Hello, Happy Mama: Gabriela Gonzales
Comes full-circle with work, family and personal conviction
by Callie Collins
Apr 28, 2022

Gabriela Gonzales knows her why.

Why Statements summarize a person’s purpose and the way it is applied in their life, often in connection to a personal mission. The concept has been covered in recent books and TED Talks and applied in professional organizations, community groups and parenting circles.

“If you don’t know your ‘why,’ you’ll quit because you’ll burn out,” explained Gabriela. Through participation in Latina Leaders of Kern County’s Leadership Program in 2015, Gabriela discovered and was able to articulate a clear distillation of her approach to life. She is currently serving as president of the organization.           

“My ‘why’ is being a resource for people. That ties back to my personal story and is something I use in my job every day. It has formed my career but also my outlook as a person living in our community,” said Gabriela.

Born and raised in Kern County, Gabriela credits early experiences with shaping her perspective. Her Mother, Xochitl Vivanco, was a teacher in Mexico before immigrating in the ‘80s. For decades, she worked cleaning homes. Ant’s Janitorial Services may be a familiar name to residents who remember her domestic and office labors.

“I remember cleaning houses and offices after school with my Mom. I remember being her translator, her receptionist, her marketing person. I remember helping print her fliers and going with her to take them to good neighborhoods so she would have good clients,” said Gabriela. “I remember when she wasn’t paid for her work and she ended up having to take people to court. I saw firsthand how immigrants are treated sometimes, how women keep going even when they’re tired because they have a job to do.” Gabriela also recalls the toll domestic work takes on workers, with exposure to caustic fumes, painful skin issues due to harsh chemicals even with the use of gloves and pain from continuous physical effort.

“My goal was to retire my Mom. She  moved in with me, of course, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. She lived her best life and I am able to provide that for her,” said Gabriela, who is external affairs advisor at California Resources Corporation.

“When I see people struggling now, I see my Mom and think ‘If only they knew about resources here that could make a tremendous difference in their quality of life,” said Gabriela.

According to its website, “California Resources Corporation is an independent oil and natural gas company committed to energy transition in the sector.” Gabriela’s work comprises internal efforts for employees but also coordinates community engagement, including the entity’s charitable portfolio.

“I get to learn about the needs of our community and consider how our employees or the broader community can benefit from life-enhancing initiatives,” said Gabriela. “I work with nonprofits to see if CRC can assist. It is really rewarding.”

A new project in partnership with Adventist Health called Blue Zones, for example, will focus on how employees and local families can live better through access to mental and physical health resources, with the ultimate goal of also living longer.  CRC is also a Relay for Life sponsor, an American Cancer Society event.

When she’s not at work, Gabriela enjoys spending time with her husband, Timothy Gonzales, who works as an energy specialist with Southern California Gas Company. He was recently elected regional officer for the San Joaquin Valley Utility Workers Union.

They own three dogs: Bettis, a pitbull mix, Dallas, an Australian shepherd, and Deebo, a poodle/shitzu mix. A dog mom, Gabriela stays busy keeping up with their family.

Tenacity stands out in Gabriela’s life, as well as willingness to seek out workable solutions. She recalled having played the violin in fifth grade and her sadness upon having to give up school participation.

“I loved playing the violin but we couldn’t afford it anymore,” she explained. “I think there are better programs now to help kids in situations where they can rent instruments and be involved but I didn’t have that opportunity. The other day, though, I bought one at an estate sale and plan to take it up again. It’s a fixer-upper and definitely needs new strings, the bow is completely ruined but it’s totally fixable. I will get it fixed, I will take lessons and I am absolutely going to play the violin now.”

Gabriela is fulfilled with her “why” and Kern County benefits from her work, life and commitment.

Q. What do you wish Kern County residents better understood about your work?

I want people to know they can help others in different ways. Be kind and pay attention to others. You never know what people are going through. Give back when you can and pay it forward when you can. For me now, working with CRC allows me to be a resource in my community but I think everyone should know about the needs that exist here.  Be a resource for someone. You never when they're going to need it.

Q. What should families in the Kern County area know more about in their community?

Families should be aware of the availability of resources and help others know what’s out there too. Maybe you have a resource but you don't want to share that because they've been helping you, but remember, we are all on the same path. We all want better, well, everything. Being open and being willing to help goes a long way. Please, don't be shy to ask for help.One of the main organizations that comes to mind is Shafter Christmas Store, which provides the opportunity for parents to purchase toys. It’s a pay-as-you-can model, so parents can buy toys at whatever cost they’re comfortable with and know that Christmas didn’t come from a charity per se, as sometimes people don’t want to take advantage of charitable organizations and they would rather buy it on their own. There’s dignity in that.

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