Thursday, January 3, 2008

January Volunteer of the Month

Happy New Year! I hope that everyone had a happy holiday season filled with lots of joy, love, and health. We're looking forward to a new great year for Heroes for Children.

This time of year in our office means one thing--preparation for Heroes and Handbags! With two major events happening in two different cities in a matter of one week, we keep very busy. But these events don't happen just here in the office. It takes a team of volunteers to pull off the many aspects of the event--underwriting, decorations, printing, check-in/check-out, live auction, and so much more! Our core group of volunteers in each city meet on a regular basis for close to nine months in preparation for the event. And at the head of these core groups of volunteers are our event chairs. This year, Mary Lou Fernandez is spearheading the volunteer efforts of Heroes and Handbags in Houston. The event is scheduled for Wednesday, March 26th at River Oaks Country Club. From coordinating photo shoots with cancer patients carrying handbags to juggling schedules to best find dates for events such as our Underwriting Party with Live Auction, Mary Lou is working on it all!

With Larissa's pregnancy this past year, it was agreed that I would handle the major responsibility of traveling to and from Houston until she returned to work (yeah, she's back!! WOOHOO!!). Throughout the fall, I traveled to Houston to work with Mary Lou. We now have each other on speed dial on our phones, and we email on a consistent basis. Now, I don't want to give up the responsibility of traveling to Houston because of the work relationship I have forged with Mary Lou! She is a true joy to work with. She has the passion and heart for our organization and the reason behind the need for Heroes and Handbags. Her business savvy is fantastic too, with experience for working for such companies as Disney when she lived in California! I love when she tells me some great Southern California stories!

Thank you, Mary Lou, for your hardwork for Heroes and Handbags and spreading the mission of Heroes for Children in Houston!

Mary Lou at the wrap party for the 2007 Heroes and Handbags event at Valobra in Houston.

Name: Mary Lou Fernandez

How did you get involved with HFC?
I met Elizabeth King (last year’s Houston chair) when I moved to Houston about a year and a half ago and she got me involved with Heroes and Handbags Houston.

Do you have any kids and/or pets?
My husband and I have one son, Alex who is 4 years old. No pets at the moment, I sadly lost my wonderful 15 year old English Springer Spaniel “Gretchen” this past October. She was the first dog I ever had! We love dogs, so hopefully we will get another dog before the end of the year.

From looking at you, no one would guess that:
Hmmm, tough question! Who knows what people think…it could be scary! Seriously, I guess I would have to say that my hobby (prior to moving to Texas a little over 3 years ago) was sailing and sailboat racing while living in Los Angeles. I was pretty competitive and used to race every Thursday evening and every Saturday/Sunday. I guess I had the need for speed! I thoroughly enjoy being out on the Pacific ocean and the feeling of peace that you experience from being a part of something so beautiful, serene and vast. One year, I also had the opportunity to cover the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht race kick off for ESPN, which was a lot of fun. I was also just starting to take surf lessons when we moved to Austin…but believe me, sailing has much less of a risk of being attacked by those “lovely” great whites that frequent the So Cal coastline…so not that much of a loss for me there!

Favorite place to eat:
My…so many great restaurants in Houston! I would have to say two places. Lupe Tortilla when I am with my husband and son, and when it is just myself and my husband, Antica Osteria, a fabulous little Italian fine dining restaurant in West University.

What’s on your book shelf?
Well usually I read the current spy/ thriller best sellers, but currently I am reading a book describing “4 year olds” which has the subtitle of “Wonderful and Wild”. Now of course I am reading this “self-help” book because my child leans more toward the “wild” part of the title! My father -in- law just recently gave me a book called “The Truth About Hillary” (yes, you know which Hillary) that I am going to start reading. I don’t think it is meant to be a flattering book….we’ll see!

What’s in your iPod/CD changer?
Everything! Too many artists to name! Top 40 for working out, classical music for unwinding and a bit of country…I have to work hard at establishing some southern roots while living in Texas!

Who’s your hero?
Definitely Jenny and Larissa. Their strength amazes me! One cannot imagine what losing a child feels like and I am amazed that in spite of everything that they have been through, how much they have done with Heroes for Children and continue to accomplish in their daughters names. Also, the children and parents that I have met while volunteering for Heroes for Children. Their stories and battles truly have redefined how I look at life and how fortunate I feel.

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