WHAT ARE THE HUG AWARDS?
The Houston’s Unsung Greats Awards (HUG Awards) are sponsored by Attorney Stewart J. Guss to honor those local men and women who make a special contribution to the community of Houston.
Each month we award a prize of $100 and a Houston Hero t-shirt, and each year we give one of the local heroes $1000. These blog posts highlight the great work done the the charity workers who are among this year’s 6 contenders for the annual award.
THE CHARITY: TEXAS CENTER FOR THE MISSING
The last of our six final contenders is Melissa Rangel, a driven and inspirational staff member at TEXAS CENTER FOR THE MISSING. Melissa is being honored for her vital work helping locate missing people and reuniting them with their family and friends.
Approximately 10,00 children are reported missing every year in the Greater Houston area. Texas Center for the Missing was formed in March of 2000 to support the family and friends of missing people through the traumatic process of searching for, and hopefully being reunited with, missing family members (or friends). It was established after the disappearance of 17-year-old Gabriel Lester who was reported missing from his private high school. Sadly, Gabriel was never reunited with his family and the heartbreak of the experience made his mother realize that more help and support was needed for people in her position. She therefore decided to establish Texas Center for the Missing (TCM), an organization dedicated to bringing hope and healing to the missing and their families through crisis intervention, prevention, and community education. TCM’s Houston Regional Amber Alert System now has a 94% success rate of reuniting at-risk missing children with their families, one of the highest in the country. Learn more about the important work they do on this youtube video.
THE NOMINEE: MELISSA RANGEL
When Melissa Turnquist nominated Texas Center for the Missing’s Case Manager Melissa Rangel for a HUG Award, the importance of the work she does was immediately obvious. Here’s what Ms. Turnquist had to say about Melissa Rangel:
Melissa Rangel, is on-call 24/7 to assist families searching for missing loved ones. Through her efforts, we know that 11 families were reunited last year as a direct result of her diligence and hard work. Melissa answers the call at all hours of the day and night offering help, and HOPE, to the missing and their left-behind loved ones.
We hope you are never seeking to locate a missing loved one in Texas, but if you ever do find yourself in that situation, what a blessing to have someone like Melissa on your side!
THE CASE STUDIES
On December 7, 2016, Judith (Aunt) reached out to Texas Center for the Missing (TCM) to help find her niece, Jazmin.
Jazmin, age 15, ran away from her residence in Katy on November 30th. Her Aunt Judith filed a missing persons report with Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) to help locate her niece. TCM worked with the family to help find her on social media. TCM is up to date with all social media apps and has the knowledge to search for information on apps such as: SnapChat, KIK, and Instagram. After several weeks of reaching out to Jazmin’s friends on social media, the boyfriend finally admitted to Ms. Rangel, Jazmin was staying with him and his family. HCSO was notified, but it turns out Jazmin decided to return home on January 3, 2017, to avoid getting the family in trouble for harboring a runaway. Family members were extremely grateful to TCM for never giving up searching for Jazmin. The family was also given local counseling resources. As of today, Jazmin is now living back with her mother in Virginia.
Tara, age 15
On January 5, 2016, Tara was lured off the internet by a predator from Alvin, TX. Texas Center for the Missing (TCM) was able to provide the resources and support the family needed to help Tara recover from this tragedy. After being gone for more than 3 days and having been traumatized, Tara realized she was a victim and called the police. She was rescued by Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office. The predator was charged and arrested. TCM was able to help the family apply for and receive Crime Victim’s Compensation through the state of Texas to help pay for counseling and treatment for Tara. To date, Tara continues to receive treatment in another state and is doing well. The family continues to wait for a court date.