I recently had the pleasure of visiting one of our partner sites, the Alliance for Aging, out in Doral to speak with Islara Souto and their newly hired ReServist, Woodie Pagan. You wouldn’t be able to meet anybody as kind and sweet as these two people, yet they have two of the most opposite personalities that you could imagine having together in a room. I hadn’t seen Woodie for at least 4 months, however when I walked into the office, the retired Puerto Rican Judge greeted me with a big hug and a jovial “How are you?” which immediately made me feel as though I had been there last week. Islara followed suit more quietly and proceeded to ask me about my day and how my time as a Public Ally has been. While her words were quiet, her presence demanded just as much attention as Woodie’s, as she carefully chose each word she said to make sure she communicated her thought effectively. Already upon entering the office, the synergy between them was palpable. So when it got to the part where I asked them the questions to find out how their experience with ReServe had been so far, I could have sworn I saw fireworks in their eyes. The two of them began chattering enthusiastically about the projects they each were working on and the workshops and trainings they had coordinated all throughout the community, each one praising the other for the successes they were able to achieve in the few months that Woodie had been there.
When I asked about their best experience with ReServe and their placement together, Islara instantly answered, “Interviewing Woodie and seeing the diamond in the rough.” I think I almost saw Woodie blush a little with pride. He answered the question by recounting the first time he went out to one of the community centers for a workshop to talk about their project “Pasos Seguros” which strives to raise awareness about specific issues surrounding the elderly crossing the streets at major intersections throughout Miami-Dade County. Woodie described meeting some of the participants before the workshop started, and seeing the genuine care, desire and willingness to help spread awareness to their friends, family, and neighbors and how that really changed his view of the community and the mission of his project. Now, as Islara pointed out, Woodie is known in the communities he represents “Pasos Seguros,” and everyone says “hi” when they recognize him.
As they were unveiling their amazing ideas, projects and feelings of excitement, my pen was struggling to keep up. I also had an epiphany of just how wonderful it has been to work with ReServe and see it grow myself. Watching a program grow from its launch to a sizeable presence in Miami over 7 months and seeing the lives that have been changed and blessed immensely by the opportunities that ReServe provides has left a great impression with me regarding social services. I recognized the important role that ReServe has played in my own life, and will continue to play even as I move on to other things.