Editor’s note: NCFP is proud to publish Pride of Place: Sustaining a Family Commitment to Geography, a study of place-based foundations and funds. A place-based foundation or fund is committed—often exclusively—to a particular geographic region of the country. This excerpt from the report describes the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Foundation’s commitment to the people of Webb and Zapata counties.
Shirley Gonzalez, board president of the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Foundation, traces her roots in Texas well before the lifetime of her maternal uncle who made his wealth after the discovery of gas wells on his property. “My mother’s family had occupied the same spot in south Texas before there was a state of Texas, or before there was a Republic of Mexico or a United States,” she wrote in her master thesis. One of the original Spanish land grant families that began ranching in Texas in the 1830s, Shirley’s family roots don’t just go back in time, they are deeply grounded in the history, culture, experience, people, and values of the region.
Her uncle and his wife were deeply committed to San Ignacio, the town just south of Laredo where their ranch, La Union, is located. Shirley’s background as a social worker and her knowledge of her aunt and uncle made her the perfect choice to assume responsibility for the foundation when the childless couple passed away. She carries on their commitment to education and to meeting the needs of the community, what Shirley calls “corporal acts of mercy.”
Perhaps the most poignant—and effective—gesture was their decision to convene their grantees to share stories of need, to meet one another, and to feel the community (and family’s) support. They organized a meet and greet at a local restaurant, told the manager to keep food and drink coming, and listened to the stories of their grantee partners.
“It was a way to keep in touch with the people of Laredo and Zapata. I could feel my uncle smiling as my children and grandchildren mingled with the community. They are all down to earth and that helps them relate to the community and to grow their skills as fundraisers.” Shirley often asks organizations if they can visit their sites just to sit with them and listen. “Once you’re under the Martinez umbrella,” Shirley said of their grantee partners, “we are your biggest cheerleaders.”
Shirley’s son and daughter are already engaged in the work and there are plans for the fourth generation as well. “They did not know my aunt and uncle, but we’re bringing them into the organization by teaching them this is not our organization. I really want—I’m desperate—for them to know my aunt and uncle through my stories…I want my children to know that, in his humility, my uncle was a great man.”
To read the full report, please visit our Knowledge Center.