Carolina Villa, of Holtville, a Sunday School teacher for Turning Point Ministries and advocate for various community parks, recreation and health efforts, discusses her various projects in El Centro on Jan. 17. | William Roller photo
HOLTVILLE — Working as a Sunday and Vacation Bible School teacher at Turning Point Life Center, Holtville’s non-denominational Christian church, Carolina Villa has time on her hands mid-week.
But with a can-do spirit, Villa, a Holtville resident,
engages in philanthropy since she has a passion to help others improve their
“She has been a blessing for our church,” said Norman
Chandler, Turning Point pastor. “I know she’s participated in prior years
at our Christmas food box distribution. We were so busy serving guests this
past holiday season I don’t remember seeing Carolina then. But it’s typical of
her devoted commitment that I’m not surprised to find out she was there.”
Villa was born
in Calexico, attended Holtville schools and is a Holtville High graduate. She
attended Imperial Valley College studying human relations and psychology.
became a pre-school teacher for Campesinos Unidos, Inc. a nonprofit corporation
implementing numerous federal, state and local entitlement
programs, including those in child development. Villa has worked all over Imperial
County teaching three- to five-year-olds their numbers, alphabet, colors and
basic social skills.
Child Welfare Advocacy
It was her ardent concern for childhood
welfare that eventually led her to make the acquaintance of Luis Olmedo,
executive director of Comite Civico del Valle. Since 1987 the local nonprofit has
combatted environmental degradation through education and advocacy for field
workers and disadvantage families.
Upon befriending Villa, Olmedo invited her
to Sacramento to coach her on how to lobby legislators in order to pass
pollution-control measures, including those involving the New River.
Imperial Valley Air Monitoring
“That was the starting point for
me,” Villa recalled. “After that, I became a volunteer for Comite,
but my focus was on air pollution, because I have asthma myself. My concern was
to limit agricultural-field burning.”
Villa said she would restrict ag burning
to just weekends in order to lessen children’s exposure to harmful emissions
while at school.
“I’d love to see field burning
banned,” she said. “It may not happen in my lifetime but maybe my
Villa then proceeded to seek a meeting
with the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District. There were only two
air monitors measuring air particulates in the county at the time. With the
help of Comite, she convinced the district to invest in numerous monitors, including
one at Holtville High.
Monitors measure the amount of PM10 particles
in the air that can enter the lungs, and even smaller PM 2.5 that enter the
bloodstream. Monitors also measure air temperature and humidity, determine air
quality and forwards the data to an online server with public access.
Monitors work in tandem with the School
Flag Program that uses different colored flags to alert school administrators
about air quality.
“Orange and red flags warn schools
about poor-air-quality days so students will be kept indoors for all activities
then,” said Villa. “I also went to the ICAPCD and lobbied Brad Poirez
(then executive director). I said, ‘I’d love to see two air monitors in every
city in the county.’ I never thought it would happen but by 2018 we had 40. By
then I decided to take a break with Comite to spend more time with
Recreation Amenities Success
Even before work with Comite, Villa had
started an advocacy group, Seeley Citizens United, in the town where she was
living in 2008. Her teenage son, Ramon Jr., was an avid soccer player at
Seeley’s John Bates Park but lack of lights often cut play short.
“We (families of soccer players) got
together with the Seeley water department, because that functions as a kind of
government in unincorporated Seeley,” said Villa. “The kids didn’t
believe it would happen, but I said have a little faith. It took four months
but we got our lighting and a drinking fountain.”
Villa also pointed out the new lights
encouraged more people to walk through the park at night because it was safer
and even the fire department began to train there.
Also about that time, Ricardo and Marta
Villa, her father-in-law and mother-in-law, recruited her to help deliver food
to the homeless.
They prepared a posole (cubed pork,
hominy, green chiles, garlic and enchilada sauce) or albondigas (carrots and
potatoes with salsa and meatballs), enough to feed 30 and handed out water
bottles. Villa’s sister, Norma, baked chocolate chip cookies.
The group told the homeless they would
pray for them because when a person helps another’s physical needs it follows
they are more open to have their spiritual needs ministered to, she recalled.
These days they feed the homeless gathered in vacant lots.
“I’m not a person to back down from
anybody,” said Villa. “I have to be a little bold even if it is a
little dangerous nowadays. I don’t see the homeless as criminals, but as human
beings just like you or me.”
Always energetic, Villa recalled as a
teenager she was a competitive disco dancer with the film “Saturday Night
Fever” an inspiration for her and an older brother with whom she won
numerous trophies in Mexicali, Ensenada and San Luis, Baja California, Mexico.
“In my mind I thought I’d never stop
but at 17 I got involved with my church and the time of dancing was over,”
said Villa. “It was fun while it lasted but now I’m committed to other