3 things to know about this Howard County immigration nonprofit CEO
By Janene Holzberg
For Howard Magazine|
Jan 29, 2019 | 7:00 AM
Hector Garcia, 61, has led FIRN (Foreign-born Information and Referral Network) since 2010. A Puerto Rico native who moved from Boston to Ellicott City 19 years ago, he and his wife, Aileen, have a 31-year-old daughter, Viviana, and a 14-year-old son, Kipp. Here, Garcia shares three little-known facts about his life.
He’s a world-class triathlete. An avid surfer growing up in Puerto Rico and later a snowboarder in the Northeast, Garcia says he was moved to tears watching “normal people” compete in the 2000 Ironman World Championship on TV. After racing in local triathlons, Garcia entered his first Ironman competition – a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run – in 2003 and has never looked back; he is currently ranked 47th in the world. He and his wife, whom he coaches, are training for the Ironman Ireland in June.
He worked for the American Red Cross during 9/11. Garcia was chief operating officer for the mid-Atlantic region in 2001 when he was called upon to work with the White House to coordinate blood drives for victims. “There was such a great need that I didn’t sleep for a week and a half,” he recalls. A decade earlier, he created the nonprofit’s first toll-free number – 1-800-GIVELIFE – to make signing up to donate easier.
He has a rescue dog from Puerto Rico. Garcia and his wife came across puppies that had been flown to Reagan National Airport by a volunteer pilot following Hurricane Maria. They later later contacted the rescue group and adopted a 3-month-old mutt in March that they named Lola. “We were hesitant because all three of our family dogs had died in 2017 and we were still grieving,” Garcia recalls. “But she is just the most wonderful dog.”