This article was published as part of #GivingTuesday's #WomenWhoGive series, which celebrates women who give back in their communities.
Maria Pardo Huete is the President of the Junior League of New Orleans. She has been a member of the Junior League for 11 years, and also serves on the boards of Café Reconcile and Core Element. Read the full interview below to learn about what inspires Maria to give.
Q1: What inspired you to start giving?
My parents and Katrina. My mother came from a poor country which affected my world view on poverty Both of my parents taught me that giving back to others and active civic engagement was beneficial to the community. Katrina was a catalyst for a more active involvement in the community. I couldn’t think of another place I would want to live in and it clicked that it would be up to the citizens to save our city. I knew that change had to start with me and I couldn’t afford to sit back and watch. I owed it to my children to work to improve New Orleans.
Q2: What does giving mean to you? Why do you continue to give your time, talents, money, or more to your community?
Giving means that you take something of yourself and you give it to someone else. Everyone can give but the method of giving will differ from person to person. I don’t judge that one form is better than others. I give because I see others struggling and it bothers me. I have been very fortunate in my life and I don’t feel right unless I share. Giving makes me happy.
Q3: What would you tell others who are looking to start giving back? Share a piece of advice will help them get started.
What have you seen recently that stuck with you? A friend’s illness, a passerby who looks like they are struggling, a child in trouble? Why did it bother you and is there something you can do about it? Giving is a personal thing. The stronger you feel about something the more rewarding the gift will be to you and them.
Q4: Please share a favorite moment or story from when you volunteered or donated to an organization.
That is so hard to narrow down! This was a random occasion that did not involve a scheduled volunteer shift or a donation. I was on my way to lunch one day and was stopped by a woman who was asking for directions/advice. At first I thought she was going to ask me for money so I was wary. After talking to her for a bit, I could sense a weariness to her. She was living in an apartment with no running water with 2 children and she was trying to find a shelter that could allow her to keep her 13 year old son with her versus separating them and had had no luck. She was desperate. So we sat there and using scrap pieces of paper and my cell phone made a list of places she could call or agencies she could contact for help. I don’t know what happened after we separated but I’d like to think that just sitting with another woman who was willing to listen and be patient was helpful. That is giving to me.