At BakerRipley, we believe in breaking down barriers and bringing down walls to expose the one thing we all have in common - the fact that we’re all HUMAN.

All around the world, there’s an urgent need for compassion—a need for us all to come together and to talk. The BakerRipley HUMAN campaign is an opportunity to provide a space for meaningful connections that build bridges—from one HUMAN to another. We’re more alike than we are different, and we want to celebrate our common bonds. Sometimes a simple conversation is all it takes to foster understanding between two people.

For more than 110 years, BakerRipley’s work has been based on conversations with the people in the neighborhoods where we work. Community engagement is at the very core of what we do. From these conversations, we have learned that all of us, no matter where we’re from, want the same things - to earn, learn, and belong. These are universal aspirations that connect us as human beings.

We do our part to keep Houston a welcoming place of opportunity by staying connected to the community. We listen. We respond. And we deliver. Our programs and services are always evolving to meet the region’s most pressing issues. BakerRipley must be relevant and responsive because these issues are those that matter most to our neighbors.

We want the same things – to earn, learn and belong. These are universal aspirations that connect us as human beings.

In this Annual Report, you will find stories about people, just like you, who have overcome challenges to pursue a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities.

We hope these stories will inspire you to get to know your neighbors better and to become more involved in making improvements to your community.

At BakerRipley, we know that the good things we do for one another can have a huge impact on our neighborhoods, our city, and even the world.

Claudia Aguirre
President and CEO


Everyone has a voice. At BakerRipley, our work is about igniting and supporting our neighbors’ voices. An essential part of strengthening communities is showing individuals ways to use their voices to express their opinions and usher in change.

Whether it’s attending a City Council meeting, volunteering at a school, organizing a voter registration drive, or planning a neighborhood festival, BakerRipley gives our neighbors the tools and training they need to advocate for themselves and their communities.


For several years, Steve Adame stocked his home with gallon jugs of water. His stockpile of water had nothing to do with hurricane preparedness, although he did keep a supply on hand for emergencies.

While many people take for granted having water available to cook, bathe, and drink, Steve didn’t always have this luxury. Poor service by his neighborhood’s water company plagued the area.

We do our part to keep Houston a welcoming place of opportunity by staying connected to the community. We listen. We respond. And we deliver. Our programs and services are always evolving to meet the region’s most pressing issues. BakerRipley must be relevant and responsive because these issues are those that matter most to our neighbors.

“You never knew when the water would go out,” Steve said.

After suffering through the situation, Steve decided to take action. For the past four years, he has been fighting the water company and advocating for better, more reliable service.

The problematic utility company was eventually taken over by the state, but when a new company expressed interest in purchasing the service, Steve wanted some assurances that the service would be better.

He was tired of the run-around from utility companies and state officials who promised change, but never delivered.

Around this time, Steve signed up for BakerRipley’s Leadership Training Course. Through the class, he learned how to leverage his networks and the importance of pressing civic leaders for commitment.

At a town hall meeting, Steve was able to get a verbal commitment from a utility representative to not raise rates for two years without getting community input. Although the company has since stepped back from their commitment, Steve remains firm in his request and speaks with the utility company on a regular basis to discuss community concerns.

BakerRipley works with our neighbors to show them that one person can make a difference. Steve has used the skills he learned in the leadership class to not only advocate for his neighborhood, but for his larger community as well.

Steve’s experience in holding the utility company accountable has inspired him to help host a large Veterans Day parade, organize toy drives, and even bike drives. Others now come to him for help with volunteer projects or civic engagement advice.

“It’s important to pass on the knowledge and connections to help the community”


Photo: East Aldine neighbors participated in our first health fair at the new BakerRipley East Aldine Campus.


Too often, organizations have looked at poor neighborhoods as a collection of problems to be solved and issues to be addressed. At BakerRipley, we have learned that we must first listen to find out all the elements a family needs to build vibrant lives—in the way that they define vibrant.

Appreciative Community Building is BakerRipley’s approach of engaging neighbors and communities by uncovering their strengths and assets, and leveraging them for greater impact. Whether it’s creating programs for older adults to remain active, teaching community members how to advocate for their rights, or developing educational programs that help children thrive, our main goal is to nurture engagement and help people get more involved in the communities where they live and work.


Awa Diawara was born in the Republic of Mali, a land-locked country in West Africa. “Malians are very family- oriented and your neighbor is part of your family. So I was raised by my parents and my neighbors,” Awa said.

That sense of belonging is what drew her to Houston, which has one of the largest African communities in the United States.

However, living between two cultures can be both positive and negative. Her daughter, Zeina, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but at a very young age moved to Mali to live with Awa’s mother. After spending two years in Mali with her grandmother, she came back speaking only French and Mandingo, which made her first experiences of American schools and American children difficult.

Awa enrolled Zeina at BakerRipley’s Promise Community School. “Her class is very integrated—Latinos, Asians, Africans. She is exposed to other cultures.”

This was important to Awa. “Children like Zeina are stuck in the middle and sometimes don’t know what to do,” Awa said. But at Promise Community School, her teachers embrace her for who she is—African and American. The school has become their family of neighbors.


Since 2009, our tax centers have prepared over 290,000 tax returns, putting over $390 million back in the pockets of working families.

2017 STATS

“I want her to succeed in life. She does very well in school. I always try to set a good example for her—work hard, focus on school.” This is why Awa feels that education and exposure to diverse communities are important for African immigrant communities and their children.

Currently, Awa is working part-time for a Houston law firm and the Tax Center at BakerRipley, all while pursuing her doctoral degree in public policy and law.

She doesn’t mind the numerous hours required to work in immigration law, volunteer at the Tax Center, attend school and be a full-time mother.

“I want to make a difference in people’s lives and give back to others.”

BakerRipley offers Early Childhood Education, Charter Schools and adult education to help our neighbors achieve their educational goals.



“It was as if she had awakened. We were at the [school] award ceremony [where my daughter in 6th grade received a citizenship award]. It was the first time that she received a certificate and that really motivated her. When I looked at her, I felt as if there was a change taking place within her. After we came to meet her teachers during the Open House... they told us that [my daughter] was a girl that has great potential... a great deal of charisma, she is very talented and has a huge desire for learning. She was like a sponge, absorbing everything that was being given to her. When I turned to look at my husband, I said, ‘Who are they talking about?’ Because at the other school, we heard very different things, almost all negative comments about her. Things like she didn’t pay attention, she was very talkative, she didn’t focus, even though I thought that she was trying. So when they said that, I told my husband that we didn’t make a mistake in bringing the children here.”



Asking questions, listening and taking action based on what we hear results in powerful exchanges that build bridges between people and communities. Our Senior Services division has created an intergenerational program where high school and college students interview older adults to learn about each other in a true wisdom exchange.

Starlic Williams is a 16-year-old senior at Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy for Young Men. The soft-spoken young man has a passion for art and music. In fact, he just released a song called “Story.” But he is also passionate about making a difference in his community. That’s why he agreed to participate in BakerRipley’s Wisdom Exchange.

“I thought it would be a cool experience,” he said. “And it turned out to be quite inspiring.”

Starlic interviewed two older adults— Dr. Virgil Wood, a former lieutenant to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Masey Hines, who unbeknownst to Starlic, lived near his home in Pearland.

Starlic immediately connected with Masey because they both believe in the importance of family.

“Family is a big part of life and you should use your family to your advantage,” Starlic said. “Miss Masey told me about her mother and how she taught her to serve the community and help those in need.”

While Masey focused on family and community, Dr. Wood talked about the importance of goal- setting and self-improvement.

“The lesson Dr. Wood taught me is perseverance,” Starlic said. “If a plan fails, find another way to achieve it. Don’t give up. Keep at it. Get better. Tap into the wisdom and knowledge of the people around you.”

“The biggest thing I learned from this experience is age doesn’t limit what you can or should do,” Starlic said. “All you need is the drive and motivation.”

Starlic believes that this experience has given him a new perspective on life and he advises people his age to have similar conversations with people from different generations.

“Our generation is more connected than ever and that allows us to build connections around the world,” Starlic said. “Talk to older people and learn about their lives, then incorporate how they lived into your life.”


The issues that the nation is struggling with— natural disasters, immigration, workforce training and development, and others—are being addressed by BakerRipley on a daily basis through our programs and services.

Our neighbors seek us out because they trust that we can respond to their needs effectively and efficiently.

“We must prepare. We must plan for the next disaster. It isn’t whether it’s going to happen. It will happen... and the planning has to be with every entity— public, private, nonprofits. Everyone has to join together.”

Claudia Aguirre

President and CEO


25 Days of Our Work at the NRG Shelter

When we got the call from Harris County Judge Ed Emmett on August 29th asking BakerRipley to manage the NRG Center Shelter for people displaced by the storm, we immediately answered it. It’s in our DNA. It’s what we do. We have more than a decade of experience in long-term disaster recovery starting with Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, and of course, Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Approximately 12 hours after the initial request, a core team from BakerRipley had come together, developed a plan, and opened the NRG Center Shelter to the public. People poured into the shelter and we welcomed each of them with dignity and respect.

Our work in long-term disaster recovery helps neighbors rebuild through: Disaster Case Management, Home Restoration, Unmet Needs Assistance (temporary housing and financial assistance), and our Neighborhood Restoration Centers.



When Hurricane Harvey hit 67-year-old Dorothy Cullom’s Edgebrook neighborhood, she never expected to stay up all night with her grandson, Cody, saving keepsakes from the flood water seeping into her home.

She never expected to wind up with nine inches of water in her home. She never imagined being rescued by boat the next morning, then picked up in a dump truck, taken to a METRO bus shuttle pickup and dropped off at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which served as one of the Harvey shelters.

“Things looked bleak that first week post-Harvey,” Dorothy said. “I was safe, but didn’t know how I would pay for the hotel, home repairs and damaged belongings.”

One of Dorothy’s neighbors told her how BakerRipley was helping people recover from the storm and she decided to go to the Pasadena Neighborhood Restoration Center at the BakerRipley Cleveland Campus to see if she qualified.

“When we first went to the Neighborhood Restoration Center, we didn’t have an appointment, but they didn’t turn us away,” Dorothy said. “I liked that it was organized, they didn’t waste our time and it was a welcoming environment.”

At the center, Dorothy received a gift card for groceries and several goody bags filled with basic items such as personal hygiene products, paper towels and cleaning supplies.

Disaster Case Manager Teri Lynn Smith was assigned to Dorothy to guide her through the process.

“You could hear the toll Harvey took in her voice,” Teri Lynn said. “She seemed vulnerable and in shock six months after the hurricane. When I told her the new stove got approved and I was going to help her pick one, her tone lightened and it seemed like she had more hope. I wanted her to know she wasn’t alone.”

Although things were looking brighter for Dorothy, her 10-year-old

grandson was struggling with health issues brought on by the stress of the situation.

“We didn’t think the Harvey situation was affecting him,” Dorothy said. “He had friends, he played in the hotel pool and school life seemed normal. One morning his face was drooping, we went to the doctor and learned he had Bell’s Palsy - most likely from stress.”

Luckily, Cody’s condition went away after a month just in time to move back in to their home.

“I have things I’ve never had before in my life in this new house, Dorothy said. “I’m so thankful and I feel like I’m on the top of the world, thanks to people lifting me up, both physically and mentally.”


One year later, in collaboration with the City of Houston, The United Way of Greater Houston, and Harris County, BakerRipley expanded long-term disaster recovery services so our neighbors impacted by Harvey can connect to specific resources that support their path to recovery.

BakerRipley’s recovery efforts are available in Fort Bend, Harris, Montgomery, and Waller counties.

“When FEMA and the Red Cross couldn’t get here to help set up and run the NRG Center Shelter, I knew BakerRipley could. It was done spectacularly and, with the help of BakerRipley’s partners, it provided everything from food to cots to medical and pet assistance. It was a great accomplishment. The NRG Center Shelter is now going to be the model for how to set up a welcoming shelter worldwide.”

Ed Emmet
Harris County Judge



Although Hurricane Harvey caused unprecedented damage and destruction, it didn’t crush our spirits.

In fact, it only made us stronger. So many people did what they could to help their fellow neighbors and support one another during and after the storm.

We appreciate everyone who contributed time, money, or supplies to our Harvey Recovery efforts. The outpouring of generosity was overwhelming. Because of your donations, we have been able to support our neighbors during their time of need.





BakerRipley believes that regardless of where we are from, we all have a HUMAN connection. We are here to help everyone who walks through our doors. We will ensure they have found a place where they can belong.

Our immigration system is complex and in need of reform. Changes to immigration policies directly impact our neighbors and the region as a whole. And BakerRipley is always ready to respond. Our priority is to make sure our communities have the most updated and accurate information around immigration policies.



The birth of a child is a momentous occasion in every parent’s life. But imagine if you were thousands of miles away on the day your child was born. How would you feel about missing this special event?

Santosh, a farmer from Nepal who was forced to flee the country in 2014, knows how painful this experience can be. Not only was he separated from his wife and newborn child, but it also took three years for him to finally meet his daughter, Sanjana, in person.

For six months, Santosh traveled across the globe, slowly working his way through India, Africa, Brazil and other Central and South American countries before arriving at the U.S. – Mexico border in August 2014 where he sought asylum from persecution.

After a long and difficult waiting period, he was granted asylum in a New York court and moved to Houston in 2016.

“After I come here I feel good, I’m safe and can worry about my family. America is great, and it respects human rights, you know,” Santosh said.

In 2017, Santosh approached BakerRipley staff for help in bringing his wife and now three-year-old daughter, Sanjana, to the U.S. as refugees.

After a year-long wait, his case was approved on December 11, 2017 and his family flew to Houston nearly two weeks later. Santosh finally met Sanjana in person for the first time.

“It feels good, so amazing,” Santosh said about holding his daughter in his arms for the very first time.

These days Santosh works at a grocery store and his wife is taking English classes every morning during the week.

“She’s learning, now she’s going to the grocery store, paying for stuff, you know learning by doing,” Santosh said.

Slowly integrating into life in Houston, Santosh now dreams of a peaceful future for his wife and daughter.

A 2015 Census Bureau study indicates that 145 languages are spoken in the Houston metro area. Since 2010, more than 27,500 people have attended our immigration forums, and in 2017, we handled 428 legal cases, 98% of which achieved the clients’ objectives.


Like many other major cities around the world, Houston is experiencing changes in how people view work. While improvements in technology and education have increased production and made workers more efficient, some people are still not reaping the economic benefits of their labor.

Overlay on these changes some of the wider shifts in society—slow wage growth, increased cost of living, economic uncertainty—and it’s easy to see why people are interested in creating their own paths by becoming entrepreneurs.

According to a 2016 report by the Kaufman Foundation, 6.02% of the U.S. adult population owns a business as their main job.

More than 99% of Houston’s businesses are considered small by the Small Business Administration. A survey by Expert Market ranked Houston number one among U.S. cities for cultivating minority-owned businesses, based on such factors as the number and percentage of businesses, the opportunity for finding customers here, and the rate at which startups are launched.

BakerRipley is doing our part to help startups and small business grow and thrive by providing education and access to resources.

BakerRipley’s Entrepreneur Connection Program, on average, has created one new job for every $9,164 invested. This return on investment is even greater than The Small Business Administration’s Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Loan program which creates one new job for every $14,458 invested. Our program has supported the launch of 21 new businesses. At least 33 full-time and 21 part- time jobs were created by clients’ new businesses, and strengthening clients’ existing businesses saved 53 jobs.



For Sidia and Mario Guzman, coffee is much more than a simple beverage. It is part of their identity and a way of life.

The Guzman family has worked as coffee producers in Honduras for four generations. Growing and harvesting coffee is not easy work. As coffee is often grown in mountainous areas, widespread use of mechanical harvesters is not possible and the ripe coffee cherries are usually picked by hand.

Growing up, Sidia watched her father labor in the coffee fields and dreamed of the day when she could own a field of her own.

Her dream recently became a reality when she purchased the land her father worked, and took control of the beans.

With the purchase of the land, Sidia and Mario were able to start Mandarinos Coffee. Now, they grow, roast and sell their own coffee and K-cups in Houston.

To support budding entrepreneurs such as the Guzmans, BakerRipley developed the Entrepreneur Connection program. This bilingual program closes the opportunity gap for lower-income entrepreneurs who often do not have access to the mentorship, financial capital, or educational opportunities that higher-income populations possess.

Our team helped the Guzmans prepare a presentation for Lanzate!, the first all-Spanish business pitch event for entrepreneurs in Houston.

In preparation for this competition, the Guzmans attended workshops on how to create an engaging pitch deck, articulate a compelling and interesting story and make the perfect ask. They also took advantage of one-on-one business coaching.

The Guzmans’ hard work paid off. Mandarinos Coffee placed first in the Grow Category, winning $5,000, which they intend to invest in machinery and a space to roast and process their coffee beans.

“We do a lot by hand now, but we still need a machine to package coffee,” Mario said.

The Guzmans are grateful for having the support and guidance of the BakerRipley team during the entire process. With our help, they wereable to expand their family business and keep their dream alive. Now the Guzmans look forward to opening their own coffee shop in the near future.



Patricia Slind is a native of Bolivia and the creator of the VINSS Bag—a personalized intelligent diaper bag. This bag is designed to help women and men who struggle with their everyday hand and diaper bags by adding today’s technology solutions to a high- end fashion product.

“I am a geologist and working mother of five,” Patricia said. “For many years I kept looking for a diaper bag that could adapt to my needs—a practical bag where I could carry my computer, diapers, baby bottles and even my makeup. I could not find anything in the market, so that is when I decided to create VINSS—the smart diaper bag.”

“BakerRipley has really impacted my journey as a business owner and truly I’m just getting started.”

With the purchase of the land, Sidia and Mario were able to start Mandarinos Coffee. Now, they grow, roast and sell their own coffee and K-cups in Houston.

The bag includes everything from an internal lighting system and phone charger to a bottle warmer. In order to grow her business, Patricia realized she needed two things— capital and guidance. She received both as a result of winning second place in the Lánzate! Launch category. She won a cash prize, mentoring hours, and a scholarship to the Entrepreneur Academy Grow class.

While attending the Academy class, our team helped her work on her proof of concept. We also connected her to industry founders with access to specific focus group and patent attorneys and industry experts, who could potentially form part of VINSS’s advisory board. One of VINSS’s biggest challenges was finding a company to build the product prototype.

“When I started reaching out to people who could help me with the prototype, I was shocked by what I was told the price would be,” Patricia said. “I was not ready to invest $18,000 to $20,000 and I even approached other FabLabs and maker spaces in Houston and they still charged more than $10,000. The challenge of what to do next was really putting a stop to my idea. I was becoming discouraged about how I could move forward.”

Staff connected her to BakerRipley’s FabLab Houston where she received help from Brent Richardson, the FabLab Developer. With very little investment, she developed a first draft of her prototype in three weeks.

“I was able to use the money I won in the pitch competition to buy the supplies needed to test and develop the prototype for my bag,” Patricia said. “BakerRipley has really impacted my journey as a business ownerand truly I’m just getting started.”



The BakerRipley HUMAN campaign is the platform where you can talk about things you believe in, what you’re afraid of and what you hope for the future—ultimately, everything that makes you HUMAN.



It takes people with grit in their hearts and fire in their bellies. BakerRipley has the right volunteer opportunities for anyone willing to work toward better outcomes. In 2017, 30,670 volunteers donated 450,149 hours of service.



Your gifts help families all over Houston achieve their aspirations and live a better life.