The human spirit is amazingly strong, and a generous spirit is one of mankind’s greatest characteristics. The payoff: few things can match the gratification gleaned from helping others in need.

A new endeavor at Heritage Auctions called Heritage 360 is in motion to galvanize employees to reach out to the surrounding community through an assortment of projects created to help local people and charitable organizations.

Heritage 360 is the evolution of an effort by Patricia Fuentes, a quality assurance supervisor in the Auctions Client/Bidder Services department, to pay back a local organization that offered her a helping hand. When mounting medical bills posed a significant financial strain, Fuentes received help from Irving Cares, a 60-year-old organization that assists local residents in need. She then chose to return the favor, coordinating a food drive with co-workers at Heritage Auctions.

“There was a time when I needed help, and that’s one reason why I do it. When you fall, you want someone to help you. I got that help, and I want to make sure we help others who need it, too,” Fuentes said. “I thought we might collect about 100 canned good items, and I thought I might bring in most of it.”

Her prediction was, to say the least, a bit conservative. Heritage employees contributed 1,238 cans of food, and more than 1,000 pounds of non-canned food. Irving Cares had to send a van to collect it all. The driver told Fuentes it was one of the biggest donations Irving Cares had ever received.

“I was so happy,” Fuentes said. “You can only imagine how many people that’s going to feed. It motivates people.”

Invigorated by the success of the Irving Cares food drive, Fuentes decided to help create a more permanent, structured community outreach committee. With the help of co-workers Norma Villegas and Maribel Zapien, Heritage 360 was born.

That the initial idea came from Fuentes – whose community involvement also has included work with Brighter Tomorrows, an organization dedicated to empowering survivors of domestic and sexual violence, Children’s Medical Center, Meals On Wheels and The Texas Ramp Project, which builds wheelchair ramps to improve access for many with disabilities – came as no surprise to Villegas.

“I was really touched by what she was doing,” Villegas said. “She is always so involved in the community, and she wanted to make it possible for all of us to help the people around us.”

Villegas, Heritage’s Vice President of Auctions, was instrumental in helping Heritage 360 gain traction through management acceptance and endorsement. But her assistance, she told Fuentes, came with a catch.

“I told her that if we start this, we can’t let it die,” Villegas said. “We have to keep doing things.”

In May 2017, Heritage 360 embarked upon its first formally organized drive, collecting toiletries and basic supplies for Haven of Hope for Women, a non-profit organization benefiting women and children from domestically abusive homes. Once again, the return blew away expectations, as Heritage employees came together to compile more than 1,500 items for the organization. Future projects will include funding and assembly of bunk beds for Haven for Hope, visiting and interacting with residents of a local assisted living center for seniors and collection of clothes for an organization in Southern California.

For every person or organization that receives a helping hand, there are more that need assistance. Fuentes, Zapien and Villegas acknowledge that they would like to see Heritage 360 help all of them, or at least as many as possible. With a focus on making a positive impact on others, maybe Heritage 360 can match the initial food drive by exceeding all expectations of how many people it can help.

Written by: Steve Lansdale

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