La Luz Center, the Sonoma Valley nonprofit that empowers the community through education, leadership and self-advocacy, has elected two new board members. Ligia Booker, the organization’s founder, has been named Director Emeritus, and Salvador Picazo Chavez has also joined the board.
Born in Colombia to a large philanthropic family of strong faith, Booker came to the United States first at age 17. After her mother passed away she returned home to care for 10 siblings, only to fall in love there with Don Booker, an American helicopter bush pilot. They eventually settled in Sonoma.
Booker said she first saw Sonoma through the eyes of an immigrant. Initially, she met with those in need at local Churches and at her home. Once the official La Luz center opened in its current location, she said, “ We were overwhelmed by the needs of the community.”
Persistence, and the telephone, were her allies. “I learned how to get things done by calling around town to the key people who could help,” she said. “And help they did.”
Booker doesn’t like to say it was she who started La Luz. It was a group effort — at last count, she could list over 43 people who helped get La Luz up and running. Thirty-plus years later, Ligia said, La Luz continues to be faithful to its original mission, and she sees the organization developing into a multi-cultural center that addresses the needs of all.
The name La Luz is Spanish for “the light.” “The name still fits,” she said, “ (We are) a steady beacon of support for people in our community, whether newly arrived or here for some time.”
Booker continues to be passionate about helping the community. “It’s about sharing, giving, and serving. Sharing what I have, because I have been so blessed.”
Among Ligia’s many honors for her contributions to our community are: the “For Those Who Care” award from KRON TV in 1989; Alcaldesa of Sonoma in 1992; “Woman of the Year,” by the State of California in 1995; Woman of Color Humanitarian Award in 1998; and honoree at the Red and White Ball and the Sonoma Amistad Award both, in 2010. She shares La Luz’s great pride in receiving the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2013.
And her front door is “still open to everybody. Most of those calls usually end up at La Luz or Friends in Sonoma Helping, but those whose needs are more sensitive, hopeless or immediate, become my personal task,” Booker said, “First with prayer, then with action.”
After graduating from Sonoma Valley High School in 2004 Salvador went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Sonoma State University. In 2011, at age 26, he was appointed to the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board where he remains “sincerely invested, due to my education coming from schools that are all governed by SVUSD and to my desire to influence students’ futures in a positive way,”
His work in the community includes keynote speaking for Kiwanis Club, Altimira Middle School Career Day, Adele Harrison Middle School Career Day, and Oji Life Lab. On Mondays from 7-8 p.m. you can hear Chavez on the local KSVY 91.3 radio station discussing topics pertinent to the community and schools.
He is married to Kina Chavez, who works at Sonoma Valley High School.
Being on the La Luz board, Salvador said, is “an opportunity to find synergy between the schools and all the willing and able organizations of the community.”