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Kaptur Aide—Theresa Morris—to receive DHO award

La Prensa Staff


Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur will be the first to admit she has been blessed with a staff that has stuck by her side through a long and distinguished career on Capitol Hill. Those aides have handled constituent concerns and policy questions on the home front through several terms.


Theresa Morris and Marcy Kaptur

One mainstay in the Toledo office is a Congressional aide who will receive the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan award for her long-term, dedicated service. Theresa Morris will be among the honored guests and other recipients on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018 at the annual statewide awards gala put on by the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission, f.k.a. Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA).


“I am just so blessed. This is really the first major award that I have won and I am just so thankful that one of my peers nominated me for the award,” she said. “It was very kind. I many times do things quietly, so it’s nice to be recognized for the hard work in the community that I’ve done over the years.”


The annual awards gala is being held outside Columbus for the first time. The event runs 6 to 10 p.m. at the Reaser Grand Room in the Spitzer Conference Center at Lorain County Community College, 1005 N. Abbe Rd., Elyria.

Tickets are $75 each and can be purchased online at https://2018dho.eventbrite.com.


One of the major reasons Ms. Morris was nominated to receive the award is her longevity as a Congressional aide—perhaps holding the distinction as the longest-serving Latina on Capitol Hill in that capacity. At least that is what the current research shows.


“I’ve always heard a call to service. I think you should always work to make your community a better place,” she said. “I enjoy it. I enjoy especially meeting people of different cultures, in different communities. It doesn’t get tiring to me. It’s still about learning about other people and other places in the world and what’s going on.”


As a congressional aide, Ms. Morris frequently handles the day-to-day work behind the scenes without any fanfare. Most of the time, aides handle a particular policy issue. Ms. Morris has been front-and-center in handling immigration in recent months, an issue that has kept her extremely busy since a recent raid at Corso’s Garden Center in the Sandusky area—right in the middle of Congresswoman Kaptur’s district.


In fact, the raid occurred on a day when Ms. Morris was on vacation to attend a day-long session toward a professional certificate through a Minority Executive Leadership program offered by the Center for Nonprofit resources, an arm of the Toledo Community Foundation.


“I’m taking advantage of some of the wonderful things our community has to help continue a life-long journey in learning,” she said. “It’s not that well-known in the larger community like it is to some in the minority communities, the programs at the Center for Nonprofit Resources.”


Ms. Morris earned her bachelor’s degree in 1993 from Alma College in Michigan, with a focus on Spanish Language and Latin American Literature. She later earned a Master’s degree in organizational leadership from Lourdes University in 2014.


Her community service also is well known, as she presently serves on the board of directors at WGTE Public Media and Team Recovery.


“My first real adult job was at WGTE (after college). I worked there as a volunteer recruiter and supervisor, overseeing all of the volunteers for the TV 30 auction,” she said. “It was a nice opportunity to come back and serve on the board, kind of coming back full circle.”


Ms. Morris became involved with Team Recovery after losing a family member to a drug overdose. She is determined to help change the narrative and stigma associated with those who get caught up in heroin or prescription pills during the opioid epidemic. The nonprofit group is still in its early stages, but has grown by leaps and bounds to build a recovery center and offer a wide variety of services to recovering addicts and their families.


“It hits younger people, older people, black, white, Hispanic, you name it,” she said. “I really felt I needed to channel my energy into trying to make sure no one else’s family felt like there weren’t resources readily available to them.”


Ms. Morris also is a co-founder this year of MANAS, an organization recently created to bring Latina women from Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan together to mentor, assist in empowering, networking, advancing and supporting one another. The group holds monthly gatherings called “Chica Chat.” From that initial effort, the Lucas County Democratic Latina Empowerment Club was born over the past few months, which just received official recognition from the overall county party.


“We would just get Latina women together, just for the chance to talk,” she explained. “We don’t all necessarily know each other, what each other’s strengths are, and all the wonderful things that are happening in our community. There was no agenda—just getting together, sometimes having a meal. We don’t always necessarily get a chance to know one another.”


There are valid reasons why Ms. Morris has become even more active than usual in the local community. One of those is a deep desire to continue her education by learning more about the community and other cultures.


“I think part of it is that I went through some learning withdrawal,” said Ms. Morris with a laugh. “I’ve always loved school. I’ve always loved learning—whether it’s formal or informal.”

Ms. Morris also is an active member of Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), whose mission is to empower and develop Latino men and women as leaders of character for the nation, in every sector of the global economy.


On a personal level, Ms. Morris has taken up boxing as a physically exhausting way to find a positive outlet for the long, ongoing battle over immigration with the Trump administration. She gets up early on the mornings when she has to be at a 5 a.m. boxing lesson, but is very dedicated to learning the sport and the physical demands it entails.


“I’ve been really kind of frustrated. It’s just been hard, because you see the families, you see the fear in people’s eyes, and they look to you,” she admitted. “Sometimes you don’t know what to say, except you try and let them know there are other people who care about them. That’s one of the reasons I took up boxing—to get out some of the frustration.


The current state of political affairs likely will keep Ms. Morris from seeking a high office, choosing instead to consider running for a local seat. Her mostly likely race would be the Toledo Public Schools board, due to her devotion to TPS and the many success stories she believes need to be told to the greater community, especially from her alma mater, Start High School, where she helped to form an alumni hall of fame.


“One of the editors at Random House is a Start graduate. There’s a Marine presidential helicopter pilot who went to Start High School,” she explained. “There’s so many different, wonderful stories about TPS students and what they’ve done and how they had a good foundation and I don’t think TPS tells those stories enough.”


The back story of Ms. Morris and her family is a bit different than that of the typical Northwest Ohio immigrant who started as a migrant worker. Her grandfather came directly from México to work on the railroad during World War II, but sent money back home when his mother needed surgery. He had formerly worked in the silver mines of México after growing up in the small town of Taxco in the state of Guerrero.


“One of the things I do that helps ground me is I always wear something with silver, remind me where I come from, remind me of the struggles people have fought before me,” said Ms. Morris. “That allows me to continue to be a voice for the people who don’t have a voice.”


Both of her parents broke new ground in Toledo. Her father became a Toledo firefighter at a time when there were few Latinos in the department. Her mother trained to become a union electrician in the 1970s when few women held the career. Both still work, but are nearing retirement age.


“Between the two of them, they certainly gave me a strong foundation of fighting hard for what you believe in, even if you’re different,” she said. “I’ve had a wonderful foundation from my parents. I can’t say enough good things about them.”


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Copyright © 1989 to 2018 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/25/18 20:32:10 -0700.




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