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Southside ISD volunteer racks up more than 50,000 hours of service---and counting

Yvonne Gonzales said she started volunteering to help one of her daughters in 1989. Nearly 33 years later, she's still going.

SAN ANTONIO — There is a good chance you will see Yvonne Gonzales if you're at Heritage Elementary School. She's much a fixture as the people on the payroll.

"She'll be here like an employee," said Elise Puente.

The Southside Independent School District principal said Gonzales was there when she came into the district.

"She comes in quietly, does her volunteer work, and then leaves at the end of the day with her grandchildren," Puente said.

The Southside ISD volunteer's reach goes beyond her stature at five feet tall.

"They call me grandma, or even some of the staff, they call me grandma," Gonzales said.

According to the 64-year-old, to assuage the anxieties of one of her daughters, she started volunteering in SISD in 1989.   

"I said, I can do arts and crafts. I sew---and a little bit of typing," she said.

The mother of three said she started by making costumes and painting stage sets for the school at Pearce Elementary School. Gonzales' skills followed her daughters throughout their education.

"I just think that you get to know your school, you get to know your teachers, you get to know your community when you volunteer," she said.

Gonzales' talent as an art teacher started to get utilized more. The schools would give her a theme, materials, and free reign.

"Paper, cardboard boxes, tubes, just whatever. She's a very creative individual," Puente said.

Her reward is the joy the artistic creations bring to the students.

"She loves it when they light up because they're like, wow, look at that. And oh, my God, that's so cool," Jasper Gonzales.

Jasper said her mother's benevolent spirit spread to her sisters. She also helps her mother with projects, especially since the volunteer has not called it quits.

Of Gonzales's 14 grandchildren, there are five attending schools in SISD. So, she continues to help. When students return to Heritage Elementary School, they will see her version of the Candyland board game.

"She's just such an inspiration and a joy," Puente said. "She does none of this to be recognized."  

For 32 years, she's made the corridors of the schools come to life with murals, projects inspired by Disney, Scooby Doo, aliens, monsters, animals, and even Mighty Mouse.

SISD officials said Gonzales had donated more than 50,000 hours of her time to their system.

"I still volunteer with the PTO---volunteer at the library," Gonzales said. "Wherever the teachers need me, I'll be there."  

Jasper said her mother's example had taught her how to be selfless.

"She is so generous, you know, selfless," Jasper said. "She just gives and gives." 

Her daughter said it would be hard to replace that kind of dedication in the system--or at Heritage Elementary School.

Gonzales said her mother was a community activist, which is where she believes the volunteer bug bit her. 

When school starts this week, the volunteering spirit she passed on to her daughter Jasper harvested in employment. Her daughter went from volunteer to teacher.

But it's Gonzales who keeps humbly teaching the lessons.

"She's just a family member," Puente said. "She's like a mother figure to me." 

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