“I began to look at nonprofit positions that continued to serve the community,” she said. “When I saw that SAFS provided after-school programming, food bank, meals for families, a diversion program to support troubled youth and more it appealed to my work as a servant leader.”
According to Ms. Sánchez-Serda, her first challenge will be to begin building a strong network within Sylvania and Sylvania Township involving businesses, organizations, and the families SAFS serves. She also wants to establish an “organizational structure to have a smooth transition with the current staff and board.” She also plans to conduct a needs assessment in the community.
“(We need to) know what has been missing or what we need to enhance regarding services for our clients,” she said. “The other change will be to build on the awareness SAFS has in serving the residents from Sylvania City and Township.”
But those new challenges don’t mean she won’t miss her role at BGSU after 26 years.
“It was so exciting and uplifting to be able to help parents and students making those decisions and helping them to feel good about the next step in the educational career,” said Ms. Sánchez-Serda. “But I was asked this question many times from staff and other colleagues and I shared that I was like all our students who were studying at BGSU, you earn your degree and become ‘educado,’ not only in earning a degree, but in how you grow as a person in dealing with changes in your life.”
Ms. Sánchez-Serda earned a degree from BGSU along the way, which was important to her because her parents Florentino and Amalia Sánchez only completed the seventh grade.
“Earning my degree has truly proven to be a gift that is now allowing me to move on in a career serving others, which is what I feel I am meant to do,” she said. “They were two of the most intelligent, proud, and giving people I know. I learned from my parents how to respect my elders and my peers, how to have faith to see the good in every person and to value life.”
She stated that upbringing has guided her life and continues to do so as SAFS executive director.
Ms. Sánchez-Serda was the recipient of a YWCA Milestone Award in 2012.
Perrysburg Heights Community Association
But Ms. Sánchez-Serda also leaves behind the recent drama involving the Perrysburg Heights Community Association (PHCA). The Latino Alliance and other groups have requested the Ohio Attorney General to review the organization’s non-profit status for any violations of state law after a summer rap music fundraiser ended in tremendous controversy. She was ousted in the summer of 2013 from her position on the PHCA board and her daughter left as its executive director—neither were allowed to vote on Ms. Sánchez-Serda’s ouster.
“I gave 25 years of my life to serving the Perrysburg Heights community. I'm hopeful there will be good people that can continue that work in the future,” she said, adding that she got her closure in the summer of 2013 when the leadership change occurred. “I hope there continues to be an organization that puts education first for the generations of residents in the heights because that is what the community has always valued most.”
Ms. Sánchez-Serda explained that she got involved last summer in renewed calls for a change in the PHCA board at the request of other people. But she stated the lessons learned while at PHCA will guide her in her new role as a nonprofit administrator.
“Starting the vision of a nonprofit organization and developing the skill set to know just how to build a board and to provide services for a community that asks you to be their voice in many instances has helped me build strong relationships and networks both in the direction we head in serving others,” she said.
Ms. Sánchez-Serda stated that people should not be surprised Sylvania has a community service organization to help its families, because “every community has families that need support, and Sylvania is no different.” In fact, SAFS was first established in 1967 by a group of concerned families in the city’s “Huntington Farms” neighborhood. The agency even has its own community center, at 5440 Marshall Rd.
“I know that it is important to serve those that at times may need that extra bit of help to see them through hard times, I know that it is important to show the youth that their value in life is important and to do that you empower them to believe in their own self-worth,” she said. “I strive to be an empowerer of women and hope that my collaborations with other like organizations and their missions will also help in collaborating grants that will be mutually beneficial to a broader clientele and help strengthen the awareness in the need for the community to help with financial support, volunteerism, and in-kind services.”
While Ms. Sánchez-Serda stated it’s too early to tell whether this will be her last professional stop before retirement, she intends to give her time to the organization “for as long as the need is there.”
“I believe it will be for a very long time, mainly because we have no control over change in our lives and there will always be situations which families will find themselves in they never believed would happen to them and Sylvania Area Family Services will be there to help when they need that type of support,” she said. “I look forward to serving this community with all that I am…and make a difference for others. I have a framed quote that I look at every day that states; ‘I live simply so that others can simply live.’”
SAFS is a part of Community Shares of Northwest Ohio and United Way. Ms. Sánchez-Serda emphasized people can support the agency through their place of employment or at the agency’s website: http://sylvaniaareafamilyservices.org/. SAFS also will hold an open house on Dec. 2, 2014, which has been designated as “Giving Tuesday” in the Toledo area. Nonprofit agencies are looking for donors and volunteers on that day.