October 27, 2022

Cruz Morales, Jr., Director of El Barrio Sports Club Named Recipient of the FBI’s Director’s Community Leadership Award for 2021

EL PASO, TX—Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey R. Downey announced Cruz Morales, Jr., Director of El Barrio Sports Club as the FBI El Paso’s selection for the 2021 Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA). Mr. Morales was selected based on his efforts to message to children, youth, and adults that sports are a healthy and positive alternative to drug use and gang activities.

Since 1990, the Director’s Community Leadership Awards have been the principal means for the FBI to publicly recognize achievements of individuals and organizations that make extraordinary contributions to education and the prevention of crime and violence in their communities. Each field office nominates an individual or organization for the award, and the recipients are invited to a ceremony and reception at FBI Headquarters in May. The ceremony and reception have been delayed this year due to COVID.

Mr. Morales and the El Barrio Sports Club have developed creative solutions to the problem of keeping today’s youth away from gangs and drug abuse, historically seen in El Barrio, an under-served and low-income area within El Paso. The organization has partnered with the FBI’s El Paso Field Office to host multiple community outreach events where families from Segundo Barrio can interact with FBI personnel and walk away with a positive interaction with law enforcement.

“The families of El Barrio can raise their children in a safer place because of the dedication and devotion of Mr. Cruz Morales and the members of the El Barrio Sports Club to help break the hold of gang rivalries and drug use that disconnected area youth from each other, family, and community,” said FBI El Paso Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey R. Downey. “With an emphasis on community, Mr. Morales is always the first to say this would not have been possible without the help of family, friends, and neighbors, as well as those who came before him, who united with the purpose of building this club for the betterment of their neighborhood. The FBI is proud to honor Mr. Cruz’s service with the designation as the FBI El Paso’s 2021 DCLA recipient.”

Every year, under the leadership of Mr. Morales, the El Barrio Sports Club tirelessly solicits hundreds of donations for sporting equipment, uniforms, and venues to support various family activities and sporting events. Participants can fully enjoy the benefits of playing sports without the worry of affordability, safe locations, or any other barriers that otherwise would make participation prohibitive.

The club’s perspective, grassroots efforts, accessibility to area families, and direct community involvement are what sets them apart from other sports organizations. The El Barrio Sports Club also makes sure that children of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities are made to feel welcome. No one is turned away.

The accomplishment that Mr. Morales is most proud of is that the El Barrio Sports Club has brought unity in an area that was once dominated by gang rivalries and drug use, which now, thanks to this organization, is a place for sports, family, and friendships.