A labor of love

By South Texas College

The future site of Matt’s Cash and Carry will have a story to tell about how South Texas College (STC) students came forward to help rebuild following a terrible disaster that left a family-owned business in smoldering ruins.

Students with STC’s construction technician and construction supervision programs have begun work on creating and assembling all the counters for the rebuild of Matt’s Building Materials store in Pharr after the previous structure was destroyed in a fire in Jan. 2022.

Matt’s Cash and Carry, a hardware store and branch of Matt’s Building Materials Company, had been operating at the Pharr site since 1969 before it burned down. The company also has branches in San Benito and Palmview.

Following a donation of materials by Matt’s, students have now begun constructing the counters for the new building’s contractor sales, paint, service and sales departments as well as cashier counter areas. The project should be finished in about a month, according to STC faculty.

“To put it in simple terms – we serve. We serve our families. We serve the communities. We serve here at school,” said Israel Medrano, STC Construction Supervision program coordinator. “Students are going to build something that is going to be there forever, and they’re going to be a part of a legacy that will be there forever, but in the end, it’s about giving back to the community. They learn that here, and it’s obvious that they enjoy that, especially when they see how it affects other peoples’ lives. They take that with them when they graduate and then they give back to community as they grow.”

The contribution by STC students is the latest in a long-standing partnership with Matt’s Building Materials, which in the past has saw students build a stage for the company’s 50th anniversary in 2019 as well as backdrops for various events throughout the years. Owners with Matt’s also sit on the program’s advisory committee, which offers direction on the program and collaborates with the college to provide internships and job opportunities to students.

“It’s going to be really special to say that STC helped us rebuild, and they will be at our new store for the next 50 or 100 years, who knows,” said Matt’s Co-Owner Isaac Smith. “The whole building is going to have a story to tell about how the community just came together and helped. STC has been a blessing to us, our family and our business, and we couldn’t be doing what we are doing without the college. It hits right on my heartstrings to see people come together because it’s our family business, and we’ve been working really hard to get it done.”

STC student and veteran Orlando Isquierdo earned his apprenticeship license in electrician technology as well as a certificate in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration before moving on to the construction supervision program.

Isquierdo said he lives right next door to the Matt’s building in Pharr and witnessed it burn down from his backyard.

“We have all taken this as an honor to contribute to the new Matt’s building. They have been around helping us in the community and because I live in Pharr, I actually live right across the street from them and they have a lot of potential to give back to the community as well, too,” he said. “While we’re helping them out, they are helping us out. And that’s what it means to be a community.”

Construction student Britney Arriaga said she jumped at the chance to contribute to the Matt’s project from her perspective as a female in a male-dominated industry.

“I jumped at the chance to help Matt’s Cash and Carry get back on its feet, and in the process I get to learn things that I can not only use in school, but out in the real world and I would love to see more women out there on the field doing the work and keeping up in this male-dominated field,” she said. “I was inspired by my father and my boyfriend who is a carpenter and they inspired me to go against the grain and just build something. This is a wonderful craft to learn. To females looking to enter this field, don’t be scared to get your foot in the door. Never get intimidated because just getting involved is how you learn.”

This article was originally posted here.

South Texas College

is located in McAllen, Texas.