I have been involved in community service, in different capacities, throughout my adulthood. Although my upbringing did not focus on the values of serving others, as I matured and became my own woman, the act of sharing love and care through community service became a major tenant of my life. I believe we serve others to spread love and goodwill, but it is through service that we ourselves are changed and strengthened.
I’d like to share how one instance of community service had a remarkable impact on my life. After relocating to the small community of Heath, Texas after living in the dusty border town of El Paso with my then spouse, I became pregnant with my second child, Ian. I was entrenched in my new role as mother to my toddler Ava and loved it dearly, but I felt isolated. We had moved around several times, each time far from family or established, supportive friends.
Unfortunately, I was in a troubled, abusive marriage to an alcoholic. I found myself, again, in a new place with no friends, family or network. I was doing what I could under these circumstances to make the best life possible for my daughter, and soon to be new son. My Catholic faith was very important to me, and it was through my new parish that I found a mothers group focused on charitable work. It was a life preserver tossed to me in the turbulent seas of my life.
It was here at the Catholic Mothers Council that I was able to let my love of others and community service flourish for many years. I stepped up to serve in a myriad of capacities: volunteer playgroup organizer; lead organizer of preparing and delivering meals to moms in need; leader of annual Thanksgiving food drives; organizer of clothing swaps and donations to a local social service agency; repainting the parish nursery; planning and volunteering at Vacation Bible School; visiting and helping low income members of our community through St. Vincent de Paul; running the rosary prayer group; polishing pews in the sanctuary; assisting with the annual Christmas event for young children in our community; collecting and delivering gifts to adopted families at Christmas; serving as committee chairs, vice president and president; hosting meetings and going the extra mile to recruit and warmly welcome new members; and much, much more.
I put in hundreds of hours of service, and it was absolutely a labor drenched in love. I did most all of this work with both of my young children in tow, sewing the seeds of service in their hearts from a tender age. I loved every minute of it and the memories still bring me such joy when I look back at that time very well spent.
I feel that I was able to make a large impact on my community, but the benefits I received of care, support and love from the people I met through service kept my heart afloat and filled my spirit with peace in a very difficult time of my life. In this service, I felt no solitude. How greatly blessed I was for that gift. I struggled at home, but in my role as servant, I found peace and inner prosperity.
During those years, I wasn’t working outside the home, and my children and I had little to no family life with my then spouse. Community service alongside my Catholic Mothers Council sisters filled that void and gave me purpose. Perhaps because of the circumstances of my first marriage, I was able to devote more hours than others to my service. I dove in, serving God through serving others, and am so grateful for this healthy outlet to soothe my soul in a time of difficulty.
After I left the marriage, the structure of my daily life for my children and I changed as I became our head of household, but my desire to love and serve others has never been depleted. As a newly single mom, I started my own business to support my family, and have focused my work on serving non-profit organizations. Even though I had to generate an income, I tried to do so in a way that still benefited organizations that were working hard to make a difference in their communities and in the world.
I am blessed to have remarried. My precious husband is a kind-hearted, supportive man filled with integrity and patience, and my family has grown, both in size and in love. Living in New England for the past six years, I have not had an experience like those unique days with the Catholic Mothers Council, but I still make it a priority to serve my community, filling any tiny voids of time I may have while raising four children along with my husband, Juan, who is an officer in the U.S. Air Force and private pilot. We are extremely busy, but I still provide writing services exclusively for non-profit organizations and serve my community where I can.
Here is a glimpse of my most recent community service activities:
- Volunteer at the New Fairfield Community Thrift store, which raises money to help the most vulnerable in our community
- Volunteer with Matthew’s Hearts of Hope, sewing heart-shaped pillows given to children undergoing heart surgery
- Organizer of personal care drives for St. Vincent de Paul
- Volunteer Vice President of the New Fairfield Soccer Club, providing strategy, marketing support and event planning
- Volunteer at the New Fairfield Senior Center, special event helper and planner of D-Day remembrance event
- Volunteer support for the launch of the D-Day Squadron, a fleet of American World War II C-47 aircraft making the journey to Normandy, France
- Volunteer at my kids’ schools for special activities and presentations
- Volunteer presenter of children’s programs about the Tuskegee Airmen and Women’s Airforce Service Pilots to inspire kids to rise above their own obstacles
- Volunteer with the Connecticut Miss Amazing program
- Volunteer advocate for children of parents with brain tumors
In the future, I plan to focus on my advocacy work. I myself am a child of a brain tumor patient, and I was only 11 years old when my dad was diagnosed and our family’s life changed forever. I have written a book for children who find themselves in this same situation, specifically to address their feelings and needs. I will self publish and distribute the book to neurooncologist offices throughout the country to get this useful tool directly into the hands of families facing a brain tumor diagnosis. I am also partnering with the National Brain Tumor Foundation as a volunteer advocate. In the future, I’d plan to establish a non-profit organization to increase the impact of my advocacy.
Through my past community service, and my ambitious plans for the future, I hope my efforts have and will benefit my communities as much as that work has enriched my own heart. I am grateful for the American Women of Service pageant for being my catalyst for personal growth and self-confidence, helping me to recognize the value in my service and the power within to achieve my dreams.