Ms. Parra first moved to Toledo from her native Venezuela in
2000 to get married to a man who grew up in the Glass City, but
the couple divorced three years later. Her 20-year old son now
lives with her, while he attends Bowling Green State University
to study video and film photography.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in this instance. Ms.
Parra did radio and TV work in Venezuela, in addition to
starting her own marketing company. She also attended law school
for two years while there.
“I stopped doing that because it was more fun doing radio and TV
at that time,” she said, explaining that she was part of a
four-person radio show at the tender age of 19. “It was all
about youth. We would dance and talk and all sorts of fun
Ms. Parra later moved to a show about the environment and then a
community-oriented talk show format. The subject matter of her
shows, ironically, matured as she did.
She first started the Nuestra Gente radio show in 2005, then
formed her nonprofit of the same name three years later.
“We wanted to extend the services to the community, not just
through the radio show,” she said. “Through the nonprofit, we’ve
been able to serve the community through our different
programs—not just the radio show. It was always about service,
but it’s come around about health.”
Ms. Parra decided to try to help Latino families obtain the
proper health screenings after watching a sister survive breast
cancer, her mom pass away from a heart attack on the way to the
hospital in her brother’s car, and lost her father due to
complications related to diabetes. Those all occurred in her
native Venezuela, which does not have the extensive medical
system available in the U.S.
“It served as an inspiration to me,” she said. “You have all the
tools, equipment, professional here that can help you to be
healthy. Why not do it here, you just have to put everything
together and make that project work, helping people in the
community to be healthier and not to die at such a young age.”
One of 14 children, she decided she wanted no other Latino
family to go through that emotional pain if those diseases could
be prevented or managed.
“It’s something I have a passion for, I feel satisfied doing it,
and I like to keep going,” she said, joking that sometimes her
days are “20 hours long.”
Some of those days get long, because Ms. Parra is now spending a
considerable part of her summer at the migrant farmworker camps
across Northwest Ohio, providing health screenings and related
education to the families who stay there.
“Not having family here, just my son and me, doing community
projects is a sort of compensation for not having the family
here. Spending time, serving the community, is something that
keeps me busy and I like to do it,” she added.
Ms. Parra admitted there’s a void there, because she hasn’t been
back to see her family in Venezuela since 2006. She stated she
was “always busy” and “playing” growing up with a baker’s dozen
of siblings. To this day, being around people is a must for her,
she said. Her goal is to return to South America for a visit
“later this year, if not next year.”
Knowing that today’s nonprofit world is one of struggle and
survival, Ms. Parra is happy Nuestra Gente has lasted even this
“We didn’t get any grants until 2010. Until then, we were zero,”
she said with a nervous laugh. The first grant was an HIV
prevention funding through the Ohio Dept. of Health,
administered by the Toledo-Lucas County Health Dept.
Nuestra Gente has since expanded to provide checkups to
Spanish-speaking families, which include free screenings for
blood pressure, blood sugar, HIV and other preventable diseases.
A mobile screening vehicle will appear at festivals throughout
the summer, including the annual Sts. Peter and Paul Festival
on Saturday, August 2 and MidWest LatinoFest on Saturday,
Now Ms. Parra has her eye on another goal—starting and managing
a small radio station that will focus on traditional and
contemporary worship music and talk shows dealing with
Catholicism, a faith where her roots run deep.
She has booked a recent series of concerts with Mexican
singer/songwriter: a May 24th concert in Oregon with
Priscilla, another on July 4 in Fostoria with Gela, and her next
concert is Sunday, August 9, 4 p.m., with Darwin Lechler at St.
Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 736 S. St. Clair St. in Toledo.
A $10 donation is requested at the door. The concerts are aimed
at raising money for the low-power FM radio station.
“I like to organize events, put things out there for the
community,” she said. “Also, we have to buy equipment (for the
radio station) and the antenna, everything we need. We’re now
waiting on the permit.”
Ms. Parra hopes to receive the permit by October, so she can get
the radio station up and running sometime this fall.