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February 20, 2009 - Masa Melee Makes Dough for Clinica Tepeyac

What: Tortilla Celebrity Roll-Off and Luncheon

Where: Stapleton Recreation Center

When: Friday, February 20, 2009

Time: 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Ticket Prices: $15

Beneficiary: Healthcare programs

Mistress of Ceremonies: Anne Trujillo, 7News

Invocation: Sister Alicia Cuaron

Welcome: Jesse Ogas, Vice President

Speaker: David Lack, Executive Director, Dr. Jim Williams, Medical Director and Rolando Salinas

Of note: Judy Montero, Mike Perez, Sherri Vasquez, Eduardo Arnal, Father Marshall Gourley, Rodolfo Cardenas, Paul Lopez, Joanne Davidson, Luis Canela, Sister Alicia Cuaron, James Mejia, Lindita Torres-Winters

Sponsors: Linditia's Salsa, Ready Foods, Spectrum Audio-Visual

Auctioneer: Jesse Ogas

Menu: Make-your-own burritos with homemade salsa

Attendance: 400

Attire: Come as You Are

Event Coordinator: Sherry Edmond

Board of Directors: President: Donna Goldin; Vice President: Jesse Ogas; Secretary: Chuck Javernick; Treasurer: Barbara Carveth; Past President: Jim Garcia; Mac Bryant; Dan Euell; Sandra Haynes, Ph.D.; Dick Heiney; Diane Miller; Vernon L. Naake, M.D.; Yolanda Ortega; Rolando Salinas; Nancy Sneath, MSW, LCSW; Ex Officio Members: David Lack and Jim Williams, M.D.

Blacktie Photos by: M. Darcy

 Founder Jim Garcia with Anne Trujillo and Rodolfo Cardenas
Founder Jim Garcia with Anne Trujillo and Rodolfo Cardenas

Masa Melee Makes Dough for Clinca Tepeyac

Story by M. Darcy

Clinica Tepeyac, a non-profit health clinic staffed primarily by volunteers to serve the health needs of more than 12,000 low-income Coloradans, is “busting at the seams,” according to its Executive Director, David Lack. They've already had to move their office to accommodate their growing number of patients, - in fact, staff have given up their offices to convert them into treatment rooms - and they're considering yet another move to a bigger space in order to deal with the expected 50% increase in the year ahead.

The Clinic's annual “Tortillas for Tepeyac” tortilla-making contest brought friends, patients, Latino community leaders and even a few celebs to the best burrito feed in town on Friday, February 20 to help raise money for their expansion. Dr. Jim Williams, the Clinic's Medical Director, calls it “the Gateway for Healthcare to the Uninsured”. Most of the Clinic's patients are newly-arrived immigrants or working class households along the Front Range. With the continuing economic trend, staff expect these numbers of low-income patients to increase.

Dr. Williams describes a typical patient, Jose, who injured his back on a demanding job, roofing. His employers don't offer him healthcare, so he was merely trying to cope with the pain, unable to afford the surgery hospital doctors told him he needed. Doctors at Clinica Tepeyac, however, offered a second opinion – a course of steroid injections at a sliding scale fee. A few sessions later, he was able to go back to work to take care of his family.

Working with patients' income is part of the Clinic's mission. One doctor actually charged three burritos to deliver a baby. They must have been some very tasty burritos. Preventative medicine is one of the best means of taking care of patients health, and their wallet. The clinic has an “army” of promotoras, health promoters who teach healthy living and wellness throughout the community. The Clinic's approach is so successful, it's actually being used as a model in a sister Clinica in Sierra Leone, started by Hope and Les Law.

Today's lunch and Roll-Off attracted nearly 100 more people than expected. The buffet line actually wrapped around two walls of the Stapleton Recreation Center, where it was held. The Melendez family baked fresh tortillas on the spot for diners. They're so good, the Post's Joanne Davidson says she comes to get her stash. But don't let that fool you; Joanne was just one of the serious contenders competing in the tortilla-making contest. Latin View host, Sherri Vasquez, City Councilmembers Judy Montero and Paul Lopez, personalities from Univision Colorado Rodolfo Cardenas and Luis Canela, “Talk Chef” host Lindita Torres-Winters (handicapped by having to also judge), Jeff Campos from the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Eduardo Arnal from the Mexican Consul General, Father Marshall Gourley and Sister Alicia Cuaron, and finally James Mejia, CEO of the Denver Preschool Program were all split into two teams for a “masa melee”. All were vying to be named “Tortilla Titan” to earn the Golden Rolling Pin award.

In the First Heat, Mike Perezl beat out Lindita for having the largest tortilla. Lindita's tortilla was, no pun intended, holey. In the Second Heat, the decision was even harder, but audience cheers awarded Sister Alicia's very round tortilla a winner. Mike and the “Holy Roller”, as Judge Jesse Ogas joked, were set against each other. At last, Sister Alicia won out by a mere decible of cheers, maintaining her previous reign as Tortilla Titan. Emcee Anne Trujillo of 7News handed her the Golden Rolling Pin award and congratulated her on another win.

After the contest, board member Rolando Salinas reminded guests that “challenging times offer a gift to those who can give.” What has held the Latino community together so tightly in Denver is each other – each member looking out for the other through difficult times. It's an example we can all follow. Clinica Tepeyac is just one of many worthy non-profits keeping communities together and working towards a healthier society.

You can reach out to your neighbors through the Clinic by donating your time or money. Their website is: or they can be reached at 303-583-0150. You won't want tp miss their next event!

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