Volunteer Extraordinaire

Arline Silva with an award.

While other 13-year-old girls chased boys and swapped outfits,
Arline Silva was feeding babies removed from leper colonies in
Gilroy – While other 13-year-old girls chased boys and swapped outfits, Arline Silva was feeding babies removed from leper colonies in Saigon.

As a teen Silva didn’t view volunteering as work, and her attitude hasn’t changed in all these years.

“It’s just always been a part of me,” she said. “I would never know how else to (live) my life.”

The 58-year-old’s commitment to charity had a fertile breeding ground. Growing up as a “state department brat,” the San Jose native lived all over the globe while her father worked as an international diplomat.

Although her career ambitions dramatically changed – Silva once considered becoming a nun during her college years at Convent of Mercy Alpha College for Women in Kingston, Jamaica – the mother of two never abandoned the volunteer world.

And her efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Silva was the first person that popped into Sherri Stuart’s head when a Gavilan College official called asking for a nomination for the Gilroy Community Spirit Awards.

“Most of all she just generally has been supportive of the arts,” said Stuart.

When a Gavilan College official called Silva last week to ask if she could attend a ceremony to accept the award Silva was stunned.

“It was very overwhelming,” said Silva while sitting in her Gilroy office on Tuesday afternoon.

Stuart, who serves on the Board of Theater Angels Art League, met Silva six or seven years ago when she was working at the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

At the time Stuart and Silva were working on creating an arts venue for Gilroy. The two created a group to determine exactly what kind of center the community needed.

Stuart said she’s amazed by Silva’s ability to multi-task and how she managed to raise two children, run her own insurance business, volunteer for numerous organizations and remain an active member of Gilroy’s United Methodist Church.

“She just has an amazing talent to help people,” said Stewart. “She has the ability, that self discipline of picking something up and working a little bit on it until it gets down. She will work on something for 15 minutes every single day, give it constant attention in these short bursts of time. She makes it look effortless.”

Silva has served on Gilroy’s Arts and Cultural Commission and the South Valley Symphony Board for 10 years. She was chairwoman of the commission for two years. She is president of the Board of Theater Angels Art League, an all-volunteer nonprofit that promotes the arts in Gilroy.

Silva represented Gilroy at the Arts Council Silicon Valley, helped write Gilroy’s public art policy and spearheaded the Public Arts Commission.

In addition to running Allstate Insurance with her son Jason Silva, she is also a member of the Gilroy Historical Society, Gilroy Downtown Association, volunteers for the Special Olympics and the Eigleberry Neighborhood Association.

She also spends time with her daughter Catherine “Cara” Silva, a civil engineer who recently moved back to the area.

Of course, everyone wonders how does she do it all?

“One thing about Gilroy that makes it all possible is it’s easy to get around Gilroy,” she said.

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