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Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Alma Padilla

ARTICLE

Tax Manager | Houston, TX

Volunteering has always had a special place in my life. I owe this to my mom’s devotion to volunteerism. I grew up volunteering at church in many ways, and watching as my mom volunteered in ministry, as an educator, helping refugees and immigrants, and in many other capacities. She never belittled any job, and was always willing to do everything from leading and teaching, to babysitting and cleaning. In fact, to this day, if she is not at home, she’s probably volunteering at church. I realize now that her example is what lit my fire for volunteering.

I have participated in many volunteer activities over the years, although I had to slow down once I graduated from college and started working fulltime. Working tax seasons consumed all my time. Then I got married. A year later, I was pregnant with our first child. Volunteering became that much harder to fit in.

Then, (a true tax girl!), our daughter was born just a few days before the April tax deadline, on a Friday the 13th, 2007. A few days after that, we found ourselves at the emergency room of Texas Children’s Hospital (“TCH”). We remained at TCH for the next six months. Our daughter was diagnosed with a rare immune deficiency, and our “bubble baby” had a bone marrow transplant at three months of age.

Throughout our time at TCH, we witnessed and were benefactors of two truly inspiring organizations: His Grace Foundation (“HGF”) and the Ronald McDonald House (“RMH”) at Texas Children’s Hospital. RMH provided us a room to sleep on many nights while our daughter was in the neonatal intensive care unit (“NICU”). They even had a dining area, living room to relax, and a washer and dryer – all just a short walk down the hall from our daughter’s hospital room. HGF was founded by the Kiltz family, in honor of their daughter, Gracie Kiltz. The foundation was formed to provide comfort to the patients and families in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit of TCH. Upon entry into the unit, we were welcomed with a basket full of goodies. Every week after that, just like all other patients in the unit, we were asked to provide a list of items needed/wanted. HGF would then deliver gifts to us every week based on our list. We received bath towels for our baby, as well as snacks for us. Since so many of the caregivers were parents that were at the hospital almost around-the-clock with the pediatric patients, His Grace Foundation provides many lunches, dinners and weekly massages, as well as holiday events. Our daughter had to be re-admitted to TCH her first Christmas. Luckily, while we were there, we did not have to miss Christmas caroling and Christmas gifts!

My husband and I have always wanted to repay the kindness and generosity we received, even if only in some small way. We have made contributions to both organizations since then (money, toiletries, donuts), and even started the process to become volunteers, but were never able to fit in trips to the medical center to volunteer.

As our daughter grew, and our son, too, I was finally able to schedule some volunteer work in, with the whole family, for organizations near and dear to us. We participated in the Walk for Hearing a few times, we helped sack food and assisted with distribution (in the pouring rain!), played Bingo with nursing home residents, and participated in the Houston CPA Society’s Boxes for Troops, building care packages for the military alongside nursing home residents. At RSM, I have been able to participate in the firm’s annual Volunteer Week two years now, at two different schools.

Unfortunately, my volunteerism has had to slow down again, and not by choice. I have multiple sclerosis, and after 10 years of pretending everything was okay and continuing a normal life in spite of this disease, it has started to slow me down savagely. I started noticing problems when I was unable to finish the Walk for Hearing one year. Not one to give up, but recognizing my growing limitations, I began to recruit my dad and younger brother to accompany us to volunteer events. Because they knew I needed the help, and I really wanted to participate, one or both always comes along if I ask.

My plan is to use about $2,000 of the money to outfit my home’s entryway, and our vehicle, with ramps/storage racks. HGF would receive about $6,000, to help with weekly patient baskets, as well as to be used for holiday events. HGF usually sends $800 goal requests for holiday events. I would like to fund half of this goal for the next 15 needs. $2,000 of the Pursue Your Passion money would be used to buy toiletries to be donated to the RMH at TCH. These toiletries, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and body wash, were such a welcome thing to have when having to live away from home to be near a child in the hospital.

I do not intend to stop volunteering – it’s an intensely gratifying feeling to help others. I just received my power wheelchair, so as soon as we get ramps installed at home and on our vehicle, I will be on the lookout for our next volunteer activity!