Interview by good FOUNDATION felLow Abillyon Barnett and Jan Osborn. Photos by Jan Osborn.
David Huerta is a student at the University of Texas of Dallas, but he is not your typical college freshman. His story is one of transformation.
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, David left the country with his parents, Amitay and Sorangel, in 2014 because of the political and financial unrest. It was a hard place to make a living and unsafe for raising a family. The Huertas first moved to Panama City, Panama, where they lived for the next two and a half years. However, when a similar situation happened with the economy and safety in Panama, they found themselves headed to the United States in October of 2016. David’s father is of Cuban descent which gave the family Cuban asylum when they arrived in the States. David said, “I am super grateful for the Cuban asylum that we received because of my father.” The Cuban Adjustment Act allows Cuban citizens who arrive in the country to enjoy certain immigration privileges. Thanks to this law, the Huertas were able to migrate to the United States and obtain permanent residence.
David and his parents found an apartment complex where other Venezuelans had built a community. It was during that time when neighbors in their complex introduced them to The Storehouse of Collin County. David said, “They told us that there is a place that gives food and clothing, and we might benefit from going there. Our family was shocked when we first walked into The Storehouse. We could not believe how many others were in need. And not only did they provide food and clothing, they listened to us to see how else they could help and showed us how much they cared.”
“The Storehouse was friendly to my family and always made us feel very welcome,” added David. “We were never once made to feel ashamed to ask for help. The Storehouse treated us like family and called us their neighbors.”
David said that leaving their business and family behind in Venezuela was very difficult. Speaking about his parents, David said, “It is hard to leave everything you have built behind and go to work in factories in a new country to provide for your family.” David’s parents worked daily to make a better life for the family. David said that his parents taught him that there is always room for improvement.
The Huertas were so appreciative of The Storehouse during that first year that David’s father volunteered for David to work at The Storehouse. At 14 years old David began volunteering as a runner delivering food to neighbors’ cars as they waited in line on Saturdays at The Storehouse, and he never looked back. He rode his bike to The Storehouse each week after school to help with set-up and preparations for food distribution on Wednesdays and served as a Spanish translator on Thursday distribution days. He loved volunteering and helping people, and he also made a lot of friends during this time. He never wanted to miss a day of work.
“At the Storehouse you always see someone smiling, and they are thankful,” said David. “That really is the thing that keeps me going back. It feels like home. Volunteers and staff at The Storehouse care about me, and I care about them.”
After a year, the Huertas were back on their feet and had moved to Carrollton. David’s mom works as an insurance agent and his dad is a real estate agent. At 19, David is a freshman at The University of Texas at Dallas majoring in finance. He believes that he was accepted to the school because he had volunteered over 1,000 hours at The Storehouse. David now works part-time at The Storehouse as a Spanish translator on Seven Loaves Food Pantry distribution days, Thursdays and Saturdays, assisting the Spanish-speaking neighbors. He also studied to become a real estate agent, has his real estate license and enjoys working with his father. On a recent Saturday, David worked at The Storehouse in the morning serving neighbors, conducted interviews for high school students applying to be in The Storehouse Youth Leadership Council, met a real estate client in Grand Prairie to show a house in the afternoon and made it back to Plano in time to attend prom with his friends.
Another way David has given back to The Storehouse is by helping build a Youth Leadership Council (YLC), a formal program for students in ninth through 12th grade that recently completed its inaugural year. The council consists of students from different schools across Plano and North Dallas. These student leaders help with the distributions of food and clothing monthly during the school year. From 2020 to 2021, during the pandemic, David worked alongside his classmate Emmalee Mohler to establish the YLC bylaws and expectations with support from The Storehouse’s Executive Director, Candace Winslow. YLC service days, 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., begin with volunteering at The Storehouse’s Seven Loaves Food Pantry and conclude with a council meeting to discuss the students’ experiences serving the neighbors. The goal of the YCL is to build relationships and teach students to become the future leaders of the community. David said by working at The Storehouse, students are also trained how to recognize when others are in need. For the next YLC class, David will continue to have an active role working with the students as a college advisor.
“One of the things I admire most about David is his commitment to growth and improvement,” said Ben Skye, director of communications and culture at The Storehouse. “It is a value that David shares with our Storehouse team. At The Storehouse, our staff is constantly looking for ways to continuously improve our processes. I am excited to work alongside David this year as we look to grow and improve the Youth Leadership Council program. He is a great role model for our students, and his story is so incredibly inspiring.”
David is very thankful for the sacrifices his parents have made for him to live in a safe environment and get an education. He is also very appreciative of The Storehouse and how it played such an important part of his family settling in a new country. Even though David is majoring in finance, he does not have a full vision of what he will do when he graduates from college; however, one thing is for certain. David sees himself continuing to volunteer with The Storehouse of Collin County
“David’s journey from neighbor in need, to volunteer, to a self-sufficient member of our community, and finally to a part-time staff member serving others, represents the mission of The Storehouse fulfilled,” said Candace Winslow, executive director, The Storehouse. “Transformation for our neighbors begins at the food pantry, and David plays such an important role as a bilingual translator, warmly greeting our neighbors and making them feel welcome and comfortable. This helps us begin to build a relationship with each neighbor and serve as a conduit of care, walking alongside our neighbors to help them with other available resources – ultimately leading to more stories of transformation just like David’s.”
The Storehouse of Collin County provides short-term assistance and long-term transformation to residents of Collin County in need through the Seven Loaves Food Pantry, Joseph’s Coat Clothing Closet, and Project Hope. The nonprofit was founded in 2009 under the name of Seven Loaves Community which provided only food pantry staples and grew over the years to meet a variety of needs. Over 1,600 families on average access the Seven Loaves Food Pantry each month.
The Storehouse also provides an opportunity to receive clothing at no cost through Joseph’s Coat as well as holistic assessment, counseling, goal setting, and referrals to community resources through the Project Hope relational program. Visit www.thestorehousecc.org