Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on 9 Daily Point of Light Honorees

Oct 11, 2023

Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15, is a time to reflect on the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans. This annual observance serves as a beacon, shining a light on the countless champions who have been drivers of real and sustained change in their communities across the country.

Hispanic Heritage Month began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, under President Lyndon Johnson and later, expanding to a 30-day celebration by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Todos Somos, Somos Uno: We Are All, We Are One.”

During this month of celebration, we not only pay tribute to the collective heritage of the Latine community but we are shining a light on people who exemplify the spirit of community service and uplifted others through their actions. Here we share the stories of ten exceptional Latine Americans who are Daily Point of Light honorees. Each one is a testament to the power of dedication, compassion, and unwavering commitment to creating positive change in communities across the country.

1. Victoria Villarreal, storybook gala co-chair for the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and volunteer, has volunteered for 10 years spreading literacy. She also serves on the boards of and donates time to both Dress for Success, an organization that prepares women entering or reentering the workforce with things like professional clothing and resume assistance, and Nativity Academy, a small, under-resourced private school. She has even installed 25 Barbara’s Book Boxes as part of the program she started throughout the city. But she claims just a little time can go a long way.

“You, too, can create change. It can be as small as donating an afternoon to read to a child who doesn’t get that one-on-one time with anybody. That child will remember that. Or you could send a word of encouragement or a thank you to someone that has made your day. We’re all capable of doing our part. Find what calls to you.”

— Daily Point of Light Honoree #7650 Victoria Villareal, storybook gala co-chair and volunteer, Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation

2. For nearly the last decade, Liana Garcia has brought her history of service to her volunteerism with The Pink Berets, an organization founded to support female veterans suffering from invisible injuries such as PTSD, Military Sexual Trauma, and Combat Trauma Stress. Liana’s role as a 9-year volunteer veteran is to She also helps to coordinate operations, events and support the CEO. She also supports the continuation of developing the vision and goals of the organization on an annual basis.

“Volunteering teaches you the value of compassion. It teaches you to be nonjudgmental because you never know where people have been.”

— Daily Point of Light Honoree #7622 Liana Garcia, volunteer and board member, The Pink Berets

3. Jeffrey Rivera Sanabria is a community leader of the Residencial Luis Llorens Torres, a public housing complex in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he helps in virtually every aspect of improving the lives of under-resourced residents. He has done everything from delivering essentials to seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic and solving problems that face the community to organizing programs promoting culture and the arts. Having grown up there himself, the complex holds a special place in his heart. Jeffrey has also been a member of the Puerto Rico Medical Reserve Corps since 2011 and assists the Department of Health with emergencies, natural disasters and public health issue awareness.

“I want people to see me as an example and to understand that it’s not important where you come from, where you study or what your social status is. The important thing is that you believe in your abilities, experiences and strengths to be a great human being and change agent.”

— Daily Point of Light Honoree #7524 Jeffrey Rivera Sanabria, community leader of the Residencial Luis Llorens Torres

4. EliAnna Bermudez has led conversations with schools, banks and other companies. During her last two years of high school, EliAnna co-founded a project though Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading called Stand Together Against Racism (STAR), an initiative designed to start conversations centered around racism and racial equity. She even helped to create a documentary about the group, leading discussions after screenings. Crediting her mom for her life of service, EliAnna recalls volunteering with Girl Scouts, American Clean-up and with her church from a very young age.

“My mother helped me understand what it is to help others that are in need or who might not even ask. Sometimes you just do it.”

— Daily Point of Light Honoree #7467 EliAnna Bermudez, co-founder, STAR

5. Tristan Espinoza’s experiences growing up biracial inspired his interest in politics and social justice. During his first year in college, Tristan befriended Dylan Baca, founder of Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative (IPI), a youth-led organization that aims to eliminate stereotypes of Native American communities, amplify their voices and advocate for a better future. Dylan had just come off of a big win, successfully advocating for President Biden’s proclamation to designate Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD) as holiday alongside Columbus Day. He was becoming known as the kid who got a phone call from the president around campus and was looking to build on IPI’s success. Tristan jumped at the opportunity to join the advisory committee and, eventually, the board. His work in policy change and activism continues today.

“You never know when you walk past someone the struggles that they face. There are likely people who need help who are too afraid to ask for it.”

— Daily Point of Light Honoree #7525 Tristan Espinoza

6. Maggie Morales-Moody has been involved with Down syndrome advocacy since the birth of her first daughter, Melissa. At the time, Maggie was just 24 so the diagnosis was completely unexpected since Down syndrome is often associated with pregnancy at a later age. Maggie founded GiGi’s Playhouse El Paso, which provides free educational, therapeutic, and career programs for individuals with Down syndrome from birth through adulthood, their families and the community.

“There is so much more joy in giving than there is in receiving. Volunteering not only helps people in need, worthy causes in the community, but more than that, it keeps you mentally stimulated and gives you a sense of purpose. It brings fun and fulfillment to your life. We are on this earth to serve others and not be served.”

— Daily Point of Light Honoree #7474 Maggie Morales-Moody, executive director, GiGi’s Playhouse

7. 16-year-old Mateo Molina has been baking and selling the cookies to his community in Pleasanton, California, and donating the funds to help people in Colombia through his organization, HumanKIND Cookies. Since starting in the summer of 2020, Mateo and his sister, Sara, have baked and sold around 15,000 cookies to raise $30,000, all of which has been donated to Casa San Jose, a nonprofit organization focused on helping the most vulnerable people of Cali, Colombia, including senior citizens, foster children, low-income families and people who work as recyclers (one of the city’s lowest-paid and difficult jobs.) The money has been used to buy them groceries, diapers, school supplies and shoes, and even to fund special events such as a trip to the zoo.

“How things that we see as little can go such a long way. When I saw those ads on TV asking for donations of a couple dollars, I didn’t think it would help much. But now that I have been doing this for a while, I’ve realized that the $5 we make from a cookie box goes such a long way because it can supply a family with a week’s worth of food in Colombia.”

— Daily Point of Light Honoree #7445 Mateo Molina, founder, HumanKIND Cookies.

8. Claudia Jones founded MORE — Mindfulness, Opportunities, Resilience, Equity — Latinoamérica a free and virtual education resource for Spanish speakers to help bridge the gap of gender equity and development for women, created with her co-founder Raysa Castillo. To date, Claudia has reached more than 20,000 Latinas worldwide through MORE Latinoamérica.

“I strongly believe that, through education and empowering women, we can achieve great things,”

— Daily Point of Light Honoree #7439 Claudia Jones, co-founder, MORE Latinoamérica.

9. 17-year-old Shawn Martinez realized how much isolation and loneliness was spreading through older adults without human connection. Martinez consulted his support system and made the jump to create his own nonprofit, AVUS Connect, to match student volunteers with older members of his Miami community. From his service and leadership, Martinez was awarded the United Way of Miami Outstanding Youth Award in 2022 and the 2022 Public Service Award from the Florida Council on Aging.

“The feeling of volunteering is unparalleled. Community service is seen as a two-way street, so you’re just not giving, you’re also gaining a sense of purpose and insight within your community, and a perspective of another person’s life or experience.”

— Daily Point of Light Honoree #7382 Shawn Martinez, founder, AVUS Connect

Do you know someone who acts as a point of light in their community each day? Nominate them for a Daily Point of Light Award.

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