This is the second installment in a series I started about inspirational people in our communities. Read volume one about philanthropist and women and girls advocate Linda Katz here. My hope is that through these stories we will all see ways that might inspire us to help. For volume two, I chose a woman who works hard, but also finds time to enjoy life and give back. Here’s what I learned about Nora Vargas…
- How long have you lived in San Diego? What do you enjoy most about living here?
I grew up in the San Diego-Tijuana Border region and have lived on the US side of the border nearly 30 years. I won’t say that the weather is what I love most about San Diego or the beaches since it may sound a bit cliché but I will say that what I love most about living here is that I get to live very close to my family and my friends. I really enjoy living in the South Bay because it’s my community.
- What’s the 4-1-1 on your family? Spouse? Kids? Pets?
I am blessed with the most amazing family. I am the oldest of four children born to Eduardo and Elizabeth Vargas, the coolest, most supportive parents on earth. My mom unfortunately passed about five years ago but I carry her and her love of life in my heart and try to live every day honoring her memory. My sister Erika and my brother in law Carlos blessed us with two beautiful, strong, bold, gorgeous nieces Fatima and Farah and when they were born my life changed forever as I feel a huge responsibility to make sure they get a better world to live in. I have never been married and with my schedule I don’t get to have pets, although I like dogs.
- What are the charitable organizations in which you are currently involved?
My passion is to ensure that our communities have access to quality education and opportunities for civic and political engagement. Formally I volunteer as a Board member for HOPE (Hispanas Organzed for Political Equality), Close the Gap CA, as a Commissioner with the City of Chula Vista Resource Conservation Commission, as a member of Chula Vista Kiwanis, and on the Board of Directors of the University of San Francisco Alumni Association. In addition, as a member of the Southwestern College Board of Trustees, I have the honor of being the representative on the Southwestern College Foundation.
- How long have you been involved in the community in San Diego? What was the first thing you remember doing?
I have been involved in the San Diego community for many years as my mom worked for the MAAC Project (Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee on Anti-Poverty) so she always took us with her to volunteer from painting schools to volunteering at any MAAC event. My first job was with the MAAC’s Hire a Youth program, where I had the pleasure of getting to know Roger Cazares, the CEO at the time. He knew I was very interested in politics and advancing my community and he invited me to a meeting with either Bahia de Sur or something called the 20/20 group and that began my journey into civic engagement in the South Bay.
- Why did you get involved? What keeps you involved?
My father exposed us to the importance of being actively engaged in our community at an early age. He planted the seed and really emphasized the importance of helping others and making sure we do our part to make society better. I think both him and my mom are the reason why I am civically engaged and it is that foundation that keeps me going even when things seem tough. I am an immigrant to this country and I feel so proud of the opportunities that I have had and so I continue to be involved because I want to be that bridge for others, in particular for Latinas across the state to be able to reach that American dream.
- Any advice for people thinking about getting more involved in philanthropic or charitable work in the San Diego region?
Just do it! There is nothing more rewarding than helping and engaging others. The amazing people that you come across when you do this work become life-long friends that are with you in the struggle, they nourish your soul and that fuels you to keep going.
- What’s your favorite place to eat? Favorite beverage? Last travel destination?
Two of my favorite places are Aqui es Texcoco in Chula Vista and TJ Oyster Bar in Bonita, but my all time favorite is my dad’s cooking. Champagne of course, although after all your tweets on craft beer I started trying them and now I’m loving them. I take a lot of mini vacations, traveling is my favorite thing to do but I guess the last real vacation was Paris.
- Anything else you care to share?
I finally have gotten the importance of trying to have a healthy balanced life and so I just started my fitness journey about 10 weeks ago, got the best trainer and I actually started jogging! So, I signed up for my first 5k, the Chargers Bolt to the Q 5k run on July 20th and I am really looking forward to it, it turns out this jogging thing really is addictive.
Getting to know Nora has been great and it’s an important reminder that even very busy people can find a little time to help others. I finally made it down to try TJ Oyster Bar recently (near the Bonita golf course and in the same plaza with Romesco). It was really quite good, worth the trip even if you don’t live in South Bay. To see the previous entry on Linda Katz click here. Have a great day, and thanks for reading.