06 Emily Gutierrez 1 small

I was born in Cuernavaca, Mexico and came to the US when I was 16 years old. I came with a Tourist Visa and stayed with my sister to learn English. I was supposed to go to high school, but I couldn’t speak English, so they put me in a special school for foreign speaking adults, and I was only 16 years old. I learned English because I was taking classes from 8:30am -3:30 pm. When they learned I was only 16 the administrators tried to kick me out, but the teacher wouldn’t let them because I was such a good student. I was in that class for two years.

After I finished my English classes I returned to Mexico and got married. When I was 22 years old I wanted a fresh start in life because my husband was a womanizer. I returned to the United States and have lived in Sonoma for 26 years.

I have always been a waitress. My knees were getting bad and I had to have them replaced. My former boss paid for my Kaiser insurance, but business started getting bad so he had to stop paying. I now work two days a week at a restaurant in Novato and the other days of the week I volunteer at La Luz.

I met Juanita, who was working at the Redwood Empire Food Bank, and Mario, who ran the program. They suggested I join them at a meeting for volunteers at La Luz. That was four years ago and the beginning of my relationship with La Luz. I had had my knees replaced months before and I was needing a little help so I went with her and got some food. From that day on I’ve been a volunteer at La Luz. I volunteer at La Luz six days a month. On Fridays I help distribute food and groceries to 150- 200 families. The Mobile Health Van is also there on Fridays giving medical care and checking people’s blood pressure, teeth and giving shots.

I was pulled into these organizations by luck and I’ve been very, very lucky. They gave me a reason to get up in the morning. After my knee replacements I was really depressed having to be in my house all the time, doing nothing, feeling sorry for myself thinking that I was never going to be able to do anything. La Luz helped me get out of the hole I was in. My self-esteem is becoming really high because of La Luz. Besides helping with food distribution I now belong to another program that’s affiliated with La Luz, Lideres Campesinas. This is statewide “women to women’” organization that provides help to women. Women who work in the fields, women who are dealing with spousal abuse, we show them where they can go for help. Women need to know they are not alone, that they can get out of a bad situation.

You know, the La Luz community brings people together and deep friendships develop. From the first day I came to La Luz I felt really good because I was helping people. People needed me and I like to help people and that’s a good feeling. I feel very, very lucky that I belong to so many leader organizations, and one day we are going to make big changes. 

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17560 Greger Street

Sonoma, CA 95476


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