BY: TINA L. KIES
PHOTO BY: KELLY CLARE PHOTOGRAPHY
Those who choose a life of service share distinct characteristics: perseverance, a drive to create change, and an inner strength of mind.
Raised in a family of farmworkers, Flora Perez-Lucatero learned through observation and the guidance of her hard-working parents that life does not play favorites. Rather, it will pass you by if you don’t embrace it and leave your own mark on the world.
Perez-Lucatero’s mark is grounded in her innate, evolving quest to serve others and elevate the lives of those around her. In particular, the lives of children.
“I always knew I wanted to live a life of service,” Perez-Lucatero says. “There was a very visible need to address the growing population of vulnerable children in my community, and I couldn’t turn my back on it.”
At the age of 26, she founded Children of the Valley (COV), a Mount Vernon-based nonprofit that provides safe and supportive after-school programming for children.
That was 14 years ago.
Led By Faith Guided To Serve
From the onset, Perez-Lucatero’s deep-rooted respect for children established the foundation for COV’s faith-based approach to empowering students to realize their potential.
Her bi-cultural upbringing, her family’s ability to overcome personal hardships, previous experience working with at-risk youth, and an understanding of her community’s migrant population all pointed in one direction.
“It was almost as if my past life and professional experiences led me to COV,” Perez-Lucatero admits. “I’ve embraced this purpose and calling and have no plans of looking back.”
Since opening its doors in 2006, COV has served more than 800 children within the Mount Vernon School District. It now has a five-year plan to expand by two to three additional facilities in the Skagit Valley.
With the belief that every action can create a ripple effect, Perez-Lucatero’s persistence has led to measurable success for COV students, ranging from improved school attendance to an overall increase in the school district’s graduation rate.
Perez-Lucatero’s impact is not isolated to COV. She is also an active community member, serving on countless boards and committees including the Skagit Valley Hispanic Multi-Disciplinary Board, META Performing Arts Board, West View Parent Teacher Association, Madison Elementary School Site Committee, Mount Vernon-Conway Youth Baseball Board, and Skagit Valley College.
When Times Change, Leaders Adapt
Like many organizations, the arrival of COVID-19 presented unprecedented challenges for COV. 2020 was scheduled to be a year of heightened fundraising efforts to support their five-year plan. To sustain the traction already established, a viable solution was needed.
Under Perez-Lucatero’s leadership, COV reimagined its fundraising campaign, making its annual dinner auction event 100% virtual. Ticket-holders received dinner-for-two, dessert, and an art kit from three locally-owned businesses. Half of all proceeds benefited COV, while the remaining half went to participating businesses.
The concept has drawn praise from community members as well as extensive interest from other non-profit directors facing similar challenges.
“As a professional, a mother of four, and a resident of this amazing community, I am humbled and forever grateful for this continued and extraordinary support,” Perez-Lucatero concludes.