Pueblo Unido Community Development Corporation (PUCDC) is a (501) (C) (3) tax-exempt non-profit organization born from the initiative of community leaders with extensive experience and knowledge of local issues and concerns in rural areas of the Coachella Valley.

The Eastern Coachella Valley is comprised of four unincorporated rural communities: Thermal, Oasis, Mecca and North Shore. The large majority of residents are agricultural worker families and they represent the local labor force that contributes approximately 430 million dollars a year in agriculture to the region. Farm workers constitute the backbone of our national food system sustainability. But despite their remarkable contribution, these hard working communities live in pervasive poverty with challenging water and wastewater conditions and few economic opportunities. A glaring deficiency of farm worker housing, lack of critical infrastructure, and community economic development opportunities continues to plague the local communities whose residents work the fields. In our judgment, this is attributed to inadequate community organizing, training and education, and collaboration with public agencies.

Our organization constitutes a new generation of leaders striving to set a foundation of exemplary leadership within the Eastern Valley. In our view, we must foster individual and community participation of Eastern Valley residents with governing bodies and other agencies that shape policy affecting their daily lives. We believe the reasoned engagement of community members will develop an environment of political awareness plus critical thinking and, consequently, the formulation of innovative ideas that include cultural assets within new project development, socially just policy goals, and political support by public and elected officials.

PUCDC is the catalyst non-profit organization promoting this philosophical approach, and the community development corporation required to provide sound technical support and civic-oriented planning solutions to the complex issues impacting our communities.

PUCDC Board Members

Joe Ceja

President

Joe Ceja retired from the Coachella Valley Unified School District after 33 years with the school district and 35 years overall as an educator. Mr. Ceja was a school principal for 22 years at the elementary, middle school and high school levels. Mr. Ceja has been a leading force in the implementation of healing circles in the Coachella Valley in efforts to develop youth leadership among East Coachella youth while promoting cultural values and lessons.

Susan Ellen Rashford

Secretary

Susan Ellen Rashford is a retired school teacher with a lifetime California General Elementary Credential for grades K-8 and a Texas Life Elementary Credential for grades 1-8. Graduated from Mount Saint Mary’s College in Los Angeles, CA with a Bachelor of Arts in English. During her career she taught for about 30 years in school districts in Orange County, Texas and Desert Sands School District in the Coachella Valley. Most recently Susan has been trained as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for Riverside County and worked with a Case Manager to assist a foster child by representing her in court Her hobbies are hiking, gardening, cooking, traveling, reading and enjoying my family and friends.

Carmen Vargas

Treasurer

Carmen Vargas serves as VP Business Banking Officer with over 14 years experience. Having provided access to capital for small businesses in the Coachella Valley and surrounding areas. With a degree in small business management from California State University San Bernardino, Mrs. Vargas has been instrumental in the aiding the development of the San Jose Community and Bea Main Learning Center, a local community center in the community of Thermal/Oasis.

Sister Carol Nolan

Sister Carol Nolan has been part of the Pueblo Unido CDC board since 2015. Sister Carol attended Portland State University and received a M.A. German as well as a M.S. in Music from Illinois State University. Sister Carol has also been the director of Providence in the Desert since 2002. Sister Carol is an active member of the community teaching English to community members and serves as a fundamental piece in improving access of services to the communities served.

Martha Barragán

Member at large

Ms. Barragan is a Program Coordinator for Psych-care assisting children with autism since 2013.  She attended Coachella Valley High School and graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. She is currently working on her Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis from Ball State University.  She has been an active member of the community for about 15 years.

Sergio Carranza

Founder/Executive Director

Mr. Sergio Carranza brings extensive experience in the area of rural development. His involvement and dedication has contributed to a wide range of affordable housing and community development projects in the Eastern Coachella Valley.  His skills include securing local, state and federal regulatory land-use development and approvals.  Additionally, He has expertise in funding development with local, state and federal community development and affordable housing programs. He possesses a track record in developing and implementing community-economic development projects to include community centers, business/retail, farm worker housing and infrastructure in rural communities.