Editor’s Note: Welcome to La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series, which shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (858) 875-5950.
If there was one word to define Tresha Souza, that would be “true.” She’s as authentic as can be.
She said her strong Catholic faith and a vocation to help others led her to establish the non-profit So Others May Eat, which serves biweekly community dinners to those in need at Mary, Star of the Sea church on Girard Avenue in the Village. Tresha is married and has four children: ages 28, 24, 23 and 17. The whole family lives together in their Muirlands home.
Where are you from?
“I’m from San Diego, born and raised. I grew up in Clairemont. My mother is from El Paso, Texas, and my father is from San Diego.”
Where did you study?
“I went to Cathedral Catholic High School, and when I was 18, I had just graduated and was going to go off to college, when I met my husband. We got married a year-and-a-half later and became a family.”
Were you a stay-at-home mom?
“After I had my first daughter, I stayed at home for two years. The whole stay-at-home constantly, that was a lot for me. So I went to work part-time for the California Bureau of Investigations, and I worked there for 17 years. For me it was a break from something that a lot of people enjoy, and I enjoyed it, too, but I also wanted to have my own time and space. I left my job when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, so I could spend more time with her.”
Please describe your upbringing.
I grew up in the typical Hispanic household. Everything was about family, there were no sleepovers with friends or anything like that. It wasn’t just (my immediate family), it was my uncles and aunts and cousins. I remember even having dance parties at my grandparents’ place, but it was just us, we put music on and start dancing in the living room. That was our socialization.
It was like Christmas ... Christmas was about family, it wasn’t about the gifts ... it was about food and being with family.
Do you speak Spanish?
“I do not speak it, but I understand it, because it’s what my grandparents spoke. Back then, you got called names for being Mexican or Spanish, and my mother didn’t want us to grow up being discriminated against. For example, kids at school would call us beaners, because we ate beans, but we never really knew what it was about. My mom instilled in me a lot of strength, and how opinionated I am — a lot — (laughs) but she gave me a lot of strength, because we were never victims, we were never allowed to come home crying, we took care of our business and that was it.”
Did you try to replicate that family orientation in your own home?
“My husband is Portuguese, his grandfather, who came from Madeira (Portugal), was one of the pioneers of Point Loma’s tuna fishing fleet. But his family was very small, they didn’t have extended family, so he wasn’t used to that. That was always kind of a struggle because I am all about family.
Since the beginning, I’ve hosted all the holidays here, with everybody coming. For Thanksgiving we had everybody over here, like 30 or 40 people. At first my husband didn’t like it because he wasn’t used to it. But now the kids love it, and he loves it, too … Their best memories are here with their family, that’s what they know.”
How did you come up with the idea for ‘So Others May Eat?’
“My husband is a developer, and there was a time where I was going to these business lunches and shopping a lot. And I hated it. And Lent came, that time of the year when Catholics give up something for six weeks before Easter, so I gave up everything, the lunches, spending money, going shopping … and it was then that God came to me, and some things that happened in my childhood with a family member that were hard to get through, this horrible pain and anger that I couldn’t get rid of, God took it from me. At that moment, I truly forgave the man and I knew I had to give something back.”
What do you say those who criticize you for feeding homeless people in La Jolla?
“A lot of people say that, and I tell them that you can’t just think you live in this bubble, and nobody else belongs here, because how dare you? I’ve been told that I’ve embarrassed the community by bringing these people in. There are plenty of people who still don’t want them here. But if somebody has so much, why wouldn’t they want to help somebody else? If you can feed the homeless, the hungry, why wouldn’t you? If every community had a community dinner, wouldn’t this world be a great place?”
What do you do for fun?
“I love country music. I go to lots of concerts. I love to ride my bike. I try to do 25 miles a day on my bike. I used to run marathons, but I got sick so I can’t do that anymore. We have a house on the Colorado River, we go there a lot, and up there, we’re right at the river’s edge and there’s no phones or anything.”
What’s the difference between your upbringing and your life now?
“I grew up in a middle-class family. Growing up we weren’t wealthy, but we were rich in love, and that’s so much more important. I mean, this is amazing, my husband has built a beautiful home, but here you have different issues, different problems, it’s much simpler the other way. I could walk away from this tomorrow, and I would, just to be with him. I’d leave here in a moment.”