Volunteer Spotlight: Mel Bargas and Victoria Schwab
There is nothing more inspiring than passionate people giving their time and talent to help create community. The Volunteer Spotlight, developed by MSW Candidate Nichole Cunha, is a new feature of our Volunteer Newsletter that hopes to encourage Citizens Project’s greatest resource: people. Please take the time to read about two of our most inspirational volunteers, Mel and Victoria, below. We hope that you are as impressed with their commitment to community as we are!
How long have you been volunteering with Citizens Project (CP)?
Three and one-half years, after we retired and relocated to Colorado Springs (C.S.) from Lincoln, NE in 2010. We have had the privilege of volunteering at Political Forums, the Divine Awards Celebrations, the Creating Community Breakfasts, as well as promoting CP at various events in the community.
How did you hear about us, and what made you want to get involved?
Jan Martin, a friend of mine since I (Victoria) lived in C.S. in the 70s & 80s, knew what we were interested in and thought CP would be a good fit. I had become even more passionate about cultural diversity and inclusion through my public health work with the NE Office of Women & Men’s Health. With the faces of NE changing, I had the opportunity to become involved in initiating cultural diversity education for healthcare organizations and professionals. Another program I worked with emphasized the importance of educating medical professionals about barriers to lesbian women’s healthcare; however, due to the political climate in NE at that time it did not receive the support we had hoped for. Therefore, when we relocated, I looked for organizations to be involved in, such as CP, C.S. Diversity Forum and NAACP, which strive to make a positive impact in the community and where diversity, equal rights, social justice, and civic engagement are promoted.
What do you do when you’re not hanging out with the folks at CP?
We enjoy the theatre, movies and participating in various activities in the community that gives us the opportunity to get to know new people, such as attending monthly Latino Community Luncheons. Visits from our 9 year old grandson and trips to Denver for his activities are a special time for us. Also, we have lots of family and friends who come to see us and the beautiful Pikes Peak area (At least we hope it is for both reasons!).
I am very involved in facilitator training and coordination, as well as recruitment for Food for Thought, a group dialogue program of the C.S. Diversity Forum. My husband Mel, who was born and raised in Trinidad, CO, likes doing yard work, hiking and fitness activities. In addition, he has also volunteered with Food for Thought and the El Paso County Democratic Party.
When are you happiest?
Special times are doing things together whether it is volunteering, traveling or spending time with family & friends. We love exploring new places in CO and the U.S. and learning about their history and what makes each area special. Traveling to see family in various parts of the U.S. and visiting grandchildren in Anchorage and Boston are among favorite trips for us.
What do you love about your community?
There are so many passionate people here who do want to make a difference. Many have come from various parts of the U.S., which adds to the diversity of ideas for our community. We feel privileged to be a part of this energy and look forward to remaining active in the community and enjoying all that the Pikes Peak Region has to offer.
What would make this community better?
People coming together to discuss their diverse opinions through respectful community dialogue. We may then discover that we are more alike than different. Dialogue can also lead to community based action on important issues.
As a side note, we have had various bumper stickers on our cars such as “Tolerance”, “Diversity” and “Coexist”. In response to the Coexist sticker, about 2 years ago, we found a small piece of paper that someone left on our windshield that stated, “Not all people can coexist”. They left that message on the wrong car, as that made us even more passionate to work towards this!
Last fall we attended a special wedding in CA for a very close family friend and his partner. This was a first for us being privileged to see a loving couple of the same sex enter into marriage. We look forward to the day when same sex partners can enjoy the same rights and privileges in our community.
How would you describe CP to someone who has never heard of us?
If you want to be a part of an organization that focuses on religious freedom, equality, diversity & civic engagement, then become involved with CP. If you want to be part of a group of passionate people who make a difference in our community, then volunteer with CP. If you want to be part of an organization that is led by an inspirational leader, Kristy Milligan, then CP is the place for you!