Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Legacy of Matt Garcia Still Touches Lives

Members of the Fairfield High School Pipe and Drums perform during a 10th anniversary celebration of the Life and Legacy of Matt Garcia at the Downtown Theatre in Fairfield, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD — The death of Matt Garcia 10 years ago this weekend, which ended the dream of one young man, became an inspiration for hundreds of others to keep his dream alive and to follow their own.

More than 300 people came out Saturday to celebrate the life of Matt Garcia at the Downtown Theatre in Fairfield. The event included a screening of “The Life and Legacy of Matt Garcia,” along with a formal ceremony of remembrance.

Matt Garcia, the youngest city councilman elected in the state of California in November 2007, was just 22 years old when he was shot in Cordelia on Sept. 1, 2008, but that wasn’t the end of his story.

“Matt’s dream involved supporting the youth and creating places for them to go and things for them to do; changing a culture of violence and crime in the city through youth involvement. By uniting a community all people will have a sense of belonging and responsibility to the city of Fairfield,” said Tony Wade, a presenter.

Decorating the walls in the lobby were copies of letters from the recipients of his donated organs. Also decorating the area were pieces of artwork made from guns, bullets and residue from weapons given to the police and re-purposed for Art for Peace.

The Solano County Gun Buyback program, which helped make that happen, was sponsored by the Matt Garcia Foundation, an organization created and dedicated to creating peace and helping the youth in Solano County.

He touched even more lives, some in ways that were unexpected.

Jessica Samra of Fairfield didn’t know Garcia.

“I was skeptical about him being so young and running for office,” she said. “But then I heard about how every time he met someone things would turn around. I voted for him.”

Engulfed by the grief of the end of her marriage, she started volunteering with the Matt Garcia Foundation.

“How could I feel so bad for myself? It wasn’t like I lost a son,” she said.

Samra has volunteered for five years, helping others and cleaning up the community to make it better for everyone.

“I can follow in his footsteps,” she said. “I can plug in and give back to the community. I’m grateful for the foundation being here.”

Garcia’s aunt, Debbie Cudmore, remembers a young man who did everything that he said he would do.

“He was bigger than life,” she said. “I am so proud of him.”

She remembers him putting his mind to something and just doing it.

His biological father, Matt Garcia, remembers his son as a dreamer.

“He always had a vision of what he wanted to be,” he said. “He ran for City Council because he wanted to be on the City Council.

“His message was so good it changed people’s lives,” he said. “It saved people from becoming gang members.”

The Matt Garcia Foundation was established to carry out Garcia’s dream. Those dreams have grown and evolved over the 10 years since his death to include so much more than he might have ever imagined.

People gather with trash bags and gloves to clean up the downtown area on the last Saturday of the month for what has become the Monthly Community Clean-Ups. In addition, more organizations have been created to better the community, including Allan Witt Park Little League Project, Fairfield PAL – The Matt Garcia Youth Center, The Matt Garcia Learning Center School which later became the Matt Garcia Career and College Academy, The Matt Garcia Home for Women and Children, Matty’s Yankees – Fairfield Pacific Little League and S.O.A.P. – Save Our Activities Programs.

Garcia’s stepfather, Raymond Courtemanche, said he hopes that people take his message of life, light and love and make Fairfield and the world better because of it.

“I hope people take a stand and create a creative, supportive environment,” he said.

His mother, Teresa Courtemanche, said it feels like yesterday when she last saw him. She believes she grew up with him when at 19 years old she became his mother.

“I wish he was still here,” she said. “I learned about love, dedication, commitment and perseverance because of him.”

His parents plan to keep the dream alive.

“This is what keeps our family going, knowing the dream is alive and well.”

Article Source: Daily Republic

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