(Joel Martinez | firstname.lastname@example.org)
As the president of United Way of South Texas, Garza learned last year that the family of nine resided in a makeshift home without running water, flooring and — in some areas — walls. To cook, the oldest daughter used an electric countertop burner that sat atop wooden crates.
Through the United Way, Garza found the family a mobile home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms after four months of planning. It came furnished with kitchen appliances and furniture that was donated by local organizations and residents.
It’s also of special significance considering the family’s eldest daughter gave United Way her graduation stole as a token of gratitude upon graduating with honors from Texas AM in College Station.
Garza started working for United Way in its Corpus Christi office, United Way of the Coastal Bend, as the campaign director in 1985. She was offered the position of president of the United Way of Hidalgo County eight years later.
It now operates as the United Way of South Texas after her proposal to include Starr County residents was passed.
Programs she introduced include: Back-to-School In Style, an annual event that takes 120 students on a shopping spree before the school year starts; the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which provides families with free income tax preparation services; and the establishment of the Community Veterans’ Engagement Board-RGV, which helps establish communication between veterans and VA representatives.
“I always put myself in their shoes and understand that every person has a story,” Garza said.
“I always try to look at someone from that point of view and think about what their feelings would be, and what their thoughts and concerns are.”
Before transferring to the University of Corpus Christi, which is now Texas AM University-Corpus Christi, Garza attended Del Mar College where she remembers having to walk over a mile a day because she did not have a quarter for the bus.
Garza graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is married to Manolo Garibay, who has worked for ATT since its Southwestern Bell days.
“It’s about what you do with the resources you are given,” Garza said of United Way’s work.
“How you are re-investing your resources? That is what matters.”