HARLINGEN — It has been a week since Victor Rivera stepped foot into new shoes.
He was unemployed for seven months and has finally found a new gig. Loaves and Fishes of the Rio Grande Valley has a new executive director and it is Rivera.
After being led by former director Bill Reagan, Rivera knows responsibility and leadership are expected of him. But, who is Rivera?
He was born in Fresno, California, and moved to Brownsville in the 1980s. He served as an education coordinator for United Way of Southern Cameron County for almost three years. Before that, he was the executive director of Brownsville Literacy Center. Rivera, 48, is familiar with nonprofits, with almost 35 years of experience.
When he was in high school, he saw an ad in the newspaper to teach English as a second language and he became interested in the opportunity.
“I was offered to either teach or run the literacy center. I knew my heart was in helping adults,” he said.
“I even rode a bus to teach English. As early as 18 I served in some capacity,” Rivera said.
Before stepping into this new position, he was laid off from United Way because of the pandemic. Rivera remembers coming across the opportunity to lead Loaves and Fishes in various employment websites. As he did his research, he became more interested.
“I applied in other cities, Austin, San Antonio, but I found my niche,” he said.
Before reading about the position, he had never heard about Loaves and Fishes. Rivera did two interviews with the board of directors and after his second he was officially voted in. During his first week, he has begun to get acquainted with staff members and learning what this new environment is about. Luckily, Reagan has been there to offer advice and welcome him into the position.
“We had met years ago and now our paths crossed. I know I have big shoes to fill. This week he has been introducing me to the staff, getting me acquainted, what grants we have, relying on the team and trusting them,” Rivera said.
With his duties comes overseeing operations, making sure everything runs smoothly both in Harlingen and the Raymondville location. But essentially, he said, it is about building partnerships.
Rivera knows the agency has been open since 1991 and he said for it to be open for 30 years is something to be proud of, which motivated him to apply.
“Thousands of people have been helped over the years. I think it is my calling, such a beautiful organization,” he said.
Rivera is also a family man. He has two children, Lucas and Victoria, and his wife works for the Los Fresnos school district.
In the future, he would like to introduce new ideas and services to Loaves and Fishes.
“I have looked at other Loaves and Fishes in the country, but I would like to mirror the ability to provide a mobile unit for food,” he said.
“Maybe go up to Raymondville, almost like meals on wheels and hit the rural areas, volunteers can run that,” Rivera said.
At the same time, he wants to work with homeless people in sharpening their skills and create a micro entrepreneurship program.
“They might just need help in creating business cards, adopting ideas that others are using and are working,” he said.
Rivera said he is very excited to work with Loaves and Fishes and besides finding a job which brings food to the table, he has found a sense of purpose.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am very passionate and I think I can collectively impact a community; maybe it has to do cause I’m Pisces,” he said.
“I want to leave my mark and we can all do that through our work,” Rivera said.