Fourth Issue 2013
Connections

Dear Arizona Readers,

This week, a quick conversation with a stranger in an elevator yielded this comment: "Oh, then you must work with Belen Gonzalez. She just won a big award, you know."

Belen's name has come up before in casual conversations I have had about my work with the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. As to the elevator comment, Ms. Gonzalez was one of 11 Hispanic leaders honored on September 6 with a Profiles of Success award by Valle del Sol. And yes, we are proud. If the elevator ride had gone on longer, I could have added much more.

Belen joined us nearly 14 years ago as a program officer, right out of the social work graduate school at the University of Chicago. From the beginning she helped us connect with hardworking social service professionals.

Her work goes beyond traditional grantmaking: She is currently leading the Trust's work with Children's Action Alliance to create a multi-agency initiative to improve the lives of foster youth who age out of the foster care system––a gang plank situation that has allowed too many young people to fail in life.

On her own time, Belen founded the Latina Giving Circle to encourage philanthropy among the rising number of Hispanic women professionals in Arizona. The group has inspired the rise of similar organizations in San Francisco and Mexico City. The Arizona circle has already raised about $90,000 for the community's nonprofits.

Belen works with the Arizona Community Foundation to further promote Hispanics in philanthropy, and formed a funder's collaborative to strengthen the capacity of Latino-led nonprofits. She received the Latinos Unidos Award in December from the Community Foundation.

 

An elevator pitch for Belen Gonzalez


Belen Gonzalez receives her award from Lydia Lee, Valle del Sol's Board Chair, left, and Kurt R. Sheppard, Valle del Sol's CEO. (Photo by Jeff Calbom)

Her commitment to community service began when she was a teen mother, she explains. After having her first child at an early age, she was intent on continuing her education. Good mentors, her family, and caring advisers at Arizona State University and the University of Chicago provided support and counseling that was critical to her success. As a result, she never turns down the opportunity to support others in their quest for life-changing education.

She assists with the management of the Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars Program, which provides scholarships to nontraditional students with special challenges. She also regularly mentors students selected as Nina Scholars.

Do awards matter? Belen says receiving the Raul Yzaguirre Community Leadership Award was a milestone for her. Receiving it inspires her to work all the harder, just to be worthy of it.

Yes, but she already is.

Other community leaders honored

Other Valle del Sol's 2013 Profiles of Success Award winners are: the late Virginia Eugenia Cardenas, honored for her work advocating for arts and culture; Derrick M. Hall, President and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks; Andy Izquierdo, Public Affairs Director for PetSmart; Steve Macias, President and CEO of Pivot Manufacturing; Christina Martinez, Founder of Adelante Public Affairs and Communications; Dr. Cecilia Rosales, Director of Phoenix Programs and an Associate Professor in the Community, Environment and Policy Division of the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health; Dr. Anna Solley, Phoenix College President; Ralph Varela, CEO of the Pinal Hispanic Council; the late Roy Villanueva, Surprise City Councilman; Marlene Galan Woods, volunteer and community leader. The Arizona Community Foundation was also honored with an award for its work funding nonprofit organizations, government agencies and educational institutions.