Empowering others in a humble way is a true gift for anyone to have. Many would say Lena Yepez not only has that gift but shares it with others. It’s one of many reasons we are honoring her as part of National Women’s History Month.
Don’t quit your day job is a common phrase used by a lot of people, but not for Lena. With two paying jobs, many of us would not have much free time. However, Yepez still finds opportunities to volunteer, help with political campaigns, and help others start a business. She said, “God puts me in the right place at the right time.” God, along with a loving family and incredible role models, have guided Lena in life and helped her form her passion for people.
How Baytown is Lena? Well, she moved to town when she was five and went to school here, from St. Joseph’s Catholic School all the way to Lee College. She then went to continue her studies at the University of Houston. Her parents, Lupe and Eva, are proud Baytownians who still live in the same house Lena and her sister Lauren grew up in. Eva was the first Hispanic councilwoman for the community and showed Lena, also a former council member, and other women by example on how to serve others.
Back to Lena’s day job. She works for Lee College as the Director of Career and Transfer Services. She helps people, from finding a new career to starting a business plan. Most of it is on the clock, but she said her watch doesn’t tell her when to stop helping people. She said, “I do things from the heart. You should always give on purpose.”
Lena’s evenings are all about grapes. Lena and her husband David operate Yepez Vineyard where they sell their wine and offer a venue for family and corporate events. “We purchased land with the purpose to grow and sale grapes to wineries, kind of as a hobby,” she said. The hobby quickly turned into a business with the help of some mentors in the wine industry. It’s a true labor of love. Lena added, “Family and friends helped plant all of the vineyard and they continue to help out. Some of them work for wine!”
Life has had its challenges for Yepez. Lena and her family lost everything in Hurricane Ike. It was another experience that showed what it means to give everyone in the community dignity and respect. Lena said, “When we lost everything, we really had to swallow our pride. You really find out how resourceful you can be and how many people truly care.” It’s this reason and many others that keeps the family in Baytown.
It’s all life lessons and advice she not only lives but now gives to her three daughters, Savannah, Chloe and Cora, as well as others. Lena has operated the Promise Center, served on City Council like her mother, and volunteers at Lee College when she’s not working there. She added, “Most people are not asking for a handout. I want to empower people and give them the tools to do it.”
Lena encourages future generations to carry on the legacy she and others have created. She said, “Support our local community and stay positive. There are so many good businesses out there. These are people who put their 401k on the line. So, have an open mind, be supportive of other people, put yourself in the right circles, and keep going forward.” She also wants young women to find a mentor because “they will always build you up, are like-minded, and can help you reach your goals.”
When it comes to National Women’s History Month, Lena wants women to continue to fight for a positive impact. She said, “There’s a lot of amazing women out there who have cultivated our city and state that don’t get the recognition for it. For so many years we were not looked at as equals. Now we are respected, we are treated as equals, and we will continue to have a positive impact.”