Leadership yields new soccer field

MODESTO -- When Vicente Gutiérrez and Silvestre Marín found an opportunity to do something for their airport neighborhood, they immediately took it.

"The children were our motivation to focus," said Marín, a father of 3 who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years.

Multiple negotiations and discussions between Gutiérrez and Marín with leaders from the City of Modesto, like Joe Muratore and Brad Hawn, the non-profit Tuolumne River Trust and various local volunteers lead to the official ribbon cutting ceremony of the neighborhood's soccer field on Aug. 2.

"This soccer field gives the children a huge option where they can play instead of wandering in the streets," Marín said.

The soccer field idea came about two years ago when parents wanted a place for their children to hang out especially when their airport neighborhood has been marred with crime and gang violence.

Gutiérrez, who also has three children and has lived in the area for 30 years, said he felt happy with his community's accomplishment.

"It was a long process but it showed us that anything can be done if we work hard and keep motivated."

With the support of private donations from the community, today Gutiérrez, Marín and their youth soccer team use the soccer field various days of the week. Gutiérrez and Marín are responsible for maintaining the field.

During the Aug. 2 celebration, the Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, Modesto Chief of Police Michael Harden and various politicians' representatives stopped by to congratulate the residents.

"This is a celebration of success. The pride you feel for your community is something that can't be purchased," said Stanislaus County District 4 Supervisor Dick Monteith. "With the economy as it is, this soccer field is a great example of what can be achieved if you really wan it."

Representatives from the Tuolumne River Trust like Karlha Davies said she felt very proud of the residents.

"I don't have the words to express what I am feeling today," she said. "I am honestly very proud to be a part of this."

City of Modesto Vice Mayor Brad Hawn was called a pillar and a champion by many of the residents because of his help with the soccer field and other community projects.

"My job was only to convene everyone to talk about the residents' idea and help make it a reality," Hawn said. "The residents that have been involved really value their neighborhood and worry about it; they don't know that they've become true leaders."

Monteith agrees.

"Once a leader is born, they never stop. So we will be seeing more of them," Monteith said about Gutiérrez and Marín.

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