A family that gives together
This year’s Porterville Recorder Person of the Year award goes to the Beltrans, a family whose name has become synonymous with the drought for all of their efforts in helping drought victims in East Porterville and surrounding areas.
Elva and Fred Beltran, along with their son Freddy Jr., may have been known locally for their efforts to help the community, but after the past year the family is known internationally for their work to help the hundreds of drought victims in East Porterville and other surrounding areas.
Their efforts through the Porterville Area Coordinating Council (PACC), a nonprofit organization aimed at helping the needy, has seen the Beltrans featured in television newscasts locally and internationally, receiving awards and recognitions. They were even invited to the state capital to speak on behalf of drought victims.
In 2014, the Beltrans took on the daunting challenge of helping those whose wells had gone dry. Aside from providing bottled drinking water, food and other necessities, Fred and Freddy Jr. came up with the idea of a water tank hooked to a pump that would be able to provide water inside of residents’ homes. This same program was adopted by the county and state and has been slowly replacing the 100-plus tanks the Beltrans originally placed.
The Beltrans and PACC are not strangers to helping those in need, but the drought has been a unique challenge.
“This is our first drought. Unbelievable, this drought,” Elva said.
Although Freddy Jr. has helped his parents for years in their volunteer efforts, the seriousness of the drought and people in need prompted him to get even more involved.
“They were just too overwhelmed with everyone coming in,” Freddy Jr. said of his parents. “I said, ‘Let’s do this, if this is what people need.’”
Seeing those in need and hearing their stories would pull at anyone’s heart strings, Freddy Jr. said. He recalled a family recently where a 23-year-old mother of two passed away. The family did not have the money for a funeral and viewing, and their well had gone dry. The Beltrans made sure the house had water tanks hooked up so toilets could flush, dishes could be washed and basic needs met while loved ones gathered to say goodbye to the deceased woman.
“I think that the drought, with the families and the tears, has really touched me and my son, Freddy,” Elva said.
Helping drought victims has not been their only challenging tasks. While taking on the task of helping 1,000 or so residents without water, the Beltrans were still keeping up with their other programs through PACC which include emergency housing, house and rental payments, utility payments; donations of furniture, appliances, food and clothing; providing emergency transportation, help with prescriptions and gasoline vouchers; and, during the holidays, handing out Christmas baskets of food for 12 communities in southeastern Tulare County.
Elva said many of those who go to PACC for the first time are surprised by the help they can get. “People think that when they come here, I’ll send them somewhere else, but I tell them, ‘No, the buck stops here with me’,” she said.
Community and volunteer work have always been a part of the Beltran’s lives. Elva, who was born in Arizona, was only a few years old when her parents, both farm laborers, moved to the Central Valley. It was Christmas time and the family of eight were living in Merced when Elva was about 5 or 6 years old. Times were tough for the family, but her father’s bosses brought the family food, toys, clothes and even a Christmas tree, and Elva said she has always remembered that generosity.
Elva said her father, Amadeo Serna, was always helping people and the community. Serna worked with Caesar Chavez, started the food stamp program for Tulare County, and started the Hispanic credit union El Futuro Credit Union, Elva said.
“I think about the things my dad used to do,” Elva said during a 2005 interview with The Recorder. “I know he would be very proud of what I have done. Mother would be even more proud. She was not able to do the things I’ve done. She was not able to read and write [in English] until her later years.”
Elva and Fred met in high school and are still married 40 years later. While Fred worked 22 years for the City of Porterville in the engineering department and 10 years in field service, Elva was a stay-at-home mom of four boys and also volunteered at Olive Street School and with Cinco de Mayo festivities. She also served on the supervisory committee for El Futuro Credit Union, and with the Low Income Credit Organization of Tulare County, Olive Street School site council, the Tulare County Hispanic Coalition and the Porterville Women’s Day Conference. She was a founding member of Straight Activities for Youth.
Elva is an active member of Comision Honorifica Mexicana Americana and she participates in the annual Toys for Tots drive. She is also active as a Salvation Army bell ringer, special education advocate and committee member for activities like the Cinco De Mayo Celebration, Dia del Niño festivities and the Dia de los Muertos event.
In 1999, Elva received the Organization of the Year award from Porterville Chamber of Commerce for PACC, the nonprofit she had only became director of two years prior. Elva continued receiving awards including Woman of the Year in 2005, Family Health Care Network’s Anita de la Vega Community Service Award in 2014, the Chamber’s Project of the Year Award in 2014 for her efforts to help drought victims, and Southern California Edison’s International Hispanic Heritage Community Partnership Award in October of this year.
Fred, while working for the city, continued to help his wife with charitable work and said that’s what they have always done.
“We were doing volunteer work out of our house basically,” he said, referring to the years before Elva became the director of PACC. “We’ve been doing community work for 40 years.”
Fred was named Man of the Year in 2009 for his continuous efforts with Cinco de Mayo festivities, Comision Honorifica Mexicana Americana and PACC, which he still continues to help and support.
Elva said their children were always involved with their parents’ community work, whether it was helping to wrap toys, collect food or stock supplies.
And now it looks as if Freddy Jr. is following in his parents’ footsteps as he became fully entrenched in helping drought victims. As for working with his parents, he said, “It’s great. It’s wonderful. I’ve learned from the best.”
For more than 40 years, members of the Beltran family have been giving to their community and offering hope to families who had all but lost hope.
“It gives you something back that you never thought you’d get,” Freddy Jr. said of volunteer work. “It’s something that just cannot be bought.”