May 20, 2009 > Union City's Women Behind the Scenes - Part II
Union City's Women Behind the Scenes - Part II
By Simon Wong
One of the commemorative items for Union City's 50th Anniversary is the Official 2009 Calendar depicting the community's Unsung Heroes.
April 2009 features women who have given many years of voluntary service.
Mattie Rousseau and her husband arrived in Hayward in 1967 after he completed a 5-year tour of duty in Germany. Her husband decided not to return to Richmond, California. A year later, they moved to Union City.
Manuel "Shorty" Garcia and Tom Kitayama were in office. She helped register voters and attended Council meetings.
She recalls her mother's adage "do good and good comes back to you." Her father provided for his family and neighbors, supplying them with bakery goods.
In Germany, Mrs Rousseau was a Red Cross volunteer. She served as an Alameda County Grand Juror in 1970/71, Union City Parks & Recreation Commissioner for 7 years, from 1977, followed by more than a decade as a Planning Commissioner.
For Mrs Rousseau, the rewards of voluntary work have been the appreciation of the people around her and understanding how things are accomplished.
"People should participate. Not only do you see what people are doing, such as police and fire, you see how things change with time and appreciate the City more. It's a learning experience. Involvement doesn't have to be political or entail sitting on a committee or a commission. Speaking up at Council meetings means being involved," she said.
For Mrs Rousseau, the most exciting periods have been campaign trails and the creation of Union Landing which took more than ten years to pass.
She feels Union City is a friendly place with a sense of community and good physical density including upscale homes. Excellent public services and schools make it ideal for families. Its central location in the Bay Area is attractive.
"If you wish to live, work or shop and are family-oriented, Union City is the place. Involvement is easy and makes a difference in your life and to the City. It raises your awareness and is immensely rewarding," concluded Mrs Rousseau.
Cleo Powell, originally from Berkeley, CA, moved to Union City in 1978. She was working for American Greeting Cards when she happened to meet a Lioness Club member in 1979/80 and was invited to join.
She is the Club's 2009 President having served in the same position before. Union City has only three Lionesses; she plans to increase the membership next year.
"Membership of both the Lions and Lionesses has fallen. People have moved away," she explained. "We were very active, organized functions jointly and shared the proceeds. There was an annual crab feed at Centennial Hall, we facilitated the 'Make a Wish' project for the terminally ill, purchased anatomically correct dolls for the police department, raised funds for a battered women's shelter... All funds raised go to the community. Members bear the administration costs."
Mrs Powell's voluntary work has led to personal growth. "Community work tests your mettle," she said emotionally. "Everyone's human. It broadens your world, opens your mind and makes you happier and more appreciative. When people smile warmly, it says 'someone cares; I've not been forgotten.'"
She acknowledges that community involvement is not for everyone but points to the fulfilment. She recommends joining a City-wide organization to ascertain the community's needs and the opportunity to present other worthy causes. Participation can take many forms as long as it benefits the community.
"Union City is good. It's multicultural and is known in the Bay Area for the right reasons. There's a sense of community unlike the sense of detachment elsewhere," she concluded.
Judy Preciado and Gloria Pacheco
Siblings Judy Preciado and Gloria Pacheco are Decoto born-and-bred and remained in the area. They are cousins to Manuel "Shorty" Garcia. Mrs Preciado is mother of Parks & Recreation Commissioner, Shawna Curtin.
Their father, Ramon Pagan, was responsible for the WWII Veterans Memorial, now in Kennedy Park. Paid for by donations from families of local servicemen, the names of those who did not return are marked with a star. Inspired by his example, they helped with school activities but their voluntary work began in earnest for Our Lady of the Rosary Church. They served food, cared for the altars, participated in festivals and belong to the OLR Ladies' Guild. They also support Congregations Organizing for Renewal.
They helped with the City's 25th Anniversary Parade and, though not Lions Club members, have carved turkeys for 30 years at the seniors' Thanksgiving Dinner. They also supported battered women's shelters.
They describe themselves as foot soldiers, spending most of their time with the Church and assisting wherever else they might be needed.
"I feel great that I can help the City and people. We're here for a reason," said Mrs Pacheco.
"If help is needed, we try to be there. Volunteerism is about lending a hand, assisting someone in a moment of need. We have fun whilst we volunteer; it's not a job. At the Thanksgiving dinners, when someone says 'thank you' they mean it. Though you feel good, voluntary work means more to them," added Mrs Preciado.
"The City has changed. If everyone pitched in a little, our community might be more cohesive. Everyone seems to keep to themselves. Before James Logan High School came into being in 1959, everyone went to Washington High School. The older generation has links with Fremont and Newark," stated the sisters.
"In another sense, the City's changed for the better. We've new amenities. The sports center, shopping centers... and there's more to come.
"Too often, citizens complain. If they participate in their community, they'll learn about what's happening in the City, the school district and so on. They'll see what happens behind the scenes and understand how things work," they concluded.