Alejandro Barberena dreamed of honoring Consuelo, his energetic, smart mother, by supporting the educational efforts of single moms. He found a way to do that by working with CFWNC.
“My mother immigrated to the United States from Colombia with her four children and $300,” explained Barberena. “She had some schooling but it was basically home economics. She worked doing alterations during the day and cleaning offices at night. She knew she needed to do more to support her family so she enrolled in a business school to study drafting. She took special interest in electrical drafting, which led her to her eventual career laying out and designing printed circuits.”
She landed her first job at Texas Instruments (TI) where she received on-the-job training and additional schooling. Discrimination led her to leave TI to take a job at Philco-Ford where she was named to their Apollo 17 Manned Space Flight Team, an event that defined her career. She developed printed circuits for the SkyLab Mission before it was scratched due to government cut-backs in the 70s. When she left Philco-Ford, she went to work at the Bechtel Corporation on computer systems for nuclear power plants. Consuelo died in 1975.
In his mother, Barberena had a transformative example of the power of education. He served in the Army during the Vietnam era and, through the GI bill, went to architecture school and opened a practice. He eventually had a twenty-year career in health care administration and retired from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He and his husband, Patrick Garvin, an Army Nurse, are retired and live in Asheville.
“When we moved here in 2017, I reached out to Sheryl Aikman to talk about my idea for Consuelo’s Fund,” said Barberena. “She told me, ‘You don’t have to die to realize your dream. You can do this now through a donor advised fund.’ I had no heirs, and the search for a good cause led me to the best example that I had and that was my mom.”
Consuelo’s Fund makes grants to support the quality of life and educational goals of single mothers to help them reach their full potential. Grants have supported programs in Asheville through ABCCM and OnTrack Financial Education and Counseling, among others. Barberena also participated in CFWNC’s 2019 People in Need grant cycle by co-investing in a grant to the New Opportunity School for Women at Lees-McRae College. CFWNC’s donor relations team works with donors interested in collaborative grantmaking, and they brought this grant to his attention.
“Eighty percent of the participants in this program are single mothers,” said Barberena. “I would never have heard about this grant without CFWNC, and those connections are key.”
“Consuelo knew she was a strong person,” he continued. “She knew her accomplishments. She had an idea of where she wanted to go and where she wanted to take her family. And that was the most important thing to her.”