campbell was read on the Senate floor with great support by many senators, including Senators Lois Kolkhorst and Sylvia Garcia.  

The AHA volunteers and staff included Affiliate Board Member Marcie Wilson, State Advocacy Committee member Susan Patten, who is also an Austin Passion Committee Member; Austin Grassroots Action Team Chair Pkaye Washington, Georgetown Circle of Red members JJ and Jeff Parker, long-time volunteer and survivor John Murphy, Austin Passion Committee member April Peters, volunteers Natalie Smith and Chaille Jolink, and women from the University of Texas Chapter of Alpha Phi, Wylie Gorup, Anneke E. Rood, Sydeny O’Connell, Miranda Chiechi, Madeline Clark, and Katie Szukale, along with AHA staff members Joel Romo, Savonne Caughey, Vanessa Fuentes, Jay Arnold, Brooke Brown, and Jay Arnold.

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Recognizing You're the Cure Champions and Heroes

We would like to thank our most active You’re the Cure advocates.  Please view members that have reached the Champion or Hero rank from across the SouthWest Affiliate. 

Did you know that by being an active You’re the Cure member you get points for all the different actions you take?  Points accumulate and you can achieve different “ranks”.  If you are logged in right now you can look at the top of the page to view your points and current rank. 

Here are Champions and Heroes from across the SouthWest Affiliate. (Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming)

Kristin A. (Lakewood, CO)
Mel A. (Dallas, TX)
Dr. Selina A. (Pearland, TX)
Bethany A. (Colorado Springs, CO)
Linda A. (Englewood, CO)
Amy B. (Norman, OK)
Kristen B. (Spencer, OK)
Linda A. (Englewood, CO)
Amy B. (Norman, OK)
Kristen B. (Spencer, OK)
Sharon B. (Palmer Lake, CO)
Mary Ann B. (Edmond, CO)
T. Bell (Austin, TX)
Aryn B. (Colorado)
Eric B. (Houston, TX)
Kevin B. (Dallas, TX)
Nancy B. (College Station, TX)
Kristen B. (Fort Worth, TX)
Sarah B. (Fort Worth, TX)
Beth B.   (Pottsboro, TX)
Cheryl B. (Austin, TX)
Cherie B. (Missouri City, TX)
Tim B. (Wylie, TX)
Pat B. (Oklahoma City, OK)
Aabha B. (Houston, TX)
Karen B.  (Fairview, TX)
Jeb B. (Golden, CO)
Darry C.  (Tahlequah, OK)
David C.  (El Paso, TX)
Rakesh C. (Golden, CO)
Heather C. (TX)
Kathryn C. (Denver, CO)
Shannon C. (Edmond, OK)
Darlene C. (Dallas, TX)
William C. (Houston, TX)
Michael  C. (Lubbock, TX)
Harvey C. (Midwest City, OK)
Kathleen C. (Wylie, TX)
Gloria C.  (Garland, TX)
Denise C. (CO)
Michelle C. (Round Rock, TX)
Shannon C. (Austin, TX)
Chris C.   (San Antonio, TX)
Anne D.  (Austin, TX)
Anne D.  (TX)
Carroll D. (Houston, TX)
Ashley Davis. (The Woodlands, TX)
Larissa D. (Austin, TX)
Rodney D. (Sugar Land, TX)
B. D. (Albuquerque, NM)
Brooke D. (Frisco, TX)
Natasha D. (Dallas, TX)
Sylvia D.  (Plano, TX)
Holly D.  (Westminster, CO)
Carol D.  (Little Rock, AR)
Brian E.  (Dallas, TX)
Michael  E. (Casper, WY)
I. E. (Tularosa, NM)
Diana E. (Austin, TX)
Ruthie E. (Harlingen, TX)
Suzy F. (Cave Springs, AR)
Indira F. (Houston, TX)
Johnny F. (Jackson, WY)
Sarah F.  (CO)
Brandy F. (Tulsa, OK)
Jo Marie F. (Houston, TX)
Kerrie F. (Oklahoma City, OK)
James F. (Denver, CO)
Gina G. (Thornton, CO)
Rod G. (Humble, TX)
Patricia G. (Rio Rancho, NM)
Suze G.  (Ridgway, CO)
Sheryl G. (Galveston, TX)
Dee G. (Golden, CO)
Rhonda G. (Heber Springs, AR)
Silvia G.  (CO)
Erin H. (Denver, CO)
Teresa H. (Denver, CO)
Bennett H.  (Austin, TX)
Penny H. (North Richland Hills, TX)
Lindsey H. (Tulsa, OK)
Lisa H. (Sachse, TX)
Renee H. (CO)
Pamela H. (Tulsa, OK)
Cindy H. (Fayetteville, AR)
Athena H. (Arvada, CO)
Ann J. (Laramie, WY)
Beverly J. (CO)
Laura J.  (Mesquite, TX)
Carolyn J. (Oklahoma City, OK)
Shelly J. Edmond (OK)
Gia K. (Dallas, TX)
Racheal  K. (Austin, TX)
Valerie K. (Littleton, CO)
Katherine K. (Northglenn, CO)
Diane K. (NM)
Dena K.  (Thornton, CO)
Nancy K.  (Orange, TX)
Robert K. (Lone Tree, CO)
James K.  (Fort Worth, TX)
James K.  (Corpus Christi, TX)
Ashley K. (Little Rock, AR)
Lee L. (Denver, CO)
Mercedes L. (Claremore , OK)
Amy L. (Austin, TX)
Michelle L. (CO)
Britni L. (Oklahoma City, OK)
Carrie L.  (Broomfield, CO)
Traci L.  (CO)
Ben L. (Casper, WY)
Lindsay L. (Denver, CO)
Lindsay L. (McKinney, TX)
Mary L. (Austin, TX)
Karina L.  (Oklahoma City, OK)
Kay L. (Thornton, CO)
Wonder L. (Little Rock, AR)
Krishna M. (Aurora, CO)
Kimberly M. (Aurora, CO)
Monica M. (Tulsa, OK)
Jose M.  (Albuquerque, NM)
Debra M. (Rockwall, TX)
Lea M. (Edmond, OK)
Linda M.  (Arlington, TX)
Wolford M. (Dallas, TX)
James M. (Dallas, TX)
Mark M.  (Norman, OK)
CARYL M. (Carrollton, TX)
Vince M. (Austin, TX)
William M. (Broken Arrow, OK)
Patrick M. (Tulsa, OK)
Diana M. (Corpus Christi, TX)
Jim M. (Albuquerque, NM)
Lisa N. (McKinney, TX)
Scott N.  (Casper, WY)
Amanda N. (CO)
Patricia N. (Oklahoma City, OK)
Brion O. (Manor, TX)
Gisella O. (McKinney, TX)
Cindy O.  (Cheyenne, WY)
Brandy P. (Forney, TX)
Mary P.  (Lawton, OK)
Annette P. (CO)
Taylor P.  (NM)
Guadalupe P. (Dallas, TX)
Blair P. (Denver, CO)
April P. (Austin, TX)
Gina P. (Little Rock, AR)
Francine P. (San Antonio, TX)
Debbie P. (Denver, CO)
Janeene P. (Golden, CO)
Marcella P. (Irving, TX)
Pamm P. (Bentonville, AR)
Mary P.  (Houston, TX)
James P.  (Tulsa, OK)
Lorna P. (CO)
Virginia R. (Mesquite, TX)
Rene R.  (Houston, TX)
Kendall R. (Little Rock, AR)
Georgina R. (Poteau, OK)
Colleen R. (Cheyenne, WY)
Debra R. (Plano, TX)
James R. (Dallas, TX)
Chris R.  (Austin, TX)
Laura S. (Pueblo, CO)
Christina S. (CO)
Fred S. (Norman, OK)
Lori S. (Thornton, CO)
Wendy S. (Denver, CO)
Luke S. (Colorado Springs, CO)
Luke S. (Kyle, TX)
Jenny S. (Rogers, AR)
Jim S.  (Houston, TX)
Joseph S. (Lewisville, TX)
Tawnya S. (Pueblo, CO)
Marchelle S.  (Dallas, TX)
Sandy S. (Little Rock, AR)
Christa S. (San Antonio, TX)
Jennifer  S. (Austin, TX)
Lynn S. (Denver , CO)
Natalie S. (Austin, TX)
Felicia S. (Round Rock, TX)
Scott S. (Flower Mound, TX)
Jessica S. (Houston, TX)
Amy S. (Jenks, OK)
Carol S.  (Edmond, OK)
Jan S. (Panama, OK)
Sherri S. (El Reno, OK)
Rebecca S. (Pueblo, CO)
Connie S. (Jonesboro, AR)
Robyn S. (Edmond, OK)
Nicole S.  (Houston, TX)
Sofie T. (Plano, TX)
Dara T.  (Wheat Ridge, CO)
Robert T. (NM)
Sarah T. (Crestone, CO)
Dianne T. (Houston, TX)
Adam T. (Lubbock, TX)
Sara T. (Denver, CO)
Amanda T. (Dallas, TX)
Montra V. (Garland, TX)
Kelley V. (Red Oak, TX)
Renee V. (Denver, CO)
James W. (The Woodlands, TX)
Dusty W. (El Paso, TX)
Kelly W.  (Bigelow, AR)
Casie W. (Austin, TX)
Teresa W. (Noble, OK)
Gretchen W. (Highlands Ranch, CO)
Janice W. (Marion, AR)
Vickie W. (AR)
Jacqueline W. (Austin, TX)
Kristy W. (Littleton, CO)
Tracy W. (Cedar Park, TX)
Robert W. (Austin, TX)

Kenya A. (Albuquerque, NM)
Larry A. (Superior, CO)
Angela A. (The Colony, TX)
Hope A. (Austin, TX)
Jim A. (Garland, TX)
Lisa A. (Austin, TX)
Shezeen A. (Fort Worth, TX)
Naomi A. (Austin, TX)
Jaime A. (Dallas, TX)
Jodi A. (Pueblo, CO)
Julie A. (Oklahoma)
Julie A. (Midwest City, OK)
Terri B. (Yukon, OK)
Judith B. (Bella Vista, AR)
Matthew B. (Plano, TX)
Jeri B. (Denver, CO)
Mary B. (Denver CO)
Amber J’Nae B. (Austin, TX)
Whitney B. (Denver, CO)
Kelsey B. (Austin, TX)
Mary B.  (Albuquerque, NM)
Alan B. (Sandia Park, NM)
Robert B. (Lafayette, CO)
Ashley B. (Cedar Hill, TX)
G. B. (Colorado Springs, CO)
Laura B. (San Antonio, TX)
Brian B. (Austin, TX)
Fran B. (Placitas, NM)
Kristine B. (Dallas, TX)
Terri W. (Austin, TX)
Brooke B. (Austin, TX)
Megan C. (Denver, CO)
Linda C. (Boulder, CO)
Harry C. (Englewood, CO)
Charmagne C. (Austin, TX)
Denni C.  (Grand Prairie, TX)
Marilyn D. (Oklahoma City, OK)
Jeanell D. (TX)
Steve D.  (Mountain Home, AR)
Courtney D. (Austin, TX)
Amy D. (Albuquerque, NM)
Michael D. (Austin, TX)
Perri D. (Lakewood, CO)
Linda D. (Golden, CO)
Claire D. (Albuquerque, NM)
Douglas  D. (Dallas, TX)
Joyce E.  (Irving, TX)
Midge E. (Corpus Christi, TX)
Bryan F. (Pueblo, CO)
Sheri F. (Arvada, CO)
Craig F. (Cedar Park, TX)
John G. (Round Rock, TX)
David G.  (Denver, CO)
Deanna G. (Allen, TX)
Nancy G. (Glenpool, OK)
Tamara G. (Fairview, TX)
Allison G. (Coppell, TX)
Barbara  H. (Skiatook, OK)
Karin H.  (Flower Mound, TX)
Matthew H.  (Lubbock, TX)
Garrett H. (Webster, TX)
Tim H. (Irving, TX)
Lindsay H. (Denver, CO)
Lori H. (Westminster, CO)
Julie H. (Little Rock, AR)
Melanie H. (Round Rock, TX)
Debbie H. (Edmond, OK)
Linda H. (Saginaw, TX)
Sam H. (Fort Worth, TX)
Sue K. (Denver, CO)
Enola K.  (Albuquerque, NM)
Connie K. (Arlington, TX)
Amit K. (Coppell, TX)
Julie K. (Aurora, CO)
Tricia K.  (Fort Collins, CO)
Melissa K. (Pueblo, CO)
Brant K.  (Houston, TX)
Barbara K. (Jacksonville, AR)
Robyn L.  (Dallas, TX)
LisaJo L.  (Colorado Springs, CO)
Suzanne L. (Albuquerque, NM)
Scott L. (Pueblo, CO)
Suzanne L. (San Antonio, TX)
Kathryn  L.  (Arlington, TX)
Petra L. (Oklahoma City, OK)
Evan M. (Denver, CO)
Jimmy M. (Chimayo, NM)
Joshua M. (Albuquerque, NM)
Ashley M. (Denver, CO)
Donna M. (Broken Arrow, OK)
Tammy M. (Fort Worth, TX)
Rosalinda M. (Austin, TX)
Laura M. (Garland, TX)
Jim M.  (NM)
Susan M. (Rockwall, TX)
Doug M. (Pueblo, CO)
Salomi M. (Irving, TX)
John M.  (Austin, TX)
Thomas  N. (Alamo, TX)
Erica O.  (Colorado Springs, CO)
Mary Ann O.  (Greenwood Village, CO)
Pete O. (El Paso, TX)
Christina O. (Pflugerville , TX)
Susan P.  (Sunrise Beach, TX)
Jacque P. (Loveland, CO)
Diana R.  (Irving, TX)
Leslie R. (Pueblo, CO)
Samantha R. (Allen, TX)
Christopher R. (Lakewood, CO)
Linda R.  (Houston, TX)
Joel R. (Brenham, TX)
Elizabeth R. (Austin, TX)
Roger S. (Argyle, TX)
Rachel S. (Divide, CO)
Katie S. (Little Rock, AR)
Mark S. (Plano, TX)
Debra S. (Rockwall, TX)
Jennifer S. (Oklahoma City, OK)
Joshua S. (McKinney, TX)
Greg S. (Austin, TX)
Christina S. (Edmond, OK)
Pamela S. (Pflugerville, TX)
Nora S. (San Antonio, TX)
Alexis S. (North Little Rock, AR)
Arsheill S. (Austin, TX)
Laura S.  (Plano, TX)
Tracey S. (Terrell, TX)
Lisa S. (Houston, TX)
Mary T. (Castle Rock, CO)
Thomas T. (Lubbock, TX)
Justin T. (Tulsa, OK)
Sara T. (Denver, CO)
Elizabeth T. (Oklahoma City, OK)

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You’re Invited to Advocate for Heart… and for Kids!

Join us for Advocating for Heart at the Texas Capitol on March 18 to advocate for increased grocery access to prevent childhood obesity. Youth advocates are encouraged to join us over their spring break!

Healthy eating decreases the risk of obesity and heart disease, but access to healthy food is limited for many Texas families. More than 3.4 million children and adults throughout Texas do not have a grocery store in their community and are often forced to go without healthy food. You can help change this!

Join us on March 18 to advocate for solutions to help all Texans access healthy food and prevent childhood obesity.

Click here to RSVP.

What: Advocating for Heart
When: Wednesday, March 18, 11:30 am to 4:00 pm
Where: Texas Capitol
Who: Advocates of all ages – youth and adults

The Advocating for Heart event will begin with an issue overview and interactive advocacy training. We will then break into groups and meet with legislative offices.

Since this will be during spring break for many students, youth advocates are encouraged to attend with their parents!

Click here to RSVP.

For more information, email

Can’t attend? Join our efforts on social media by following and sharing the hashtags #CloserToMyGrocer and #YouretheCureTX.

See you there!


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Join us at a Wear Red Day Event Near You!

We are excited to announce that local governments are recognizing National Wear Red Day in communities across Texas. At these events an official City Proclamation will be read proclaiming February 6th as National Wear Red Day. American Heart Association volunteers and heart disease survivors will be recognized.

We invite you to join us at an event near you!

When: January 27, 2015 at 6:00 pm
Where: City Hall, 101 E. 7th Street Georgetown, Texas 77803 (Council Chambers/Municipal Court located at on the corner of 7th and Main)

San Antonio
When: January 28, 2015 5:00 pm
Where: City Council Chambers First Floor (Municipal Plaza Building located at Main and Commerce streets)

When: January 29, 2015 at 5:30 pm
Where: Austin City Hall, 301 West 2nd Street

Fort Worth
When: February 3, 2015 at 7:00pm
Where: Council Chambers located at the Second Floor of City Hall (1000 Throckmorton St. Fort Worth, TX 76102)

When: February 3, 2015 at 6:15pm
Where: Council Chambers on the First Floor of City Hall (215 E. McKinney Denton, TX 76201)

When: February 3, 2015 at 1:30 pm
Where: City Hall Council Chambers, 2nd Floor (901 Bagby Houston, TX 77002)

National Wear Red Day is a special day to bring attention to heart disease as the number one killer of women. We encourage everyone to wear red, raise their voices, know their cardiovascular disease risk and take action to live longer, healthier lives.

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Share Your Story!

During the 2015 Texas Legislative session, the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Team is working hard to present an informative and persuasive campaign on the issue of food access in Texas, but… we need your help! Your lawmakers want to hear from you about the issues that you, your family, and your community face on a daily basis. 

Your inspiring stories and testimonies are by far the most persuasive arguments for any issue, and food access is no different. If you and your family have to travel long, financially burdensome distances to find healthy and affordable food options, then we would love to hear from you. If the only alternatives in your community are unhealthy options like fast food, and that is affecting your health in a negative way, we are here to help your voice reach the Capitol.

Email with your story, and we will be more than happy to share volunteer opportunities for you to speak with your legislators. 

There are over 3.4 million Texans who do not have a grocery store in their community (i), but with your help we can improve access to healthy, nutritious food for those who desperately need it. Thank you for your help!

Return to Closer To My Grocer home page


Reference i: “Searching for Markets: The Geography of Inequitable Access to Healthy and Affordable Food in the United States” The Reinvestment Fund. The Reinvestment Fund, (2011) Web. 6 Jan, 2015.

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Suzanne Villarreal-Lozano's Advocacy Journey

Throughout my 31 years of volunteering for the American Heart Association I have worn many hats.  But I can safely say some of my most memorable moments have come as an advocacy volunteer fighting for heart and stroke legislation.  We live in a democracy and that means we get to shape the community that we live in.  In many cases we get the society that we demand which is a tremendous responsibility. 
For myself, I want to live in world with better health outcomes for everyone and a reduction in risks associated with heart disease and stroke.  I realized one way to build that world was through the advocacy efforts of the American Heart Association. My passion for this type of volunteer work comes from the fact I have been a Registered Nurse and healthcare administrator for over 33 years and I have cared for many patients with a variety of cardiovascular health issues. I have seen the progress that we have made in the last 33 years and the work that still needs to be done.   
There’s just something about advocacy that gets in your blood. I think it has to do with the ups and downs of the legislative process and fulfilling your civic duty to participate in the process. I always make a point of telling legislators, that they have as much power as a good physician when they pass good legislation that helps and improves the lives of their constituents. A thrill also comes from the fact that you can effect hundreds of thousands or even millions of lives with the passage of one bill and one governor’s signature. 
I mentioned some memorable moments before and I’d like to list just a few of them now:
•         In 2010 I Chaired the Smoke-Free San Antonio Coalition which successfully passed a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance.  This came after nearly a decade long fight that included a weak ordinance being passed and reluctance on the part of the San Antonio City Council.  But we never gave up and finally prevailed  with a smoke-free victory in 2010.
•         In 2011 I joined the AHA’s State Advocacy Committee in Texas and have been a frequent visitor to the Texas Capitol.  Since that time we have successfully passed legislation related to CPR training in schools, Pulse-Ox testing for newborns, and critical public funding for heart attack and stroke systems of care.    
•         This year I have happily accepted the role of Chairing the State Advocacy Committee and look forward to even greater advocacy successes.  
I have been fortunate to interact with a number of elected officials during this time including Julian Castro who was Mayor of San Antonio in 2010.  He went on to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 and now serves in the Presidential Cabinet as HUD Secretary.  Two of the City Council members that voted YES are now serving in the Texas House of Representatives and are some of the AHA’s biggest supporters.  A number of the State Representatives I have met with are now serving higher office in the Texas Senate and U.S. Congress.
I would encourage all advocates to build relationships with their elected officials, especially at the local level.  You might be surprised about how easy  it is to gain access and how willing your lawmakers are to hear from you.  Your local officials are also the future statewide and federal lawmakers who will make public policy decisions for decades to come.  I have found that when we reach a lawmaker and truly connect with them with our personal stories, we have champions for life.  
If you haven’t already, I invite you to join You’re the Cure ( and begin you journey of Advocating for Heart. 


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We Are Advocating for Heart on January 21

Join us at the Texas Capitol as we unveil our legislative priorities and fight for a healthier Texas.

What: Advocating for Heart at the Capitol
When: Wednesday, January 21st, 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm
Where: The Texas Capitol, Extension Room E1.014
Why: To support the American Heart Association’s legislative agenda.

Please reply to this email or contact to RSVP.

Our Advocating for Heart event will include an advocacy training and issue overview on our top legislative priorities. We will then split into groups to fulfill our mission of visiting the entire Texas legislative body.

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Texas Volunteers Come Together to Fight Obesity

This week, You’re the Cure volunteers across Texas joined forces to plan for the upcoming Texas legislative session and learn about childhood obesity and grocery access.

Grassroots Action Team Meets in Austin

The Austin Grassroots Action Team (GAT) is the action-oriented volunteer group that works in support of American Heart Association (AHA) policy issues in the Austin area. On Tuesday, December 16, this group met downtown to celebrate the holidays and get ready to kick off the New Year with a bang! Pkaye Washington, Chair of the Austin GAT, opened the meeting. Guest speaker Joy Casnovsky, of the Sustainable Food Center in Austin, explained the issue of food access specific to Texas and spoke about the origins and current projects of the Sustainable Food Center. Joy illuminated how the efforts of the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign could impact grocery access at the state level, prompting great questions and a vibrant exchange of ideas between the volunteers.

The other volunteers in attendance included John Murphy, Natalie Smith, Beth Wilde, Nitakuwa Barrett, Claire Contreras, Brittany Eck, and Marcy Wilson. AHA staff in attendance included Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign team members Savonne Caughey, Joel Romo, and Stephanie Haskell, and Grassroots Advocacy team members Vanessa Fuentes and Brian Bowser.

Vanessa reviewed the AHA’s Texas public policy agenda for the next legislative session. Savonne gave an overview on obesity in Texas and the Voices for Healthy Kids policy areas aimed at reversing childhood obesity, and outlined the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign focus on improving grocery access for Texans and the potential impact it could have on public health. The group was very excited about the campaign’s focus and discussed possible stakeholders and collaborations, ideas for promoting the campaign, possible allies, and potential ways that the GAT could help. The meeting wrapped up with an AHA grassroots update, focusing on action alerts and upcoming Advocating For Heart Days during the next legislative session.


Fort Worth Advocates Mingle at Meet & Greet

On Tuesday, December 16, the American Heart Association (AHA) SouthWest Affiliate Advocacy Team held a Meet & Greet for volunteers in downtown Fort Worth at the Renaissance Worthington Hotel. Most volunteers were attending their first You’re the Cure event ever! After the volunteers and staff were able to meet each other over light refreshments, Kelsey Bernstein, Local Policy Manager, introduced the Smoke-Free Workplaces campaign in Fort Worth and shared how the volunteers might become involved in that campaign. Then, Victoria Nelson, Grassroots Director for the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign, addressed the need for improved access to grocery stores in order to decrease childhood obesity in Texas. Volunteers, who had a variety of backgrounds but were all passionate about a smoke-free city and healthier food for children, were very receptive and were prompted to take further action.

 Connie Kerr, a longtime volunteer from Arlington and a member of the State Advocacy Committee, shared how she is involved with the AHA, and her “why.” Since her family has been affected by heart disease, she wants to break that cycle through her efforts in advocacy to help everyone lead healthier lives. The volunteers present were inspired by Connie to take action with You’re the Cure in person, in addition to their online efforts.

Other You’re the Cure volunteers attending the meet & greet included Christine Wayles, Lauren Caldwell, Katrina Palmore, Vahista Ussery, Dr. Linda Battle, Ruma Brown, Alex and Mary Laverock, Alicia Yancey, Hunter Nelson, and Shawn Snell. Other AHA staff in attendance included Katie Sperry, Executive Director of the Tarrant County Division, and Linda Hudson and Sarah Bowen of the Tarrant County Division.


Dallas Volunteers Exchange Ideas over Dinner

On Wednesday, December 17, the American Heart Association (AHA) SouthWest Affiliate Advocacy Team held a Meet & Greet for volunteers in at the AHA Dallas Market office in Irving. The night started with mingling and conversations between volunteers who became fast friends over dinner. Attendees shared their “why” by posting sticky notes on the wall for all to see.

After dinner, Victoria Nelson, Grassroots Director for the Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign, re-introduced You’re the Cure and then introduced guest speaker Tania Boughton. Tania is a member of the new Texas State Leadership Council for Obesity Prevention, and a full-time mom of two who is motivated to fight childhood obesity by making it fun for kids to eat healthy. She shared her personal journey, which led her to write a cookbook called Eating Light, Done Right and team up with the Dallas Independent School District to establish a program called “Check the Light Before You Bite!” to reward kids when they choose healthy food options at school. Tania emphasized that her journey to improve children’s health would not be complete without being involved in advocacy through You’re the Cure, to engage her lawmakers and change policy for the better. She, and the other volunteers present that night, were particularly motivated to increase access to healthy food in underserved areas in Texas.

Tania reflected back on earlier the same day, when she was delivering holiday gifts to a school in Dallas and noticed the elementary school students sitting in the halls, waiting to go home. Each student was holding an apple or pear, given to them by the cafeteria staff because otherwise the fruit would have spoiled overnight. Tania was struck by the fact that these apples and pears may be the only fruit, or dinner, that the children would have at home that night. The Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign will work to change this, so all Texas families can access grocery stores, and Tania emphasized how important it is that the volunteers become involved in this effort.

You’re the Cure volunteers came out in force on a rainy night, and for most, this was their first advocacy meeting. For some, it was their first AHA meeting ever! Attendees included Karen Brustman, CL Trule, Salomi Mukurjee, Gregg and Angie Larimer, Natalie Martinez, Rena Mendez, Joy Busch, Emily Moore, Meralea Riso, Terry Shuck, Ora Guy, Wesley Trammel, Rita White-Ross, Anand Varadarajan, and Terry Allen. Other AHA staff in attendance included SouthWest Affiliate Health Strategies staff member Corrie Hayward, and AHA Dallas Market staff Marchelle Michel, Taylor Moody, and Meghan Dours.



Houston Grassroots Action Team Meets

On December 18, the Houston Grassroots Action Team (GAT) held an in-person meeting at the American Heart Association (AHA) Houston Office. The Houston GAT is the action-oriented volunteer group that works in support of AHA policy issues in the Houston area. Bill Clayton, Chair of the Houston GAT, kicked off the meeting with a warm welcome and round of introductions for attendees. Guests included Mary Almendarez, Bonita Johnson, Norma Abrego, Norma Balderas, Debra Ely, Emily Burk, Carolyn Jackson, Delores Paddle, Marissa Marquez, Trisha Horace, Mahmood Ahmadi, Carol Frank, and Jaleh Kesh. AHA staff in attendance included Voices for Healthy Kids Texas Campaign team members TaShon Thomas and Joel Romo. Other AHA staffers included Kelly Hodges, Felicia Gann, Apiyo Obala, Michelle Reed, and Tiffany Travis.

 After introductions of guests and staff, a short video by AHA entitled “Life is Why” was played. Afterwards, each attendee filled out their “Life is Why” card.


Joel then reviewed the AHA’s Texas public policy agenda for the next legislative session, and provided an overview of the Voices for Healthy Kids Campaign and its impact for the Houston and Texas communities. Once Joel completed the overview of the campaign, TaShon had the opportunity to further discuss the Voices for Healthy Kids emphasis on priority populations, including his work on the campaign to bridge the African American and Hispanic communities and their lawmakers together in order to pass a statewide grocery access initiative. TaShon also gave an overview of the upcoming Advocating for Heart days, highlighting the March 18th date for Youth Markets. The group was very excited about the campaign’s focus and discussed possible stakeholders and collaborations, ideas for promoting the campaign, possible allies, and potential ways that the GAT could help. Bill wrapped up the meeting by asking everyone to fill out apple-shaped petitions advocating for healthy food access.


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