Hometown Heroes: Nery Salazar

Christopher Thomas, La’Jalen Jones, Tamia Allen, Larryssa Cunningham, Nery Salazar, De’Ida Drisdale and Jordan Marant.

Christopher Thomas, La’Jalen Jones, Tamia Allen, Larryssa Cunningham, Nery Salazar, De’Ida Drisdale and Jordan Marant.

By M.G. Angulo –

When she was a child, Nery Salazar lived a life in Honduras that was in a word, undesirable. She did not have access to a good education, the treatment of women was horrid, and at every turn she felt lost, scared and alone – until she found her way to the United States in the 1980s and started a new life in Richmond.

“I was scared when I made that journey, but God took my hand and guided me from a rough country to a better one,” she said. “I wanted to do better for myself.”

Salazar, now 56, owns Straight Edge Cleaning and is a wife and a mother to four children. Truth be told, she could be seen as a mother figure to many in the North Richmond community, because she devotes every ounce of her energy to helping the children in her neighborhood “fight for a better tomorrow.”

As a business owner, Salazar remains engrossed day in and day out, but her busiest days, it seems, are on Sundays – a day she relishes every time it comes around. Ever since 2009, her Sundays begin at 4 am cooking breakfast for 30, 40 and sometimes 50 or 60 children, who she then transports to River Pointe Church in Richmond. Salazar let loose a sweet laugh. “We’re like a mobile church going to another church. The kids need to learn about Jesus. I feel like once they get to know Jesus, they’ve got it. They will learn to become better citizens and be able to make this world a better place.”

Jermiah Jackson, Nery Salazar, Wathan Perez and Jasiah Jackson.

Jermiah Jackson, Nery Salazar, Wathan Perez and Jasiah Jackson.

Because Salazar knows how vital education is, she also spearheaded a movement through the church to help the neighborhood children with their homework on Wednesdays. “I want them to go to college to get a good education, and I want to start a scholarship fund for these kids one day.”

Inspired by the teachings of the Bible, Salazar, who also holds Bible study in her front yard on Tuesdays for the children, said she also lends her time “to anyone who asks of it.” Following the recent historic flood in the area that left so many homes and families devastated, Salazar threw in her hat to help those in need by cleaning homes as if they were her own. Then on Thanksgiving, she hosted dinner for those families who were displaced from their homes and are still living in apartments.

Salazar also has a prominent role in Attack Poverty – a non-profit organization determined to strengthening the area through spiritual growth, education and revitalization – which had its beginnings in Salazar’s front yard. In October, Salazar was honored with Attack Poverty’s Person of Peace Award for her dedication to her neighborhood.

“It was a beautiful feeling,” she said. “You know when you get home sometimes you’re hungry and tired, but once you sit down and have a nice meal, you feel better? That is how I feel about what I do. It just makes me happy.”

Volunteering, Salazar said, is something every community needs, especially to help its children. In the beginning, she volunteered alone, but the years have drawn more adults to the cause, a trend that excites her. “When I was growing up, I didn’t have anyone to help me but God. We all need to volunteer our time to the children and teach them how to care for their community. I want them to have a good life and recognize God. I want them to know that no matter what kind of condition they are living in, someone loves them. I want them to have hope for tomorrow.”

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