Irene De La Cruz: Moving back to Planada was blessing

Merced Sun-Star

Coming back 14 years ago to the local community of Planada, the small unincorporated town with a population of 5,000-plus residents in Merced County, was something I had never foreseen. But, amazingly, it has proven to be a blessing in many ways.

The two most important ways are that it has taken me to another level of understanding in my relationship with my husband because we now work together 24/7, and it reconnected my ties with my parents –something that I will always be thankful for. My mom has since passed on, but my father is still living and is now 99 years old.

There was another reconnection that had to take place, and that was with the community. In the last several years we have been able to do just that, not just with the community of Planada, but with all the communities of Merced County.

By the way, there is a process in doing this, and the process involves hard work, respect and protocol – respect for those individuals who stayed in their communities, got involved, withstood the good, the bad and the ugly of their neighbors, family, friends, and co-workers; and protocol for the senior members who have earned their place in the community, set the tone and have even established or re-established some traditions that still exist.

For example, the mother of an old friend who I grew up with in the Planada labor camp known to some as “Chachie” was one of the women who contributed many hours of volunteer work and advocated for the families of her community. Her legacy lives on in her daughter who has since established a foundation in her mother’s name, the Vera Salcido Foundation.

Through the foundation, an annual Easter Egg Hunt is held for the children of Planada. The grandson of Vera Salcido became a local hero in the small community through his coaching of the Le Grand High School football team, which made it to the state finals.

The message here is opportunity and having the choice to take advantage of that opportunity.

Having a choice gives us an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. I made a choice to move back to the community where I was raised and it gave me the opportunity, I believe, to make a difference in the life of my parents and others, by simply offering transportation or connecting them to resources they were in need of.

Now, I have been given an opportunity to express in my own words my perspective about the communities of Merced County..

In these “community” columns I hope to connect you to the people that keep things moving in our communities, with issues facing our communities, events and traditions. Even though you may not know these individuals personally, by reading about them I hope you’ll be able to relate to them on some level.

These are individuals who volunteer their free time to help at a fundraiser, visit the elderly, help someone with literacy skills or provide a venue for art and culture. These are individuals whohave found a way to give back to their community to try to make it a better community for all. In the process of helping others, they also become role models for our youth.

There are issues that face our communities that require your attention to be aware of what’s going on throughout the county. But also you need to know about events and traditions that celebrate our diverse population so that we don’t forget where we come from and to remind us that we all need to work together.

Looking back at the last 14 years in Merced County I’m glad to be part of a community that offers hope and opportunity, and has retained some old traditions while accepting inevitable change and welcomed new ideas.