“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
From the early age of eight years old, Michelle Gonzalez began volunteering regularly with her mother. As she began to witness the difficult realities that many people faced within her community, she developed a heart for service that has blossomed throughout her life.
Therefore, when the Arteaga family decided to start the Ari J. Arteaga Foundation, Inc. in memory of their son, Ari, Michelle immediately offered her hands in service.
As a close friend to the Arteaga family, Michelle shared how she has witnessed God bring light out of terrible darkness. “It’s a really hard situation because Ari’s not here and it’s hard, but the good that is being given from his death is innumerable, you can’t contain it,” said Michelle.
Michelle’s desire to serve led her to be a vital member of the Ari J. Arteaga Foundation, Inc. in a multitude of ways, however, she primarily acts as the liaison between the BE THE LIGHT Club and the Foundation. Through this role, Michelle leads the BE THE LIGHT Club members in coordinating their volunteer efforts to serve the community efficiently and effectively.
Michelle explained that as she became more immersed in volunteer work, she was shocked by what the children of Miami’s communities face. For example, Miami Dade alone has thousands of children in foster care and nearly 10,000 living in homeless or unstable housing conditions.
Michelle has played a key role in coordinating the Foundation’s response to these issues, whether it be collecting school supplies for local students, distributing clothes after a hurricane has devastated the area or hosting fundraisers and food drives for families struggling to make ends meet due to the pandemic.
As a woman who truly extends her efforts farther than it may seem possible, her humility and grace keep her rooted in peace, no matter how stressful her role may prove to be. “I like to help. You know, it’s ingrained in me, so I like to do it as much as I can,” said Michelle.
Aside from her commitment to the Foundation, Michelle runs her own real estate company and is a devoted wife and mother of two teenagers. Needless to say, her schedule is always full. However, that doesn’t stop her from volunteering as much as she can.
When asked how she is able to balance running her own business along with her commitment to the Foundation she responded, “Everybody is busy. We all have a million things going on. And so what I say is that I make time for what I want to make time for. Everybody makes time for whatever it is that they really want to do.”
Michelle shared that one of the most gratifying aspects of volunteering with the Foundation is being able to see firsthand that the donations are being put to good use. “We get donations and it’s being given to people that deserve it. Scholarships are given to students that are committed to going to school and getting good grades,” said Michelle.
She went on to share that it’s not always easy to choose her priorities but at the end of the day it comes down to making the time, even when it seems there is none to be spared. Even when it means staying up late into the night to squeeze everything in. Her motivation lies in putting herself in the shoes of those she serves.
Michelle smiled through her words as she said, “There’s a really big piece of my heart for this Foundation and for all the great things that they have done.”
We may not be able to serve the whole world, but if we can make a world of a difference in just one life, then we must. As a result, our love and support can empower that person to do the same for someone else. Love through service is a gift that keeps on giving.
Any small act of charity will go farther than we can imagine because it is a gift of love that cannot be contained. “Small donations multiply because you’re giving it as a gift,” said Michelle, “the gift of giving is a gift in and of itself.”