To commemorate Hispanics in Philanthropy’s 33rd year, we honored 33 Latino leaders who inspire as our 2017 HIPGivers. Read the story of Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of NALEO and the NALEO Educational Fund, below.
When Arturo Vargas thinks about giving, time is always on his mind.
“Everyone has time; how you use that is more valuable than money. Once you give time, you can’t get it back,” he said. “Money is a luxury, and how people choose to use that luxury is a mark of character, but not everyone has the luxury of disposable income.”
This deeply personal perspective is inspired by generosity he saw close to home, growing up in Los Angeles, in a family of seven.
“The government would have classified us as being below the poverty line, but we didn’t know we were poor,” Vargas said, pointing to his father’s example for his own giving.
“My father never said no to an ask when someone wanted help,” he said. “In his final years, as a senior citizen on a fixed income, he was very moved by global tragedies and suffering. He gave to tsunami relief. But he would not have considered himself a giver or a philanthropist.”
The younger Vargas, who is now the Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, gives back to causes that resonate with his roots, coming full circle. At his wedding last year, in lieu of a gift registry, guests were asked to make donations to two organizations chosen by Vargas and his husband: the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Project Angel Food, which supports individuals suffering from terminal illness by providing them with homemade food.
Nothing compares to the value of the personal time you invest in causes and community.
In fact, the most valuable gift Vargas has received has been the gift of personal time. Vargas said that a sabbatical sponsored by the Durfee Foundation gave him the time he needed to focus on and invest in his family, his relationships, and himself.
This continues to keep him grounded and focused through each election cycle, as he paves the way for Latino leaders to positively influence their communities. In his professional roles, Vargas said he believes that Latinos give as much as and more often than others do, without considering themselves philanthropists. With time and leading by example, he added, Latinos can affect positive change in their own communities.
As Hispanics in Philanthropy’s more than 30 years of experience building institutional infrastructure, leadership and capacity runs parallel to the story of his own professional journey, he sees it telling a larger story about the growth of the U.S. Latino community, which now totals more than 55 million, constituting nearly one in six people in the U.S.
“We need to continue building institutions and leadership,” said Vargas, who works day in and day out to integrate Latino leadership into the political DNA of the United States.
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