Dora Taddey grew up in difficult circumstances in Nogales, Sonora, where she endured poverty and abuse.
“When I was 8 or 9 years old, I told myself, ‘I don’t want other people to go through this,’” she said. “So that always stuck in my head.”
Taddey immigrated to the United States when she got married, and in 2005, she launched an effort in Santa Cruz County called the Giving Turtle to help people – especially children – who are going through hard times.
Her attitude, she said, was: “I can do it, so why not?”
The program began by providing Christmas gifts to six children. In 2018, now partnering with at least 15 different service agencies and schools in the community, the Giving Turtle provided holiday gift baskets to fulfill the wishes and needs of approximately 760 local children, as well as dozens of senior citizens.
Taddey said she chose the turtle as the organization’s mascot because it represents her own experiences.
“I relate myself to the turtle because the turtle has the capacity to protect herself. She always carries her shell (home) with her… and she always gets to where she wants to go, slowly but surely,” she said.
In addition, she deliberately left “Christmas” out of the group’s name because she didn’t want its outreach activities to be limited to the holiday season.
Indeed, the Giving Turtle also helps provide candy baskets and food boxes to low-income people at Easter, and school uniforms and supplies during the back-to-school period. They distribute food baskets at Thanksgiving, and support causes benefitting veterans and the victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
“I do it because it’s my passion. Kids are my passion. And I like to help out and volunteer,” Taddey said.
Her all-volunteer organization depends on the help of others, including her family members, secretary Heidi Quijada, program director Loli Andrade and high school students who lend a hand with things like putting together toiletry bags for distribution in the community.
And then there are all the people and organizations that answer the call to donate to the Giving Turtle.
“I’m just the middle person,” Taddey said. “The community and the kindhearted people are the ones that are making the difference, because they’re the ones that are donating, they’re the ones that are opening their hearts.”
“I do work a lot, but if I can do it, why not?” she added. “I don’t mind. As long as I can, I’ll keep doing it.”
To learn more about the Giving Turtle program, contact Taddey at (520) 860-0676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.