The president and CEO of Buckner International spoke Tuesday evening about transforming families far away — and in Longview.

“We began community transformation centers in some of the roughest neighborhoods in Guatemala and Honduras,” Albert Reyes of Dallas, where Buckner is based, said during the keynote speech at the 2020 banquet of the Longview Chamber of Commerce.

“We were meeting families that were desperate, struggling to the point of collapse,” he said. “In almost every case, we discovered that what families needed was hope.”

And in Longview, Buckner has helped people overcome obstacles, according to Reyes.

Reyes’ speech drew nearly 700 people to Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center, chamber President and CEO Kelly Hall said before the speech. Also during the program, 2019 chamber Chairman Chuck King turned over the gavel to incoming Chairwoman Dana Parr, and the chamber presented four awards.

Reyes mentioned renaming centers into family hope centers and creating 23 of them.

That includes one established in 2016 in Longview, where the faith-based, nonprofit entity provides housing for seniors and services for children and families.

Reyes named people who benefited from the center in Longview. He mentioned Blanca and Luz, who took English-as-a-second-language classes, graduated from the “highest level” English program in May 2019 and now teach the classes.

Reyes also mentioned Dani Castillo-Rios, a U.S. Army veteran who has suffered from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder after completing two tours of duty in Iraq in 2010. She and her son moved out of a shelter, gained parenting skills and landed her dream job at the East Texas Veterans Resource Center.

Vanessa Morgan, Reyes said, was “stuck in a dead-end job that left her exhausted and barely making enough money to get by.” She enrolled in the Jobs for Life program, and now works at a job where she helps people who have intellectual disabilities.

“Bianca and Luz, Dani and Vanessa all represent our best work with families,” Reyes said. “They found a place to dream, a place to prosper and a place to contribute to this community.”

Reyes drew applause when he closed by saying, “There is a lot of good going on in Longview, for sure. But could it be better? Could Longview be the best? It’s your call.”

After Reyes’ speech, King presented the Chairman’s Award to Bob Metzler for playing a pivotal role in establishing the Longview Arboretum and Nature Center adjacent to Maude Cobb.

“There is a lot of people in this audience that should have been up here,” Metzler said afterward. “My board of directors, the volunteers we have. All of our donors. The citizens of Longview who passed the bond election (in 2018). It took the whole community.”