“It is really satisfying to me to know that I’ve put a little grain of sand in a big bucket helping the community. If I just do it alone, it is not enough. But if everyone does it, it fills the bucket,” said this Claremont neighbor, who volunteers as the part-time bookkeeper for the Ferguson Road Initiative (FRI).
Born and raised in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Valenzuela came to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the early 1980s to join her husband, Moises. He moved here looking for employment when the geologist jobs dried up in their mining-based hometown. They met in college and have been married 25 (“and a half!”) years.
Valenzuela originally planned to use her skills in an engineering career and majored in that field in college. But there were so few women in that discipline in 1978 in Mexico, and the male bias was so strong that she changed her major to teaching. She has always had a talent with numbers and invests it not only in the FRI, but also in the poor residents of her neighborhood by helping them file their tax returns. Sometimes it takes 16 hours a week to do so.
But Valenzuela does not see her efforts as particularly noteworthy. In fact, she couldn’t understand why she even “qualified” as a Meet Your Neighbor profile.
“I’m just a person in the neighborhood who is trying to help out. I work, I take care of my husband and daughter… I don’t think I’m anything unusual,” she said.
But that is what MYN is all about – getting to know people from all walks of life who live in our part of the city, especially those who contribute in some way to the wellbeing of others and/or have a story to tell. Valenzuela definitely qualifies.
As far as she’s concerned, giving back is not an option for most.
“If you are privileged, you should give something back to others,” she reasoned.
How does she define that?
“You are privileged if you have all the basic needs covered, you have a job, your health, and you can do something that others can’t,” which, in her case, is a felicity with accounting.
After moving into East Dallas 12 years ago, a neighbor approached her and invited her to a Claremont Area Neighborhood Association general meeting. Not long after attending, she was asked to become the group’s secretary, which she did. She now serves on the board.
“I love it. I love my neighbors. Everybody looks out for each other,” she said. “And this area is pretty with mature trees, nice houses and good Catholic schools.”
She has also enjoyed applying her time and energy to her only daughter’s school activities and to their church, St. Pious X on Gus Thomasson Rd.
Her daughter, Michelle, now a freshman at the University of North Texas, plays three instruments and was drum major at her alma mater, Bishop Lynch High School. Valenzuela has fond memories of the many yet exhausting hours spent on band trips, fundraisers, and the like.
“It’s a wonderful school – I just love it. There is a niche for every kid,” she said.
Now an empty nester, she hopes to devote more time to her other passions: cooking and cross-stitching.
In fact, she muses that she might have the time and money for cooking classes once her daughter is off the payroll.
“And I think it would be fun to take a Caribbean cruise. Maybe that will be my graduation present!” she laughed.
She is encouraged by the progress FRI has made in the last several years and touts the new library going in and efforts toward a new recreational center as signs of an area that is trending more toward pop than flop.
Still, Valenzuela would like to see more improvements, starting with apartment complex owners.
“They should clean up their act, and not allow tenants who do drugs or prostitution. It brings everything down,” she said.
And finally, Valenzuela issues a call to her fellow Hispanics: get involved!
“The Hispanic culture is very family-oriented, but not as community-oriented. Where I grew up, parents dropped their kids at school and that was it.
“The only time you went back was if there was trouble. But parents should help with the schools. Attend neighborhood meetings – and not just when there is a crisis. Giving back is one of the things about the American culture that I really like. It’s very rewarding,” she said.