Editor’s note: This is the latest installment in our blog series, “The Women of KidWorks.” We celebrate the tireless women who generously serve at our centers each week. Some of these women also happen to be the mothers of our students. Others are KidWorks employees. Their humility, perseverance and love touch our students, staff and volunteers each day. This week, we highlight another very special mom!
Melissa Peralta’s six-month-old daughter, Alanis, isn’t exactly sure where her mom goes each morning. All Alanis knows is that she definitely doesn’t want her to leave.
Melissa, who has been KidWorks’ Volunteer Resources Manager since 2014, knows that one day her young daughter will understand that the unlimited love she has for her also extends to the hundreds of children and youth that Melissa pairs with our dozens of volunteers.
Since her days as a student at the University of California, Irvine, Melissa has had a deep desire to help others. Her position at KidWorks represents that ongoing commitment. Prior to KidWorks, she’s served at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Olive Crest in roles that included case management and volunteer engagement.
As a child, Melissa spent summers and weekends with her grandmother, Chole, at Chole’s home just a few blocks from our Dan Donahue Center. The neighborhood today still faces the challenges of gangs, drugs and violence that it did back then.
“As children, we weren’t allowed to go outside the gate; we had to stay in the front yard,” Melissa recalls. “Whenever I heard the gunshots, my Mom would say, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll make sure you are safe.’ It wasn’t until years later that I knew what I was being protected from.”
Melissa sees KidWorks as an antidote to the negative aspects of the neighborhood.
“The kids are so happy to come to our centers,” she says. “They are eager to learn and to be safe from what is happening outside our doors.”
Melissa sees a clear link between the help our volunteers provide to our students and her own parenting responsibilities with Alanis.
“I do everything possible to invest in my daughter’s future,” she says. “Our volunteers are also doing everything in their power to make the same investment in our students.”
As KidWorks expands and accepts more students, Melissa knows that there is much hard work ahead to recruit even more volunteers.
Her parents, Benjamin and Carmen, who worked long hours to provide for their family, inspire her. “I am willing to put in as many hours as it takes so KidWorks continues making a positive impact in Santa Ana,” she says. “I tell every volunteer that even if they are only able to dedicate one hour a week, they are having a crucial impact on young lives.”
As six-month-old Alanis grows older, we know that she will be filled with pride in her mom and all she does to help others. Of course, KidWorks and our dedicated volunteers already feel that way, Melissa!