Ro­gene Gee Calvert: About help­ing oth­ers

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the Com­mu­nity Wel­fare Plan­ning As­so­ci­a­tion deal­ing with drug abuse. When the or­ga­ni­za­tion was later ab­sorbed by the United Way, she con­tin­ued to work with them for more than 10 years.

“What I en­joy is help­ing peo­ple,” Calvert said, “and I learned a lot about how to do that dur­ing that time.”

A nat­u­ral or­ga­nizer, Calvert es­tab­lished a com­put­er­ized in­for­ma­tion cen­ter for the United Way in the 1980s, a time when com­put­ers were still a rel­a­tively new thing.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence taught me how to run an or­ga­ni­za­tion, how to work with vol­un­teers, boards, how to get grants and such,” she said.

In 1993, Calvert quit her job at the United Way to take care of her two young chil­dren. Her at­ten­tion turned to com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and she found her­self more and more in­volved with the Asian com­mu­nity, join­ing such or­ga­ni­za­tions as the Asian Amer­i­can Her­itage As­so­ci­a­tion.

That same year, Martha Wong de­cided to run for city coun­cil and Calvert vol­un­teered to help her. Due to her ex­cel­lent or­ga­ni­za­tional skills, Calvert was ap­pointed Wong’s cam­paign manager.

“It was a very in­tense cam­paign; I worked 15 hours a day. Martha got elected, and it was a won­der­ful thing for the com­mu­nity,” said Calvert, adding that Wong was Hous­ton’s first Chi­nese-Amer­i­can city coun­cil mem­ber.

“At the time Hous­ton was be­com­ing very in­ter­na­tional. I saw a lot of new Chi­nese im­mi­grants com­ing in, watched the new Chi­na­town tak­ing shape,” she said. “The in­flux in­cluded a lot of refugees from Viet­nam and Cam­bo­dia. I saw that due to the lan­guage bar­rier, the new­com­ers weren’t get­ting the ser­vices they de­served.”

Calvert es­tab­lished the Asia Health Coali­tion in 1994 to help the Asian im­mi­grants. She also helped to form the Asian Amer­i­can Fam­ily Coun­sel­ing Cen­ter which fo­cused on men­tal health.

“So the Asian com­mu­nity con­tracted Pro­fes­sor Stephen Klineberg of Rice Uni­ver­sity to con­duct city­wide de­mo­graphic re­search on Asians and the re­sults came out in 1995. We found that nine out of 10 Asians were for­eign born, much higher than the na­tional av­er­age of three out of four. We are more im­mi­grant- based, so lan­guage is a big prob­lem,” she said.

At its in­cep­tion, the coali­tion — later re­named HOPE Clinic — was bor­row­ing space from the Chi­nese Com­mu­nity Cen­ter and was only able to of­fer health ser­vice four hours a week.

Armed with the de­mo­graphic data, Calvert started to write grant ap­pli­ca­tions for the clinic. As its ser­vice ex­panded, so did the fund­ing.

To­day, HOPE Clinic is fed­er­ally funded with a $6 mil­lion an­nual bud­get.

“We see roughly 35,000 pa­tient vis­its a year,” Calvert said.

While work­ing on HOPE clinic in 2000, Calvert be­came chief of staff for City Coun­cil Mem­ber Gor­don Quan. Four years later, she was ap­pointed by Mayor Bill White to head the city’s vol­un­teer pro­gram, a po­si­tion she held un­til 2009.

Calvert built a corps of vol­un­teers for the city, helped han­dle the evac­u­a­tion dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Katrina, han­dled the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Ike and co­or­di­nated many so­cial ser­vice projects across the city.

Af­ter leav­ing the city gov­ern­ment, Calvert be­came pres­i­dent of the Asian Cham­ber of Com­merce in 2009.

“At the cham­ber I got a chance to serve my own com­mu­nity and learn more about it. I hoped to help small busi­nesses in the com­mu­nity grow, but that did not work out be­cause the small busi­ness own­ers seemed all too busy to find time to take part,” said Calvert.

In 2011, Calvert de­cided to run for an at-large po­si­tion at the City Coun­cil. She did not win, but “run­ning for of­fice cul­mi­nated my love for Hous­ton. I felt that was the right thing to do and I still hope one day I will be able to run for of­fice again. It’s im­por­tant for the com­mu­nity to have Asian rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the city.”

Cur­rently as a prin­ci­pal of Out­reach Strate­gists, Calver is work­ing for a pri­vate com­pany for the first time in her life. “It is a dif­fer­ent thing for me. It al­lows me to com­bine all my ex­pe­ri­ence and con­nec­tions to­gether and turn it all into busi­ness.”

“I am still able to help oth­ers through this job. That’s the main thing, I need to feel that I am help­ing oth­ers, even though it’s for profit,” she said.



Ro­gene Gee Calvert


Pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ences:

• Prin­ci­pal, Out­reach Strate­gists (2011-Present) Pres­i­dent, Asian Cham­ber of Com­merce (2009-2011) Direc­tor of Per­son­nel and Vol­un­teer Ini­tia­tives Pro­gram, City of Hous­ton, Of­fice of the Mayor (2004-2009) Chief of Staff, City of Hous­ton, Of­fice of Coun­cil Mem­ber Gor­don Quan (2000-2004) Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor, Child Abuse Pre­ven­tion Coun­cil (1987-1990) Manager, United Way of Gulf Coast (1976-1987) Com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties, hon­ors: 50 Most In­flu­en­tial Women of 2014 by Hous­ton Woman mag­a­zine Vice Pres­i­dent, Board of Di­rec­tors, Blue Print Hous­ton Board of Di­rec­tors, Amer­i­can Lead­er­ship Fo­rum Co-founder, past pres­i­dent and cur­rent board mem­ber, Asian Amer­i­can Health Coali­tion/HOPE Clinic Co-founder and Co-chair, Asian Amer­i­can Giv­ing Cir­cle of Greater Hous­ton

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