We love our mothers at buildOn. Considering Mother’s Day is right around the corner, we decided to pay tribute to all of the wonderful women in our lives by interviewing staff about their mothers – and we even had the opportunity to talk to their moms. What we learned is that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree; staff said their mothers inspired and motivated them to do the type of service work we do at buildOn.
Aled Hollingworth, Program & Service Coordinator, Connecticut
One of the things my parents always recommended was to reach out and help others, and it’s something they continue to do, as well. We lived overseas and traveled a lot growing up. My dad worked for a nonprofit and my mom always encouraged us to go out and do those things, as well… My mom is loving, caring, passionate. She’s the best mom in the world!
Ann Griffith, Aled’s Mother
In school, from a very, very young age, sports was a big thing in his life. And we were told by several people, just as he started in 9th grade, that he should be a coach or a teacher because, apparently, at that time he considered the best athlete in the school. And he would partner up with kids whose skills were not up to par with his. He would pick the kid who otherwise wouldn’t have been picked. That stands out to me.
There was a moment very recently when we spent Easter in DC… and he was engaging us in a conversation of what was going on in Mali. And my husband has been working for NGOs for ages, and he asked, “What are you doing in Mali?” He was speaking with such knowledge that my jaw dropped, and I guess one of the exciting and humbling things is what we passed down to our children a combination of what my husband and I do; because I’m a teacher; because he’s chosen to be in the field of education, and there are some development things going on there, too.
Glenda Hernandez, Program Manager, New York
My mom is from Puerto Rica. I think she’s always wanted me to do service; she was a missionary. She was always super involved and giving back. She came from extreme poverty and had nothing, but she’s always managed to overcome all of the struggles and put all of her four daughters in college. In her dire need, she always found a way to help others. And she’s raised all of her of her grandchildren.
Our family always gets together and takes her out to dinner. She bought a house in Puerto Rico and there are just a few finishing touches. We’re all chipping in to finalize the house, and we want to send her to Puerto Rico.
Luz Hernandez, Glenda’s Mother (interview translated from Spanish)
First, I taught my daughters good values. Second, were morals, and that we have to live to serve. We serve to live, and to give what we can in the same way that we need things in the hopes that we are able to share the blessings that people give us. I’m happy that she’s involved in service. It teaches me that I’m human, and that she’s helping other people who are less fortunate. I’m also pleased that she studied, she’s a good daughter, and she’s a good person. She has compassion in what she does… Usually the husbands cook for us on Mother’s Day. This year, we’ll have a picnic if it’s a nice day.
Brooke Ahles, Program & Trek Coordinator, Michigan
My mom, growing up, taught me to get involved in learning about other cultures, and people who came from different ethnic races and different races. She encouraged me to play with different dolls and meet new people. That’s where my inspiration came from, and why I became a social worker. She inspired me to be kind to others and help others.
She helped donate money to a student of mine that wanted to go to (buildOn’s Trek for Knowledge). It was a student who wasn’t selected, and I found another volunteer project and she volunteered to do that. Right now my mom is in the process of helping us with the end of the year celebration. She used to own a catering business for 13 years, and we’re going to be making all the food. It’s a luau-themed prom. She also took it upon herself and bought Hershey’s kisses and turned them into roses on sticks with cellophane, and made 200 of them to give to all of my students.
Laura McKinney, Program & Special Events Coordinator, California
My mom is someone everybody likes and gets along with. She was always PTA president and always involved with her community… She worked as staff gardener for a town north of San Francisco, and because she did that as a profession, she wanted to give back. She believes in sharing beautiful places with people, and she talks about that a lot. I was telling her about how excited I was about this community garden, where there was this woman who spent 10 years getting the rights for these six abandoned lots in an impoverished area in San Francisco. It was something my mom was really involved with, and she tagged along and became friends with the woman who started it, and now she volunteers there. The way that my mom thinks about it is when you’re beautifying a place you’re uplifting them by giving them the respect of having a location.
Joahan Suarez, Youth Engagement Zone Program Coordinator, New York
My mom passed away in August 2007. She was 57 years old at the time and she pretty much raised me by herself.
She never knew service in the way you and I knew service – like serving at a soup kitchen. Instead, she pinpointed the people she knew she could help. She listened to people’s stories, always cooked extra meals. If she knew someone was hungry, she’d bring them food for the week. Literally, her service, giving back to the community, was how she got along with everybody. She never asked me to give back, but it was instilled inside of me to be selfless and give back. She believed that the way you thank someone is by being a good friend… Thanks for making service the cool thing to do.
Kimmy Kunkle, Program Coordinator, New York
Growing up, she definitely encouraged me to give to others. She always tells me she’s so proud of the work that I do, and that means so much to me because everybody wants their parents to be proud of them. And it makes her really happy, what we do. She keeps track of buildOn on Faceook. She’s very involved in what I do.
She never favored anyone. One of the things I appreciate about her is she didn’t treat us all the same; she treated us how she felt was necessary. She appreciates all of our individuality and let us become who we wanted to become. That encouraged me not to be afraid to be who I am, which is why I do what I do.
Karen Kunkle, Kimmy’s Mother
That girl is amazing! She’s always been service-minded and always been concerned about others. She would help take care of the kids a church and then into high school. In college, she started working with a Reparations for Slavery campaign in Portland. Then she moved to New York when she was 19 so she could join City Year and work with disadvantaged kids. She got her suitcase and there she went. She inspires me every day.
Keisha Brooks, Program Coordinator, Michigan
My mother is the most wonderful educator, mother, and supporter! My mother taught me to do what I say and say what I mean. I appreciate her so much and so grateful she’s my mother. I love you mom!
We also received an email from one Dr. John Velasquez, a member of buildOn’s chapter, Project Africa, at The University of the Incarnate Word.
Dr. John Velasquez, Project Africa, The University of the Incarnate Word
My mom was a social activist in the ’60s and ’70s. With no education of her own, she promoted the education and health of the Mexican-American community of Abilene, Texas. She was a role model to me. She showed that if you truly care for another person you can really change the lives of people. She helped Mexican immigrant families and others in the community to address school, medical, and legal problems. She stepped up for people She also was a political activist with the League of United Latin American Citizens (a.k.a LULAC) and the Democratic Party. With my Dad as her political partner, she participated in the democratic process, including: running for office, convention delegate, polling place officer, and was a voice at school board and city council meetings. My work as a psychologist is a direct modeling of her passionate love of people and hope and belief in the community. She passed two years ago, but her memory and legacy continues.