Group founder leaves behind a great legacy and sisterhood

By Kelly Davis Strausbaugh

Sarasota and Manatee counties are incredibly diverse, and the Women’s Resource Center believes in supporting women from all walks of life through programs and resources. The Latinas of the WRC (Latinas) was formed to unite Latinas who are passionate about creating a space for  the Latinas in our community to connect for education, support and community engagement.

This weekly forum was created for Latina women to discover skills, build self confidence and find their own path to success. Meetings include topics such as empowerment, enrichment, conversations from the soul and education. Members are encouraged to share their stories to facilitate openness, growth, and solidarity.

The Latinas started with the passion of one woman, Maria Zavala. Maria approached WRC about having a group that would create a space for Latinas to connect and grow. The premise was and remains, how do you respect your culture as you navigate living in a new country and community. At its core the Latinas is about inclusion and building bridges to connect us all. 

Maria was an activist and an agent for social change, She contributed to many national organizations for women, children and people of color. She held offices in a variety of associations and nonprofit organizations and never stopped giving her time and passion to help others. Maria passed away on April 1, 2018, leaving behind a group of passionate friends and admirers who promised to honor her memory by continuing her great work.

The Latinas is comprised of a group of women who are dedicated to bringing programming and opportunities to latinas in our community. Amalia Flores is the President of the Latinas and along with her fellow board members, has a vision to continue Maria’s legacy, They will continue creating a community invested in a better future for all, based on tolerance and acceptance. According to Amalia, “the future of the Latinas of the WRC looks bright. The group continues to grow and flourish with the creation and planning of events and a new community outreach program.”

Amalia has a strong, personal connection to the Latinas. In 2012, Amalia left a domestic and psychologically-abusive relationship that she had endured for 16 years. After losing everything and not knowing where to turn, her friend Amy directed her to the Latinas of the WRC. Not knowing a single person, Amalia met Maria, and other women, who inspired her journey and started her on a brand-new path. After years of pain and sadness – and loneliness – Amalia found a place to belong. She found a sisterhood to help change her life and the lives of her children.

Through women like Maria and members of Latinas, lives can change beyond recognition. Giving women space to be themselves and dream big, and create action plans to achieve those dreams, will continue to strengthen the community and help create a much larger, loving world. Amalia and the Latinas are following Maria’s legacy by continuing to foster a sisterhood that is inclusive, that gives resources, a place to belong, support and friendship; a true sisterhood.