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COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Elide Gonzales, 59, came to United States from her native Colombia in 1980. Since then Gonzales has taken it upon herself to be active in her community. In East Elmhurst’s Colombia Lions Club, Gonzales is known as the one who doesn’t think twice about lending a hand or working extra hours. She was the Lions Club International President for two years. “At the club the rule is that a person can only be president for one year,” said Gonzales. “Yet, at the end of the first year, I was unanimously voted president again.” She is currently the club’s secretary. Gonzales works for the SIDA Foundation (AIDS Foundation) and is involved in the Colombian Festival in Queens. “Sometimes I have to miss days of work, but I know that it is worth it,” she said.

JOB: Gonzales is self-employed. She cleans houses for a living.

PERSONAL: Gonzales likes to dance and party. “I love parties and dancing, but lately I haven’t had a chance to do either,” she said. “I get happiness from helping others. I really love being so involved in the community. I’m always doing something,” she said. Gonzales also likes working on the Colombian Festival because she likes being able to show other people she’s proud of her Colombian heritage and culture. “I want people to see our culture and our presence here in the United States,” she said.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Gonzales does not believe in obstacles, but admits that her biggest challenge in life has been facing the world as a single mother. “It’s a great challenge,” said Gonzales. “I had to work really hard to put my daughter through school and instill in her the love for education,” she said. Gonzales’s daughter is now 27 years old and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from John Jay University. “She is my biggest pride and I’m glad I was able to raise her the right way and make sure she graduated college and be a professional young woman,” she said. “Some Hispanics don’t take interest in whether their kids graduate or not and I didn’t want my daughter to be a statistic.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: A memory that sticks out in Gonzales’s mind is the day she stopped being president of East Elmhurst’s Colombia Lions Club (LCI). “I was so proud that second year because I feel as if I accomplished a lot,” she said. “We were able to donate glasses to people of low-income that could not afford to buy them. We also received many donations and I was able to leave the club with 10 points.” Ten points is the highest that an LCI can be rated. Gonzales was also awarded the LCI’s highest honor: a Melvin Jones Award.

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration is to continue giving more of myself to the community,” Gonzales said. “I want to give the most of myself that I can, my time, money and creativity.” She is currently working to help victims of mudslides in Colombia due to heavy rainfall. “I want to represent East Elmhurst and keep working with the LCI and other organizations to help put on more events, raise more money, and help more people.” – Daysi Calavia-Lopez

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