When walking into the Woodcrest Community Group meeting, don’t be fooled by the babies running around. Made up of mostly Latina mothers, their children and grandchildren are the reason this group of "señoras" have become leaders of positive change in their neighborhood.
Formed roughly three years ago, the group meets every Tuesday at Woodcrest Elementary. The issues they discuss range from the need for a new playground, to seeing who can aid Woodcrest Elementary teachers where many of the group’s children attend. The meetings resemble family gatherings with many coming with their babies and infants and sometimes bringing food, like arroz con leche or sweet bread.
Blanca Garcia, a longtime resident of the Woodcrest Neighborhood, has been actively involved since the group’s beginning. We chatted with her about the group’s work, the importance of NeighborWorks Orange County’s involvement in the area, and what the Woodcrest neighborhood means to her:
Q: How familiar are you with your neighbors?
A: I have known nearly all of my neighbors for many years now because of our connections through our children.
Q: How long have you been involved in Woodcrest?
A: I have been involved in Woodcrest for many years. I began volunteering as a teacher's assistant in the classrooms when my daughters were very young.
Q: How did you meet staff at NeighborWorks?
A: Karla Lopez del Rio, with NeighborWorks Orange County, was one of two initiators. She and Alex Osborne, from Habitat OC, were the ones that started this group. We began as a group of mothers who would walk together every Wednesday to shop at a nearby market. We met Alex while we were on a walk and he began to get to know us and ask us questions about our neighborhood.
Q: How has NeighborWorks helped you grow during your time with the group?
A: NeighborWorks has helped me to feel more confident speaking in public and in leading my community. I know of many people whose lives have been changed since they joined our group also.
Q: What would have it been like if NeighborWorks wasn’t involved in the Woodcrest Neighborhood?
A: I think if this group didn’t form, there would be less progress made here. Among the bigger things we have accomplished was a large resident survey. Karla and Alex helped us to hold workshops for the neighborhood residents to talk about their concerns. The truth is that they changed the lives of everyone here in the community. Without them, none of this would have happened.
Q: How and why are you involved in Woodcrest?
A: I love to bring joy to others lives and to see how happy they become when good things happen to them.
(Translated from Spanish)