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Holidays inspire the joy of giving back to one’s community

It goes without saying the holidays inspire giving in people. And whether it involves one neighbor helping another or dozens helping many it’s impossible to document them all. So here are just a few exemplary cases.

When he was 16 Mission resident Lorenzo Garza’s father died leaving his mother to raise him alone. At the time he had an older brother already in the military, he said, and his father’s death sometimes left him feeling lost and alone.

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“You know there are some things you really don’t want to talk about with your parent,” he said.

Though he was attending Mission High School at the time Garza said he found himself returning to the teachers with whom he had created strong bonds at Kenneth White Junior High School for support when times were rough. He said that support system continued even when he went to college.

“I would come back to them and no matter if I was going through a hard time or hardship they would always ask, ‘What do you need; How can we help you?’ And they would help. And if I didn’t have that backup I don’t know where I would be today,” he said.

Today he is successfully working in the public information office of a major citrus related industry. Enough so he is now able to give back to the community and his junior high school. On Wed., Nov. 16 Garza returned to White Junior High School with 30 turkeys he purchased with $500 of his own money. There, he and school principal, Brenda Betancourt, personally handed out the turkeys and an equal number of bags full of stuffing and other dry goods donated by the teachers.

Garza said the recipients were the same families who were identified at the beginning of the school year in need of school supplies and other forms of financial assistance.
As an example of the recipients Betancourt explained a woman who had just thanked her and Garza had three children of her own when, due to family circumstances, had to adopt her sister’s five children.

“And she’s just an amazingly generous person. I don’t know how she does it,” Betancourt said.Another man receiving a food package effusively thanked Betancourt and Garza for their generosity to which Garza replied, “On behalf of the community and Kenneth White Junior High School you are sincerely welcome.”

Garza also said he was one of 9 members of the Mission Rotary Club who provided Peñitas residents with a Thanksgiving meal Monday. The club visited 25 families living in the Pueblo de Palmas colonia who received a 15-pound frozen turkey and dried goods.

Martha Torres and her family were one of the families who received the meal. She lives with her husband and three kids in a small, brick house with no heating or cooling system. According to Torres, since her husband has been unemployed for two months the family would not have been able to afford a Thanksgiving dinner if it wasn’t for the Rotary Club.

20161125 WEB PT ISSUE PHOTOS 0252“We wouldn’t have been able to celebrate Thanksgiving this year so it’s nice to see so many strangers coming together and letting us know we matter,” she said in Spanish.“We sometimes struggle this time of year so I’m just thankful my family won’t be stressed about having food on the table even if it’s just for one meal.”

Laura Villarreal, president of the organization, said the club prepared 25 individual paper bags filled with dried goods, drinks and a pie. Including the turkey, each meal was valued at $45.

As this was Villareal’s first year as a member, she said she was impacted by her day volunteering at the colonia.

“Seeing we can make a difference with just one meal is its own reward,” Villarreal said. “During the holiday season, our hearts are a little bigger and we should use that spirit to do some good and help relieve the financial stress of people in need of it.”

According to Villarreal, the families who received the Thanksgiving meals were selected by the Peñitas community center Proyecto Desarrollo Humano. She said the Thanksgiving project was the result of a partnership between several local residents and organizations who donated food items to be given out. This included students from Ruben Hinojosa Elementary School, rotary club members and volunteers from the Mission Boys and Girls Club.

Juan Carlos Rendon, manager for the Pharr-based Texas Farm Bureau Insurance agency, also helped club members distribute meals. Rendon had previously donated $680 to the Rotary Club to pay for all the frozen turkeys after he met Lorenzo Garza during a public function earlier in the fall.

“It was just so inspiring seeing how he takes the initiative to help the community,” Rendon said. “There’s people who don’t get to celebrate the holidays like we normally do because of a lack of means, but there are also people who can help others celebrate anyway just by making sure we can enjoy each other’s company and letting them know they matter.”

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