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Judith Gonzalez has a heart for social justice and a head to do something about it.
A native of Mexico, Gonzalez has founded and directed four organizations since the early 1990s centered on child development, Hispanic services and community programs.
A hub for her is the Hand in Hand Multicultural Center, where she serves as director of programs. The center started in her home in early 2000 offering English classes, tutoring and counseling, and medical mission trip planning. An all-volunteer staff targeted unreached and disadvantaged families struggling with language barriers, financials, emotional needs and physical health.
Today, over 500,000 families and individuals have received low- or no-cost assistance through professional counseling and mental health services, health and financial workshops, translation and interpreting services and language classes.
“As a young child growing up in Mexico, my parents provided opportunities for me to be responsible as a leader, and I developed a growing desire and determination to work and serve others to create a better environment in every place I found myself,” Gonzalez says.
To cultivate this passion, Gonzalez turned to studies, earning bachelor’s degrees in Christian education from Seminario Teologico Bautista Mexicano and in education from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. She continued her studies in the states, and earned a master’s in educational ministry from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Illinois and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Forest Institute of Professional Psychology. She’s been running nonstop since then.
Gonzalez’s other founding organizations are the Christian Family Center and the Gethsemani Child Development Center, both of which were breeding grounds for starting the Hand in Hand ministries.
A bilingual licensed clinical psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist, she’s worked since 2002 at the Robert Murney Clinic, supervising master’s students in marriage and family therapy, clinical psychology and counseling. In private practice, she provides professional mental health services and counseling for stress, depression and family issues.
Grant work has been key to meeting identified needs. Tops among them are from the Missouri Foundation for Health for over $2 million in projects related to a program called the 3V’s: vitality, vim and vigor, to teach nutrition and healthy lifestyles to minorities. Another $600,000 program for the Latino population was through the Social Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women.
“I love to create projects based on the needs of the community,” says Gonzalez, who was named 2004 Humanitarian of the Year by Community Foundation of the Ozarks. “Coordinating and collaborating with community partners and leaders to implement and work in teams with me, we carry out the work to serve all populations regardless of wealth or poverty, or those who suffer from physical, emotional or spiritual needs.”
She has served on committees and boards for Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Act Ministries, Cox College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights and Harmony House.
The nonprofit moves into its new campus.