L-R: Letty Garza, Pat Blum and Veronica Gonzales.
L-R: Letty Garza, Pat Blum and Veronica Gonzales.

By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez,

As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition.

The 23rd Annual Shining Stars Dinner was celebrated during an evening of delicious food prepared by Chef Stan and his staff, great music by Don Cardenas at the piano and excellent company. The Zonta Club of West Hidalgo County a chapter of Zonta International, hosted this outstanding event on April 19, 2016 at the McAllen Country Club.

The special occasion took place during a beautiful evening with the only purpose in mind to recognize three very distinguished and admirable women of Hidalgo County. They are professional women that have participated actively and given back to this community. The honorees were Veronica Gonzales, Letty Garza and Pat Blum. “Three special women in our community who have demonstrated, through years of service and participation, that they live life to the fullest and still have time for others,” said Deitrah Davis, the Master of Ceremonies for the evening.

Kay Jancik was in charge providing a brief overview of the work that Zonta does in the Rio Grande Valley and around the world.

Zonta International, founded in Buffalo, New York on November 8, 1919, is a leading global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy.

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With more than 30,000 members in 67 countries working together to improve the lives of women and girls, Zonta International envisions a world in which women’s rights are recognized as human rights and every woman is able to achieve her full potential.

According to the founders, in such a world, women have access to all resources and are represented in decision making positions on an equal basis with men. In such a world, no woman lives in fear of violence.

That is why this event is one of a kind, because it recognizes the effort of women that have their heart in the right place. They give, they help and work towards the benefit of others never asking for something in return.

The selection of the women to be honored, was because of their noble actions and the way they have touched many lives in a positive manner and also because they serve this community without expectation of recognition.

Zonta Club was very clear to laud and to let Veronica, Letty and Pat know that their actions don’t go unnoticed.

During the first introduction, the MC requested that the audience look at the screen where photos of the honorees were being projected.

The first honoree was Veronica Gonzales, a native of San Marcos, Texas and that evening she became Zonta’s Shining Star for Education and Youth.

“I’m so honored to receive this very high recognition from a group that I admire very much for the work that you do in advocating for women all around the world,” Veronica stated.

She went on to say she felt proud for being among such amazing women. She said, “I’m proud to call them my friends, Letty Garza, and Pat Blum.”

Veronica learned firsthand the importance of education when she became the first in her family to go to college. And when she was at the podium, enjoying her recognition, she acknowledged the presence of Dr. Guy Bailey, the inaugural president of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She said, “Dr. Bailey was talking today at a luncheon about his experience as a first generation college student. I think we share a lot of the things just like many of the students here.”

According to Veronica, it was education, in large part, that gave her the confidence to do something that she never thought she would do. She ran for public office, and became the voice for hundreds of thousands of people for eight years. She said, “As fate would have it, today my job combines two things that have impacted my life so very much, education and government. I truly believe that every child deserves the same opportunities that I had, the same support that I had, and much, much more, and we are here to give them that support not only as a university but as a community. It not only changes their lives, I assure you, it changes all of ours, and for the better. That’s why it’s easy for me to be an advocate for education, and that’s why tonight’s recognition is so very special to me. So thank you all,” Veronica finalized.

The next to be honored was Letty Garza for her Professional accomplishments.

Letty is a native of McAllen and attended McAllen elementary and middle schools, graduating from McAllen High School in 1978. During her high school years, Letty participated in University Interscholastic League (UIL), was head twirler and vice president of the McAllen High Band. In December 1983, she graduated from Pan American University with a bachelor’s degree in Communications. Letty is married to Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Reynaldo Manuel Garza, and is the proud mother of Talisa Marie McVea.

Letty said, “It’s so wonderful to be here tonight. I wish to begin by thanking the Zonta Club International of West Hidalgo County for this opportunity to be with all my friends here tonight.”

She continued, “I’m so honored. I humbly share the stage with true luminaries in the field of community service, and professionalism, and am grateful for being selected along with them, receive the Shiny Star Award of Zonta Club.”

Letty also said that this recognition was a testament to the good that women united as Veronica mentioned may accomplish for the betterment of this community. “I share this award with all of you my Zonta sisters. When being notified of my nomination for the Shiny Star Award I was graced with a period of interception, and remember a time when shiny was the furthest thing that seemed attainable for me.”

She also said that growing up in McAllen back in the 1960s it was not easy to envision a life of personal dreams fulfilled much less of service to others. She said, “We did not have much but my parents never went a day without reminding me and my two brothers that the only way to get out of poverty was to get that college degree, and always do the right thing. Do right by others.”

Letty’s first experience with community service during those formative years was when she was about 12 or 13 years old. She was asked to volunteer during a summer program to keep track of all of the kids. “I remember at the end of each day just how great it felt to give back. With that time, I did not know just how valuable community service was but I just knew it felt good, and I wanted to do it again and again and again.”

That experience sent her on a journey of personal growth and development beyond her own needs by focusing on the needs of others. She said, “What an amazing journey it has been, and what an honor to share that journey with you tonight. I know that’s why the good Lord led me at Channel 5 News. My 30-year career with KRGV-TV5 has afforded me the opportunity to give back in so many ways.”

Letty quoted a verse from the bible, “In the Old Testament, book of Proverbs 22:2 one-verse stands out to me personally. ‘The rich and the poor have a common bond. The Lord is the maker of them all’.”

She continued, “Last but certainly not least, I wish to thank my personal shining star, my husband Ray Garza for his untiring devotion, patience and strength, Thank you so much. I know you always have my back. I’m lucky babe. I just had to say that. Thank you and thank you all very, very much for your time and attention tonight and may God bless all of you with opportunities for serving.”

The 2016 Shining Star for Community Service honoree was for Pat Blum. She was chosen for her dedication and outstanding service to this community.

Pat was born in Paris, Texas, the youngest of three children, attending school in Powderly, Texas. Pat was an avid basketball player. In her sophomore year, she transferred to the Paris school district, graduating from Paris High School. Married at the early age of 17 to an Army officer, Pat traveled extensively in the US and lived 2 ½ years in Ankara, Turkey and 2 years in Asmara, Ethiopia.

After moving to McAllen, Pat met and married the love of her life, Mike Blum, and they have three children, Melinda, Steffanie, and Ryan. Pat worked at Atlas & Hall law firm for 17 years. And although she enjoyed working with the attorneys and staff, the part of her job she liked best was planning events, whether it was a political fundraiser or planning black-tie parties. Her love of planning parties led her to create her event planning business, ‘Events by Pat Blum’ in 1996 when very few people in McAllen knew what an event planner was.

Ten years ago, Pat met Tracy Gerdes and formed a partnership, ‘Simply Divine Events of Texas’ which is known for creating corporate, private and non-profit events that turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Pat is also skilled at conducting board training and leadership development for non-profit organizations. Learning from her parents the value of giving back to your community, she has made community service an integral part of her daily life, spending many hours volunteering with non-profit organizations and helping the less fortunate in our community.

“It’s really a privilege to be honored on the same evening with Veronica and Letty. Thank you.” Pat said, “I learned about giving back to the community from my parents. From a young age, I watched them as they helped the people in our small town of 25,000 who were less fortunate than us, and I saw the joy that it brought to them, and I remember that. I never really realized that you had a choice. I just thought that’s what you do.”

Pat also said that she was fortunate that Mike and the kids feel that volunteering is a way of life. “It’s really been easy for me.”

She also appreciates her Zonta family for honoring her but she said, “I told them that it was really awkward because I’m co-chair of the event, but I really appreciate it, and I thank you all for being here and I’m really honored to accept this recognition.”

I also want to say that my partner is one that thinks that volunteering is good because Tracy just wants to improve the world for everyone. So, thank you Tracy for always having my back, and for always being there when I’m in some other country or something doing more training, and going to conventions, and you are taking care of the events, and making sure our clients feel that they are being taken care of. Thank you, and thank you everyone for being here, I really appreciate it.

“Congratulations to each of you.”  Master of ceremonies Deitrah Davis said, “Your contributions have greatly enhanced the quality of life in our community. To quote our 6th US President, John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”  The three of you clearly fulfill that definition of a leader. Letty, Pat and Veronica, you have and continue to make good things happen in our community.  You truly are shining stars. whose contributions to our community have made the Rio Grande Valley a better place for all its citizens.  Tonight is our opportunity to say Thank you.  To let you know that your efforts do not go unnoticed and are greatly appreciated.  Congratulations and thank you for everything you do for our community.  And on behalf of our Zonta Club, thanks to all of you for joining us this evening to honor these incredible women.”

2016 Status of Women Shining Stars Committee, Co-Chairs: Deitrah Davis and Pat Blum, Annette Franz, Kay Jancik, and Barbara O’Riley. TBB