With a little help from her friends
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
NEW CASTLE, Colorado – Silvia Caro struggled for decades with low self-esteem due to being disfigured as a child, but that all changed when she met Delores Gomez two summers ago.
The two women met during a Christian youth camp at Apple Tree Park, where Gomez, leader of the Latino Outreach Team at the River Center, first noticed a problem with Caro’s right eye.
“We got to talking and I got close to her and got to know her a little bit, and just asked about her eye and what happened,” Gomez said.
As an infant, Caro had received drops to treat an eye infection. Instead of curing the infection, the drops left Caro blind in her right eye and disfigured.
“I was self-conscious about the eye and had low self-esteem,” Caro said.
Caro had a prosthetic eye, but by this time it was more than 25 years old. She did her best to keep the eye covered, guarding against the constant feeling that people, especially children, were staring at her.
After learning about Caro’s past and getting to know her better, Gomez and Larry Borgard, a volunteer with the River Center and the New Castle Lion’s Club, decided to take action.
“Here we have a person in need,” Gomez said. “Our goal is to help neighbors, so let’s get on the ball and start helping this neighbor.”
A series of community fundraisers ensued, organized by the Lion’s Club and the River Center, which included a St. Patrick’s Day Mexican dinner, a raffle, and another event during the Hogback Hustle. The fundraisers netted about $1,500, most of which went to help Caro.
“Long story short, the eye is replaced,” Gomez said. “She had the plastic surgery to reconstruct the eyelid, and she looks beautiful today. So our efforts were well worth it.”
The experience has been life changing for Caro.
“Now, I’m more confident,” Caro said. “Now, I can lift my head up and look at people.”
The entire process also propelled Caro into serving on the River Center’s Latino Outreach Team, which seeks to build relational bridges between the Latino and non-Latino communities in the area.
“Sometimes language is a barrier, but I love to serve and love to help,” Caro said. “I’d love to do more to help people that are in the situation I was in.”
Gomez said Caro’s story is the perfect example of her goal to see people “pay-it-forward.”
“She’s very, very grateful,” Gomez said. “She’s one of the members in the Latino group that is strong and that now has that idea that we want to help, too. She shares the story with everybody she meets.”
River Center executive director Lee Price said seeing people rally around Caro is just one way that cultural divides are being bridged in the community.
“We see relationships that are forming between Latinos and non-Latinos,” Price said. “They’re intentionally getting together, either working toward a project or meeting a need or just spending time and having a meal together and getting involved in each other’s lives.”
Price said he feels Latinos are more comfortable helping with volunteer events in New Castle because of the formation of the team. Even a couple of years ago, Latinos had little involvement in the River Center’s community-wide projects.
Now, the River Center will often have 10 to 20 Latinos volunteer for events such as the Angel Tree Christmas gift project and the back-to-school supply drive.
While progress is being made, Gomez described these early efforts as “baby steps” toward a larger goal.
“I think there’s a lot of work ahead still to do – a lot of bridge building – but it’s getting there,” Gomez said. “The bridge is partly built. I would like any Latino who wants to volunteer or make a difference to know they can come here and feel like they’re at home.”
And Caro certainly does.
“It’s a relationship I’ll never forget,” she said. “It’s something I’ll always hold onto.”
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