Lisa S. Lenkiewicz CTLatinoNews.com
Candida Flores is dedicated to helping others reach their potential. As a human services professional with more than 38 years of experience in state and city government and community and economic development, the New Britain Latina resident says she was born to “take action to make the world a better world.” Now, Flores is sharing her remarkable success story in a video interview on GiftsofHonor.com, a new website featuring prominent community leaders and influential artists and educators who discuss their life experiences.
The website’s goal is to inspire viewers about others’ accomplishments, while at the same time raising money for charity. Viewers choose a payment level—beginning as low as $10—to watch an interview and the funds go to the charity the interviewee has chosen. In Flores’ case, 50 percent of proceeds will be donated to Family Life Education Inc.
Flores’ story serves as an example of what can be accomplished. In 1979, she left Puerto Rico with her husband and five daughters and came to Hartford to pursue the American dream. She didn’t speak a word of English, but was fortunate to find a job as receptionist for the Hispanic Health Council. Fast forward only six years, and Flores had worked her way up to become the organization’s executive director.
From 1993-1995, she served as assistant to the governor of Connecticut focusing on urban affairs. In 1995, she became vice president of urban affairs at The Arrow Corporation in Farmington. Her career here was interrupted when she returned to Puerto Rico to care for her ailing mother, but while in Puerto Rico, she ran the Downtown Development Corporation in the city of Caguas. Returning to Connecticut in 2000, she served as chief of staff for the mayor New Haven for four years, then as director of the Empowerment People for Success Program and later as interim president of the Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies.
Today, she is the chief executive officer of the nonprofit Family Life Education in Hartford.
In a press release provided to CTLatinoNews, Gifts of Honor founder Nenette Christiana says she created the website to give individuals a place where they could honor people who made a positive impact on their lives, and in extension, assist nonprofits and perpetuate giving. “The intent is to give back,” the Berlin resident says of her social enterprise business. “The whole idea is to help people get thanked in a meaningful way, to perpetuate this giving and assist nonprofits at no cost.”
In Flores’ videotaped interview, she points out that people helped her in her career development, encouraged her to take on more and more difficult tasks and believed in her. One such person is her mentor at the Hispanic Health Council, former executive director Maria Borrero.
“Maria took me under her wing and believed in my potential,” Flores tells CTLatinoNews. “She gave me tasks I thought I couldn’t do but she knew I could. She promoted me and sent me for training…she had high expectations of me so I needed to meet those expectations.”
Flores also pays tribute to her mother, a strong woman, who, although not formally educated, was “intelligent and a great mother,” who inspired her daughter as she raised her five daughters alone after divorcing her husband shortly after leaving Puerto Rico. Today, Flores’ daughters are all professional women.
In the Gifts of Honor video, Flores says if she can impart her wisdom to the younger generation, she would tell them to follow their passions. “Make sure you do what you like to do while making a living,” she says. “Put everything into it.”
For now, she is busy with a project to help fight the high rate of childhood obesity. Flores says 37 percent of children preschool ages in Hartford are obese and overweight. Her nonprofit is halfway toward its goal of building the new Louise Earle Loomis Children’s Wellness Center, which will be a unique place where children can play and also learn about nutrition and healthy eating habits. Parents will be offered hands-on education and practice.
As for her legacy, Flores would like to be remembered as a “person who wanted to do the best, who had high standards, who didn’t settle for mediocrity and who really wanted to achieve excellence at all times.”
“Some people say leave a better world for the children. I believe in leaving better children for the world.”
To view Candida Flores’ interview, visit www.GiftsofHonor.com