Javier Valenzuela – Board Member
Since making Willmar his home 18 years ago, member-at-large Javier Valenzuela has been a valued and community-focused contributor of service to our communities. A banker with Bremer Bank in Willmar, MN since 2003, Javier has served West Central Minnesota in many ways. With a passion for spreading the word about United Way’s programs and services, as he is nearing the end of his current term next year, he is continuing to seek ways to meet needs and fill gaps for local individuals and families. Initially, when he first was introduced to the organization, he knew little about exactly what we do, other than being in the business of helping people, and that was enough for Javier. He happily donated through his corporate campaign, joined the board, and finished the term of a previous board member, and after seeing the impact the United Way has in our area, he is as excited as ever to continue seeking ways to serve.
Born in Mexico and raised in Los Angeles, Javier moved to Willmar in 2002 after his brother settled here. Having a close bond, both brothers found the area to be a great one and found the transition easy as Willmar is like the community in Mexico in which they were born. Javier met his wife in Willmar, and together they have a 20-month-old, who himself benefits from the Imagination Library program. Javier has always followed his belief that “a stranger is a friend I haven’t met yet. Javier brings to the board his friendly outlook. He is known for his candid and forthright approach to life and his blunt honesty. These traits have been a valuable addition to the United Way board. Javier is proudest of his focused efforts to spread awareness about how the United Way can help a given person directly, and how valuable it is to serve as well, especially among the Latino community.
Javier is proud of his employer and the longtime efforts to support the United Way through the Otto Bremer Trust, encouraging employees to give and serve. Javier has adopted a quote by Otto Bremer that drives his passion for service, “to serve our clients, we must also serve our communities. Starting with payroll deductions, Javier began supporting the cause before he fully knew what it was. Over the course of his service to his clients at Bremer, he began to learn just how impactful and wide-reaching the programs of the United Way were, and how many clients had benefitted from that. He heard first-hand the stories of how the United Way was an important catalyst for overcoming past struggles in their lives. Javier began to learn more about our mission so he could refer clients and match them with the support they need most. Once a person sees the true impact, it is hard not to get involved yourself. He began by serving on the “small grant committee” and fell in love with the person-to-person approach to community involvement.
When he began, he would see how the other board members and volunteers would stop by the United Way office over their lunch breaks to connect to donors and community members, generate support, boost awareness, and to experience the benefits of having an entire team striving for the common good. Since COVID, those opportunities have been limited, but he is encouraged by the creative ways the organization is developing ways to bring that engagement back safely. During his involvement, Javier has seen how others also rise and seek out ways to better their community, their fellow man, and themselves. The efforts and strong engagement from newer board members and volunteers has been critical, especially during this time when everything is changing. Having fresh eyes and coming with new ideas, he sees their excitement to put ideas into play and positioning the organization to expand its programs and reach.
To him, every program is important, but he has a big heart for efforts in the areas of at-risk youth, addiction, recovery, and helping anyone struggling with substance abuse issues to overcome and live their best lives. Connection with the community, as well as the numerous other area non-profit organizations, allows the board to determine where the needs are, where funding is coming from, and making everyone aware of the ways the United Way can help them personally. It is a special feeling when he sees people who were helped that have now come full circle and have become supporters. Knowing that each of us can make a massive difference when we come together, Javier believes that the more people who know about the programs, the more people who will be helped, as well as the more people who will benefit the community by giving themselves.
Personally, Javier loves movies and is an avid martial artist and weightlifter. He sees both sports as an ideal way stay healthy, ease stress, and connect to others. In fact, Javier began and leads a local program through Great Lakes Training Group that uses Judo and Jujitsu martial arts training as a platform to reach at-risk kids, low-income families, and anyone struggling with something. The program is designed to give purpose, direction, and discipline. He is founding an organization to promote and raise support so the program can be as effective as possible. Javier has found that organizations and programs like this one have a strong desire for similar programs but lack the resources. He hopes to help fill that gap. Clearly, he has no intention of slowing down once his term is complete and will continue to support the organization in any way he can.
Everyone has different passions, and Javier believes people should serve where their own passions lie. The important thing is that we all serve others and our community in some way. Often it is the case that individuals are not following their passion and giving toward the areas they feel most strongly about. This prevents them from experiencing the value in service and deprives the community of their support. If everyone gives just a little, we can make a big difference. Alternatively, it is just as important that people who are struggling know how the United Way can help them prosper. Even if your support is limited to sharing our programs with others, you are helping in deeper ways than you may even realize. If you are not familiar with our programs, we invite you to reach out anytime. Together, we can all Live United!