When You Want Something Done, Call ‘Don Alex’

City honors resident as “Older American of the Year.’

By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer

BELL GARDENS – From volunteering at the monthly food bank to dressing up as Santa Claus for the police department’s toy giveaway, Alejandro Ceja Garcia is always there to offer a helping hand.

The 73-year old Bell Gardens resident was recognized Monday for making a difference in his community, and named the city’s “Older American of the Year.” With his family by his side, Garcia was beaming with pride as he held his certificate of recognition while taking a photo with the city council.

“I didn’t think anybody noticed,” he told EGP. “I’m elated knowing they take me into account.”

Garcia – or “Don Alex” as he’s known by most – can regularly be found at Club Latino, the largest senior club in Bell Gardens, where he always helps with the set up and cleanup of events.

Alejandro Ceja Garcia, center, proudly holds his certificate after being recognized at the Bell Gardens council meeting Monday. (City of Bell Gardens)

Alejandro Ceja Garcia, center, proudly holds his certificate after being recognized at the Bell Gardens council meeting Monday. (City of Bell Gardens)

Ramon Escobedo, recreation coordinator for senior activities, told EGP he wanted to recognize Garcia for his kindness, which has not gone unnoticed.

“He [Garcia] does it because that’s the kind of person he is,” Escobedo explained. “He does not do anything expecting recognition,” he added.

Garcia told EGP he has worked his whole life at restaurants in order to provide for his three children who were at Monday’s city council meeting. He still cooks from time to time now that he’s retired, but only when the senior center is looking for a volunteer to make food, he said.

Alejandro Ceja Garcia, pictured right, with friends during a senior excursion. (City of Bell Gardens)

Alejandro Ceja Garcia, pictured right, with friends during a senior excursion. (City of Bell Gardens)

His daughters Mahiely and Rosa Garcia told EGP they were not surprised their father is being recognized for his big heart.

“Wherever my dad goes he turns into Don Alex,” said Mahiely. “He’s a giver and a compassionate person that steps forward whenever he sees a need.”

“I’m extremely proud of him,” said Rosa. “He’s always been a helpful person.”

His recognition is also meant to inspire others, said Escobedo, who explained many people have misconceptions of what seniors can do.

“They live dynamic lifestyles, they go on trips, take classes, exercise and they love to dance,” Es-cobedo pointed out. “You won’t see anyone sitting down at a dance.”

Originally from Michoacán, Mexico, Garcia says he stumbled on the senior center at Veterans Park one day while out walking after he retired.

“I just didn’t want to stay at home staring at the walls,” he told EGP in Spanish.

“Now I have a group of people around me that treat me right and I don’t feel alone.”

“He’s very popular and very helpful,” chimed in Ana Sanchez, who Garcia calla his “right hand.” “Anytime someone needs something it’s always ‘Don Alex’ that they call for.”

It’s important to learn from seniors, from their wisdom and experience, but it’s just as important to recognize their contributions, Mayor Jose Mendoza told EGP.

“We need to remember they are a crucial part of our community and they add value to our city,” Mendoza said.

Garcia’s daughter Mahiely told EGP she’s extremely proud of her father and thankful for the city’s recognition.

“It’s long overdue,” she said. “I aspire to be like my dad, who just knows how to put a smile on anybody’s face.”

 

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June 15, 2017  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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