Don Cuevas sees the value in community service

DOWNEY - Don Cuevas, who with older brother Leo in 2008 formed their own real estate company, We Find Realty, is very familiar with the North Hollywood area, where their office is located and which he and his family have called home for many years. That is, until Don moved to Downey four years ago for a very personal reason.

The move to Downey is paying off.

A 2000 graduate of sociology from Cal State Northridge, Don first worked for the city of Burbank for five years in the Parks and Recreation Department before joining the treatment center for boys and girls in Pasadena called Five Acres.

Then, prior to entering the field of real estate entrepreneurship, he spent some years with the Lanterman Regional Center in Los Angeles, a state facility helping people with disabilities.

He says social work is not incompatible with real estate. One is about helping people with problems, the other is about helping people find houses. He admits, though, that the going was tough when he first ventured out to land that first real estate sale. The "hot prospect" was, you may have guessed, a family friend.

"In making your presentation," Don says, "you don't want to commit a mistake. You want to make a good impression, especially with a friend of the family."

The sales process since that first trial by fire has become smoother and smoother, he says, although you still have to sweat it, especially the constant prospecting (via e-mails, flyers, etc.), and tailoring your message to the needs of the prospective client.

Leo the brother is no slouch, either. He is a UCLA graduate with an economics major. (A second sibling, older sister Sandy, teaches at Burbank Elementary School).

Don succeeded Jason Cierpiszewski as Kiwanis (afternoon club) president last October, and he says his previous interactions with boys and girls and people with disabilities dovetail with what Kiwanis primarily is trying to accomplish, providing graduating students, for example with scholarships, doing food bank projects, etc., as well as refurbishing Whaley Middle School in Compton.

Another major service thrust, he says, is helping people with disabilities.

In addition, Kiwanis helps out the YMCA in a variety of ways. For example, Kiwanis donated some $125,000 for its third floor pool renovation. Another notable project was its shipment in April of 55,000 meals to Haiti. Kiwanis does other projects in collaboration with other clubs, such as church groups, he says.

Don tells of his growing up in Houston, Tex., and attending preschool that was sponsored by the Junior Forum Women's Club and run by civic-minded women who gave back to the community. He remembers the nice teachers who told stories and spoke of plays, the hot meals that were served for breakfast and lunch, their playground that was well supplied with tricycles and wagons, a sandbox with tunnels, and a jungle gym to play in. He says his grandmother who picked him up from school "would always tell me about these nice people."

"What I remember most about that time, however," Don says, "was the fact that I was being given a chance to grow in a safe educational environment. This is why I volunteer my time. I want to provide those very same things, in a way, to my community."

Then, speaking like a true Kiwanian, Don said: "That is why I chose to belong to this club. Kiwanis is dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time."

Don's parents, who reside in Burbank, originally came from Monterrey, Mexico. His dad is a retired warehouse manager, while his mom still enjoys working for an escrow company in Woodland Hills. He says graduating from college was "something my parents always dreamt of for me and my siblings."

Now their son is using that vivid childhood experience as well as his college achievement to good advantage.

********** Published: June 27, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 11