This Robstown, Texas, woman relished helping others

Matiana Basaldu Ortiz had a drive to help. From her work in the American GI Forum women’s auxiliary to her years placing youths into job training programs, she dedicated her time to helping others in her South Texas community.

Her father was a ranch foreman working near Green Lake in Calhoun County, but Ortiz and her brothers and sisters all were born in Robstown, where her family eventually lived full-time. She was one of 10 siblings and only attended grade school before she had to stay home to help her mother.

Though sad she couldn’t continue her schooling — “I loved to do homework,” she told a Caller-Times reporter in a 1980 interview — she turned that disappointment into a calling for community service.

More:#TBT: Dr. Hector P. Garcia formed American GI Forum in 1948

“I saw the poverty around me,” Ortiz said. She recognized her family was luckier than most, because her father received royalty payments for oil interests in Starr and Zapata counties.

LEFT: Matiana Basaldu Ortiz was a driven community volunteer in Robstown. Photo from the Dr Hector P. Garcia Papers at the Bell Library Special Collections and Archives at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. RIGHT: An article from the July 21, 1974 Corpus Christi Caller on Matiana Ortiz.

One of Ortiz’s proudest accomplishments was her work with the Women In Community Services program. The organization was originally a part of the Department of Labor’s Job Corps centers for women, but they were closed in 1964. In 1972, WICS was re-started and a center serving Corpus Christi and Robstown opened. Ortiz served as a volunteer project director, then was hired onto the staff in 1975.

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