La Causa member Noe Gadea presented the second annual “Outstanding Person of the Year Award” to founding member and president Jose Garcia Monday night at the July 22 Bishop City Council meeting. The award, granted last year to folkloric dance teacher Alma Santana, is presented to the person most dedicated to improving the Hispanic and Latino community through the services they provide.
Jose Garcia is one of the founders of La Causa, Hispanic Voices for Community Improvement, an organization committed to raising cultural awareness and sensitivity to issues related to the Hispanic and Latino community. Since the foundation of La Causa about four years ago, Gadea said, Garcia has gone above and beyond to provide community services to both Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities in Bishop.
La Causa began in response to a request by Inyo County Superior Court Judge Dean Stout to invite a group of Hispanic and non-Hispanic community members to talk about the needs of the Hispanic community in the court system, Garcia explained. Soon the founding group began to meet once a month, establishing goals that included “providing some educational and informational forums for the community, not only for the Hispanic, but for the non-Hispanic community as well,” Garcia said.
The organization has since provided forums on teen pregnancy prevention, immigration laws and domestic violence, and school forums within Inyo County for students to ask questions and express concerns. La Causa has also hosted a Cinco de Mayo celebration, open to the entire Bishop community, for the past several years.
La Causa “provides the opportunity to get information, to ask questions, and to feel comfortable,” Garcia said. “People a lot of times feel intimidated, and they’re afraid of coming out and asking questions and finding the right help,” he said. Now, “Whether they speak Spanish or not, people feel comfortable coming to us. Agencies also come to us looking for help in outreach to the Hispanic and Latino community,” he said.
Garcia was born and raised in Mexico City, Gadea said. He moved to Bishop in 1989, and has served as a high school Latino Club advisor for three years, organized the Latin Village at the 2011 Millpond Music Festival, and was recently appointed to the Bishop City Planning Commission. Like many residents of the Eastside, Garcia said he didn’t intend to settle down in Bishop. He came to visit, but “a few weeks became a few months, and a few years,” he said. “I feel my life has been blessed in many ways,” he added.
Bishop City Council members applauded Garcia’s service. Mayor Laura Smith called Garcia a true local, an individual committed to his or her community.
“I’m very happy to receive this award,” said Garcia. “It means a lot to me to give back to the community.” But, he said, the award “Is not why I volunteer; it’s not why I do what I do. I hope I can inspire my own children, neighbors, friends, and our community to help each other.”
Photo courtesy The Sierra Reader