Rogene Gee Calvert: About helping others
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
ROGENE GEE CALVERT
• 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