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story.lead_photo.caption Raquel Beck, pictured in the entryway to Community Clinic Siloam Springs, will be honored at the 89th annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet on Thursday. - Photo by Janelle Jessen

Raquel Beck has lived her life with the philosophy of "the more you give, the more you receive," volunteering her time to serve the community and working tirelessly to bring affordable health care to Siloam Springs.

The most important thing people should know about Beck is she has a giving heart and helping hands, according to her friend Suellen Coleman Chase, a 2016 Pioneer Citizen.

"That's what makes her happy, the time she gave to others and helping the community and whatever projects they were involved in," Coleman Chase said.

Over the years, Beck worked to help establish St. Francis Clinic, a nonprofit that provides medical care for the working insured, which became Community Clinic Siloam Springs Medical. She has volunteered and served on the boards of numerous other community organizations such as Bridges to Wellness, Dogwood Literacy Council, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Heritage League, P.E.O. Sisterhood, Miss Dogwood Scholarship Pageant and Kiwanis, and is active at St. Mary Catholic Church.

She also is very involved in the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce, and has served on the chamber board, various chamber committees, as a chamber ambassador and as a volunteer and committee member for previous annual chamber banquets and Outstanding Civic Leadership Events.

"She just has a real passion for everyone," said Shirley Dilbeck, 2018 Pioneer Citizen. "Everyone who walks through their door, she has such a heart for them. I've learned to respect and admire her dedication to the community. Some of us were born and raised here. She wasn't. Her roots weren't here, but she has the same passion (for Siloam Springs)."

Beck -- along with Bob and Cathi Coleman -- will be honored for her service to Siloam Springs by being named a 2019 Pioneer Citizen at the 89th annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet on Thursday. The event will be held in the Qualla Ballroom of the Cherokee Casino in West Siloam Springs, Okla.


Beck credits her parents and her early life experiences for giving her a heart for helping others and a strong work ethic.

She was born in Mesquital del Oro, Zacatecas, Mexico to Octavio and Mary Ruelas. Her father was one of the original migrant workers in the Bracero Program, which allowed Mexican workers to come to the United States. He was eventually employed by a wealthy rancher, Virgil Durando, who was so impressed with his work ethic that he sponsored the entire family to immigrate together to the U.S. when Beck was 5-years-old.

Beck's father served as the foreman of a large ranch in Friant, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley, that grew cotton, oranges and many other fruits and vegetables. She started helping her mother pick cotton and other fruits and vegetables in the field at a young age.

The family grew to include seven children, and Beck's father wanted them to have a good education, so still working for the same rancher, the family moved to the larger town of Clovis, Calif., which had better schools. Her father got a job with the city of Clovis and worked his way up to become a heavy equipment operator in the public works department, a position he held for more than 26 years.

Beck graduated high school in the top 20 of her class of more than 500 students, then went on to graduate from Fresno State University. Thanks to the example set by her parents, all of her siblings also graduated from college and went on to excel in life.

"I am very proud of my heritage and I'm very proud of where we've come, and that's why I have a big heart for all my Latinos that come (to the clinic) ... I have a big heart and I want to help them and everything, but I want them to understand it's a two-way street. There are programs out there but you also have to do your best to do what you can to help yourself," she said.

Finding a new home in Siloam Springs

As a young adult, Beck left Fresno to become a flight attendant, then referred to as a stewardess, for a charter airline. At first she worked for a domestic airline, but she wanted to see the world so she got a job with an international airline, Trans International Airways.

The only continent Beck didn't visit as a flight attendant was Australia. During the Vietnam War years, her flights took troops over to Vietnam and brought them back. She also visited destinations such as Germany and Africa.

Beck met her husband, Bill Beck, in the San Francisco Bay area. His family was originally from the Colcord, Okla., area, but when the couple started dating, she never imagined moving back to Northeast Oklahoma or Northwest Arkansas.

The first time she came to the area, she hated small town life and moved back to San Francisco. After about a year, she began to miss her future husband and returned to the region, living in Colcord and commuting to Siloam Springs. The couple married in the former library building, currently the parks and recreation department building, on University Street.

This time, Beck's involvement with the community and the people she met made her fall in love with the area and Siloam Springs became her home.

"I was a stewardess, I was able to travel, and that really helped me be able to settle here," she said. "I had already been other places and this became my home and I love it. The people that are here, the Suellen Colemans, the Shirley Dilbecks, all of those, they are good people, good friends."

Beck's first job in Siloam Springs was as at the Chamber of Commerce. Over the years, she also worked for Glen Reed, CPA, Walter Gray & Associates Realty, Mike Moss Insurance and Farley's Inc., before becoming the front office manager for Siloam Springs Medical Center. She and her husband also raised their daughter Ashley in the community.

Community Clinic

Beck found her calling in the medical field.

"I really had no idea that's where my heart would be, but I think it's really in helping people, in really seeing the need that was there," she said.

When Dr. George and Mary Benjamin began working to start St. Francis Clinic, a nonprofit designed to provide health care for the working uninsured, Beck volunteered alongside them.

Mary Benjamin, who earned the Pioneer Citizen award in 2013, said she knew Beck from the time she worked with Dr. Benjamin at the Siloam Springs Medical Center, but their friendship grew as they worked together to start the clinic.

"She and George saw a need, as did the other doctors, to address the concern of patients who had no access to care because they lacked insurance," Mary Benjamin said. "Her role on the board of St. Francis was critical in establishing a clear path to service to those in the clinic. She helped us write a grant that was awarded by Johnson & Johnson in 2006 that propelled the growth of the clinic.

"Raquel, George and I, and volunteer Jerry Labadie, got to go to Washington, D.C., to accept the grant and receive information about support that we would have from Johns Hopkins University. We were very proud to be one of 10 health organizations receiving the Johnson & Johnson Community Health Award."

When the clinic was able to hire a full-time director, Beck took the leap of faith to take the job, Mary Benjamin said. At the time, the clinic had no assurance of longevity because it was funded solely by donations and grants.

In 2009, St. Francis Clinic joined Community Clinic, a Federally qualified health center based in Springdale, that has grown to 14 locations in Northwest Arkansas. The transition gave the clinic long-term financial stability and it became Community Clinic Siloam Springs Medical.

Since it was founded, the clinic has grown from two full-time employees to more than 15, and provides primary medical care for adults and children, dental care and behavioral health services, all at an affordable sliding scale based on the patient's income.

"It was just the need was there and like Dr. Benjamin would say, 'We don't need to go to other countries,' he was in the Peace Corps, 'We don't need to go to Africa, we have the need right here in our own community, people who have gone without any type of health care for so long,'" Beck said. "We started out small and as you can see, look where we are now."

The more you give, the more you will receive

Beck's philosophy in life is inspired by the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, in which the supplicant asks to be an instrument of peace, love, pardon, hope, light and joy, and states, "for it is in giving that we receive."

As a devoted member of St. Mary Catholic Church in Siloam Springs, she serves in the church's alter society, parish council and Women of St. Mary, and has taught children's classes.

"The most important thing that the community needs to know about Raquel is her interaction with people comes from a deep faith in God and a love for serving other people," Mary Benjamin said.

Dilbeck and Coleman Chase said they have served together with Beck on the Chamber of Commerce board and other chamber activities. Dilbeck said she was moved to tears when she heard that Beck had earned the Pioneer Citizen Award. She said Beck has real compassion and an open heart. No matter where she works, Beck treats people with dignity and respect, regardless of their work status and life situation.

"She has a heart for people," said Dilbeck. "She sees people totally equal in the community, she is a great worker, a person who is willing to do the job, no matter the job, she always jumps in there with both hands and both feet, in the kitchen washing dishes, setting up tables, willing to do whatever it takes to make the community better."

"My reaction when I heard Raquel was nominated for Pioneer Citizen was 'I couldn't think of anyone more deserving and her father would have been so proud of his daughter,''' Mary Benjamin said.

General News on 02/06/2019

Print Headline: Helping people Beck's passion

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