By Curt Buckley
“It was a few years ago, I believe, when MANA [a national Latina organization] began partnering with AARP’s Decide.Create.Share. initiative that I began volunteering for them,” says Eva Bonilla of Fort Worth, who is an AARP volunteer among wearing many other hats.
What led Eva to become an advocate for her community wasn’t a choice so much as the result of life-shaping circumstances that led her to a cause.
AARP offered Eva an opportunity to better do her job. Not her paying job, but one that was even more important to her. Since 2008, Eva had been the primary caregiver for both her widowed father and her disabled adult daughter.
Decide.Create.Share. is designed to help women better understand the benefits of long-term care planning. The program asks them where they see themselves in the future, guides them in creating a plan, and asks them to help spread the word, to help others also plan for more secure futures. Going through these steps helped Eva plan for the care of her father, her daughter, and herself as well.
“I just thought it was such a great message, no matter who you are,” Eva says. “Everyone should plan for their futures.”
It was during MANA’s venture with AARP that she met the Association’s lead Fort Worth area staffer, Carmel Snyder, who has since become one of Eva’s biggest fans.
“When I grow up, I want to be like Eva,” Carmel admiringly beams.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone so dedicated to community service. I’m so proud to call her an AARP volunteer.”
When it comes to role models, few are more devoted to improving young women’s lives than Eva. In 2006, she helped create the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas’ Latinas In Progress (LIP) program, which focuses on education and empowerment. LIP has prepares Latinas for colleges such as Harvard and Stanford and now offers scholarships to Texas Christian University and Texas Wesleyan University.
“If you educate a woman, she not only feeds her family, but she also helps her community,” Eva says, tweaking a phrase used by her mother.
Eva also holds the distinction of being the first Latina candy striper at John Peter Smith County hospital, where she still volunteers. She has served on more than ten community organizations’ boards and committees, including the Safe Kids Coalition, The Women’s Center and the Public Arts Commission, where she was commissioner.
When asked what drives her to serve so many, Eva responded quotes anthropologist Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”