Volunteer Profile: Lance Gallegos, Arlington Reads
By Office of Communication
Posted on December 31, 2012, December 31, 2012

For decades, Lance Gallegos's work as an airline professional helped thousands of people ascend into the clouds. As a retiree, he's engaged in much the same effort, since his weekly volunteer service for three community programs often helps people's dreams of a better future take flight.

"I travelled for a month after I retired last year,' said the former American Airlines manager, "and then I started volunteering. I always knew that's what I wanted to do.'

One of those programs is Arlington Reads, a City-sponsored literacy, ESL and GED service.

"Our success rate has been pretty amazing,' said Gallegos, who teaches social studies. "The volunteers have a lot of diversity of experiences, and we share those with the class. We bring in newspapers and talk about current events, real life situations.

"Many of our students are immigrants, from Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, all over,' he continued. "Not everyone feels comfortable speaking up at first, because they're self-conscious about accents. But as the class continues, people start engaging and really getting involved in the conversations.'

Gallegos also supports the Library's Cyber Coach program, which pairs community volunteers with people who want to learn new technologies or develop basic computer skills. As a coach, Gallegos does a little bit of everything, from teaching a retiree how to use a Kindle to helping a mom prepare to re-enter the work force.

"It's amazing, but there are 40-year-olds out there who have never used a computer,' he said. "And if you don't know Microsoft Office, it's going to be hard for you to get a job.

"We really take an interest in our students and try to coach them to the next step,' he continued. "I love it when I see the light go on with my students, when they have that"I've got this' moment.'

Besides his work at the Library, Gallegos also serves as a volunteer delivery driver for Meals on Wheels, a program that provides affordable, nutritious meals for elderly and disabled people who have trouble leaving their homes.

"They are always so thankful,' Gallegos said of the clients on his weekly route. "When my wife and I go on vacation and their meal is delivered by a substitute driver, they always notice. And when we get back, they want to see our pictures and ask about the trip.'

Gallegos's commitment to volunteerism is partially fueled by his experiences growing up as the oldest of nine children on a Native American reservation in California.

"We were dirt poor,' he explained. "My family used a lot of social services, so I know what they mean to the community. I thought then that if I ever had the chance to volunteer I would take it.

"You don't realize, until you get involved, how many programs in this community run on the backs of volunteers,' he went on. "I love my work. Each activity I support makes me feel good and has its own reward.'


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