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Women to Watch: Rita Gallardo is giving back, helping others

Women to Watch: Rita Gallardo is giving back, helping others

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Rita Gallardo

The last thing you might expect to see taking place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, smack in the middle of a global pandemic, is the American dream.

But there it is.

Rita and Oscar Gallardo immigrated to Tulsa from Mexico in 1998.

“We were searching for something different for our son — a better future for him,” Rita Gallardo said.

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Women to Watch: Rita Gallardo is giving back, helping others

The last thing you might expect to see taking place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, smack in the middle of a global pandemic, is the American dream.

But there it is.

Rita and Oscar Gallardo immigrated to Tulsa from Mexico in 1998.

“We were searching for something different for our son — a better future for him,” Rita Gallardo said.

Times were tough. Assistance was essential.

“My family was on the receiving end when we moved here,” she said. “I know how it is to go grocery shopping with a calculator.”

Citizenship came when the couple’s now-8-year-old daughter was still in diapers.

And from the moment they were able, the family that was so grateful for all the help they received began giving back.

Gallardo, a minister, Bible school director and adjunct interpreting instructor at Tulsa Community College, is also the head — and face — of La Cosecha, a food pantry operated through Iglesia Hispana Victory, the church the family attends.

La Cosecha, which means “the harvest,” has fed several hundred families a week for the past five years in partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and others.

But no one was more surprised than Gallardo when, on the first Thursday after the citywide COVID-19 shutdown, four to five times the usual number of hungry families showed up for food.

“We were kind of, like, in shock,” Gallardo said.

But the all-volunteer crew — including her husband and 23-year-old son — quickly got up to speed.

The number of clients each week has dropped off some since then, but the pantry is still helping record numbers of Tulsans.

La Cosecha also provides some cash assistance through the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

“We hear so many stories of people who are left without a job who are about to lose their homes or can’t pay their bills,” Gallardo said.

“To see the people’s reactions — the smiles on their faces, and their eyes light up when we are able to provide a check to help with their bills or we are loading up their vehicles with food — we just love being able to make someone smile.”

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