Teresa Bendito honored by state conservation organization for leadership in civic engagement
One of the remarkable emerging community leaders in the Wenatchee Valley is Teresa Bendito-Zepeda, who is prime organizer of the Parque Padrinos, a group of more than 100 neighbors in South Wenatchee dedicated to making sure that the redeveloped Kiwanis Methow Park is fully programmed and cared for.
I stand in awe of this 20-something young woman who is dedicated to building a better community, building bridges between not only Latinos and Anglos in our valley but also folks of all ages and backgrounds.
Last Thursday, Teresa was one of three outstanding young leaders from the state who were honored with the Forward award by the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition at the Westin Hotel in Seattle. The bipartisan organization was launched by former governors Dan Evans and the late Mike Lowry in 1989 and in 30 years it has created common ground that is desperately needed these days. We all have a stake in clean air and water, healthy habitat for fish and wildlife and recreation opportunities for everyone.
Teresa, who learned civic engagement from her parents and is part of a family of highly involved individuals, has been instrumental in fostering a newfound sense of involvement and engagement by the folks in South Wenatchee in civic affairs through her work with the Parque Padrinos. Her mother, Teresa Zepeda, has been another instrumental player in the Kiwanis Methow Park effort.
The younger Teresa is a wonderful example of a servant leader. She is humble and unfailingly credits everyone around her for any honors that she receives. What’s important to her is helping community members connect with each other in meaningful ways. Communities are built on relationships and she has proven to have a mastery far beyond her years.
The Trust for Public Land led the civic engagement effort for Kiwanis Methow Park, and they engaged Teresa to help guide that effort. Cary Simmons, the northwest director of the Parks for People Program at TPL in Seattle, has told me that his organization has learned many lessons from Teresa, her mother and the Parque Padrinos. Finding creative ways to engage with the community and supporting the organic development of a community vision is something that will be used nationally.
When Teresa was honored in Seattle, an event that drew hundreds of individuals from all over the state, the Wenatchee Valley was well represented. Chelan County Commissioner Bob Bugert was there, as well as Columbia Valley Community Health CEO David Olson, Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz and her entire family.
Teresa has played an instrumental role in fostering a greater sense of belonging and engagement by the neighbors in South Wenatchee. We are stronger as a community and a valley when we tap into the strengths of as many people as possible in these kinds of projects.
I couldn’t be prouder of Teresa, her mother and their entire family. They demonstrate what it means to be fully engaged in building community. Teresa’s enthusiasm, quiet manner and grace is refreshing and greatly needed here in the valley.
There are many more young and talented leaders in our midst. We must find more ways to let them apply their formidable talents to the challenges facing us.