Monday, October 17, 2011

Santa Paula's Latino Town Hall to recognize Thomas and Rosalina Lugo

Congratulations to St. Vincent de Paul Vincentians' Thomas and Rosalina Lugo for this recent honor. Below, please find an article that appeared in the Ventura County Star.

By James Zoltak
Ventura County Star

They've been called angels for charitable work that has helped hundreds of struggling Santa Paula families, but Thomas and Rosalina Lugo frown when they hear such praise.

Volunteers for the past 12 years with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul/St. Sebastian Conference, the Lugos say they're just two of many who help provide impoverished families with food, money and furniture.

"We're a team. That's the whole thing," said Rosalina Lugo, 65, a retired radiology technician. "It's not just Thomas and me."

The Lugos' sense of modesty will be tested Sept. 9 when they receive the Santa Paula Latino Town Hall's highest honor, the Raymond Garcia Humanitarian Award, at the group's 15th annual awards dinner at the La Casa Del Mexicano Hall.

"I don't like receiving awards. It's not my thing," said Rosalina Lugo.

The only rewards they seek are the smiles of those they have helped, said Thomas Lugo, 69, a retired concrete company employee.

Saying the slow economy has magnified the misery for those out of work or just not earning enough to pay for necessities, he recalled a couple whose four children were placed into foster care after school officials found out the family was living in a van. The Lugos heard of their plight, helped the parents find subsidized housing and some furniture and the family was reunited.

Sometimes, when delivering food, or a refrigerator, they will count the children and the number of beds in a home and ask where the little ones sleep. Too often, Thomas Lugo said, the answer is the couch or the floor.

Within days, the Lugos are back with new beds secured from Catholic Charities.

Upon getting her new bed, one little girl asked if they could bring a dresser, too. When the Lugos showed up with one, she asked them to come back for Christmas.

"You bring good stuff," she told them.

"Before, we had mostly older people (seeking help)," Thomas Lugo said. "Now you see people of all ages."

Parents of three grown children with four grandkids, the Lugos work every Thursday afternoon in a pantry behind St. Sebastian's Catholic Church, handing out bags of rice and beans, canned goods, diapers and toiletries.

Thomas Lugo picks up the food, provided by federal agencies through FOOD Share, the county food bank, and hauls them to the church in a trailer hooked to his pickup.

Lately, the Lugos have been helping to feed 270 families a week. In the winter months, the number swells past 400. The society also assists with paying rent and utilities, using money donated by parishioners or through grants.

"I've known them for about 30 years," said Laura Espinosa, who wrote up a biography of the Lugos after St. Sebastian's Deacon Art Guilin decided to nominate them for the Garcia award. "They are totally supportive of the effort to feed the hungry of Santa Paula."

"They are the stars," fellow parishioner Robert Bagdazian said as he helped the Lugos make breakfast burritos at a fundraiser for the church's Eagle Scouts on a recent Sunday. "They should win it every year."

Other Latino Town Hall Awards honorees are La Michoacana Bakery owner Ruben Suarez in the business category; Patricia Gomez in the youth category; Santa Paula Union High School District Superintendent David Gomez in the education category; Many Meals volunteer Rudy Jimenez for community service; youth sports volunteer coach Phil Rodriguez in the sports category; and Silvia Huerta in the cultural arts category.

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