Upstate family shares culture and lives of quiet service
So often, those who serve others quietly and without any expectation of reward or acknowledgement are the people doing the most. They show up, make a difference and by doing so, encourage others by their example.
That’s the story of the husband and wife team of Rodrigo Gutiérrez and Monica Rivera, along with their children, Santiago and Elena, both college students.
Gutiérrez is Supply Chain Director for Michelin North America and Executive Sponsor of the Michelin Hispanic Network. The family moved to the Upstate from Mexico City in 2002. Their youngest child was born here. Since that time, they have been focused on nurturing their neighbors and the organizations that uphold the community – but they haven’t talked about it publicly, preferring a “discrete way of helping,” Gutiérrez said.
Quiet service has been their way of life.
“It’s the best way, I think, because it’s authentic,” Gutiérrez said.
Currently, they serve in many different capacities, including through Hispanic Alliance, an Upstate organization whose mission is to foster collaboration and connectivity among people, resources and cultures to build thriving communities.
“We have volunteered with multiple different activities, both with Hispanic Alliance and with other organizations in the Upstate,” Gutiérrez said. “We started that very early in 2002. We were welcoming Hispanic families arriving to the Upstate. It was an informal program to receive them.”
The family has served with Hands on Greenville, the Salvation Army, Fall for Greenville, Upstate International, Friends of the Library, faith-based organizations of several denominations and more. Gutiérrez and his children helped build homes with Habitat for Humanity.
“We have inspired in our kids the importance of working in the community and participating in these events,” he said.
Rivera serves with Hispanic Alliance’s health fair and legal fair, Make a Wish Foundation and more. She works as a Spanish teacher and interpreter and collaborates with Upstate International.
“We believe in the value of hard work,” Gutiérrez said. “For example, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo by painting an elementary school because that’s an important way to give back to the community.”
Gutiérrez and Rivera have solidified those values in their children through a deliberate effort to involve them in service. Their daughter even saved to buy a sewing machine, which she has been using to make face masks that she donates to Upstate organizations and families who need them.
“I remember an experience working with Harvest Hope Food Bank,” Gutiérrez said. “You see the need and it’s a good opportunity for teenagers to realize how privileged they are – having school and having opportunities living in a house. Sometimes they don’t realize all they have until they are confronted with the needs of people who don’t have those privileges.”
For as long as they have lived in the Upstate, Gutiérrez and Rivera have been active in raising cultural awareness. Rivera often shares holidays and cultural events with Upstate children and engages them through activities.
“We have even assembled a special box of crafts and objects from Mexico that we use to explain culture and traditions – to share,” Gutiérrez said. “It has grown over time.”
“We also teach by cooking,” Rivera said.
As they celebrate activities of Hispanic Heritage Month, the focus is on sharing and working together as a family and as a community.
“The key to this whole effort is the value of collaboration,” Gutiérrez said.
“It’s important to embrace the differences but also realize that we have embraced this now to be our home country because this is where we’ve been residing for 18 years. It helps the community and those kids that have not had that exposure to the culture, but also for our kids to be proud of who they are and value their roots.”
Get involved with Hispanic Alliance at https://www.hispanicalliancesc.com and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month through Oct. 15 with a variety of activities at https://www.hispanicheritagemonthsc.com.