By Jamie Shafer
For many American families, owning a home seems like a far-off dream that will never become reality. Over the past 20 years, Robert Calvillo has been in the business of making these dreams come true. As executive director of Affordable Homes of South Texas (www.ahsti.org), Calvillo puts his years of corporate banking experience to work for eligible low-income families who might never have been on his previous client list.
Although he has many stories of the “everyday heroes” he encounters, Robert shared one of his favorites: During his first week at Affordable Homes, he met with a couple in their 50s as they prepared to close on their first home. “They had been renters all of their lives; they saw their children grow up and be successful and start their own families, and finally they were going to give themselves the biggest reward—a home of their own,” he remembers. “As they were signing the closing documents with one of our staff members, I excused myself for interrupting their closing and explained that I was new to the organization and was just observing the process.
“The gentleman said not to worry and after a short time started asking me about what I did now and what I did before. I told him I was a banker and that I was now the executive director of this nonprofit. He was somewhat surprised that I would give up a bank job to take this position. I explained to him that after 14 years of climbing the ladder, I felt I needed a change. It seemed the harder I worked, the less satisfaction I got in my job.
“I described some of my bank loan customers that would get upset because we took too long to close on their loan, or that the process was too tedious and we required too much information. The customers didn’t seem to appreciate the effort we put forth in trying to serve them the best we could. After processing the story, the man leaned over to me, placed his hand on my shoulder, and told me, ‘Mr. Calvillo, I can’t begin to tell you how appreciative we are for the work you do. As for me and my family—you can take as long as you want—we are just happy to finally own a home.’ At that very moment, I knew I was in the right place and that God had led me to this place for a reason.”
Robert said that since the time he was a young boy, his parents always impressed upon him the proper order of all things—God and family first and everything else came secondary. “I have numerous reminders of my faith throughout my office,” noted Robert. “From favorite quotes to inspiring Bible verses. . . . It is cliché, but I try to keep our office environment professional but caring.”
He said that over the years God has taught him much on the journey, with commitment to faith and family remaining a central lesson in his life. “I often find myself looking back at my banking career. One of my goals was to become a vice president by the age of 30. I worked hard to achieve that goal and spent many hours working while most others were not. Well in the end, I did not only accomplish my objective—I was actually promoted to senior vice president at age 28—I was also the youngest senior manager within the organization.
“I realize now I spent all that time and energy on a selfish goal that really didn’t help anyone but me. Now when I work late, it’s not because I’m trying to climb a ladder or impress a boss. I work late because I want to accomplish something that will make a difference in the lives of someone in our community—that I don’t even know yet! I just smile every time we accomplish a new subdivision development or see a family walking out of our building with their home keys. I remember that man from 20 years ago and say, ‘Thank you Jesus for guiding me here.’”
Jamie Shafer is a communications strategist for Fishhook Communications in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.