Helping locally and globally

Meet another member of South Florida's many-sided faith community. This week we're talking with Elena Garcia, administrative assistant at Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Palm Beach and coordinator for diocesan Catholic Relief Services.

Q: What drew you to Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services?

A: I heard of CRS at a conference when I was working for Catholic Charities. I loved everything I heard about it. It's a humanitarian agency of the bishops of America. if there is a disaster overseas, organizations look for CRS because it's already there, and has already established a trust with the people. So help globally and locally.

Q: How did you get into your vocation?

A: I didn't apply for it. I started working as an administrative assistant for seven offices in the diocese. The director of CRS was one of them, and he asked me to help. I couldn't believe it. I didn't even ask for it.

Q: Why are you involved with Operation Pedro Pan?

A: I came to America as one of more than 14,000 children who came unaccompanied. I'm very grateful that my parents sent me, and for the people who took care of me, and to the Catholic Church and the United States. Around 2005, I wanted to know more about the other people who came. It took a few years to be able to go to their monthly breakfasts. But when I did, I built a connection almost immediately.

Q: How do you like to relax?

A: I like long walks and going to nature centers, like Green Cay in Boynton Beach and Wakodahatchee in Delray Beach. At Wakodahatchee, you could see a lot of the baby birds in the nest.

Q: Favorite pastime?

A: I take pictures. I have a Canon.

Q: What book have you been recommending lately?

A: I'm reading "Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth About Cuba Today", by Yoani Sanchez. She writes from Cuba. The book is about her blogs, from 2007 to 2010. It's about daily life in Havana.

I also recommend "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust," by Immaculee Ilibagiza. She was able to forgive the men who tortured and killed her family.

Q: How about favorite film(s)?

A: "Of Gods and Men," about priests in Africa. It shows how dedicated they were and stood up for the people.

Q: Favorite music? Favorite performer(s)?

A: Classical. My brother is a classical pianist. I grew up listening to him.

Q: What person in history would you like most to meet?

A: When I was younger, I wanted to meet Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori system of education. I loved her approach. I actually took a one-year program to become a Montessori teacher.