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Boys & Girls Club salutes Apodaca

Tom Fazio, left, and Jeff Miller, right, congratulate Tom Apodaca, the 2013 Local Hero of the Boys & Girls Club. Tom Fazio, left, and Jeff Miller, right, congratulate Tom Apodaca, the 2013 Local Hero of the Boys & Girls Club.

Longtime friends of Tom Apodaca recalled how he rotated two pairs of corduroys and three dress shirts but kept them pressed so he'd look sharp for his new job at a Hendersonville bank.

Apodaca himself told of how, as a high school senior, a guidance counselor asked about his post-graduation plans. College, he said. "She laughed."
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows said a sheriff's deputy recalled stopping Apodaca for speeding years ago.Not that big a deal, Meadows said. Except, the former cop said, "he had a guy hogtied in the backseat." Apodaca, a young bail bondsman at the time, was taking a bounty to jail.
Apodaca built his bail business, expanded to other kinds of business bonds, bought a travel agency and had other successful business interests. But it was a speech by legendary college football coach Lou Holtz at the annual Boys and Girls Club dinner in 2002 that sent Apodaca on a path from business to politics.
A person could be successful or significant, the coach said. Tom's wife, Lisa, groaned when she heard it because she knew her husband, a political novice who had never run for office, was thinking about a longshot candidacy for the state Senate. He ran and won.
A full banquet room at Champion Hills applauded Apodaca for making the move to become significant through public service, something that speakers said had benefited his community greatly, not least the Boys and Girls Club, which Apodaca had supported from the start. The organization saluted him as the "Local Hero" for the club.


Tom Fazio, who cofounded the Boys & Girls Club with his wife, Sue; Jeff Miller, a Boys & Girls Club supporter and political confidant of Apodaca; and Meadows toasted and roasted the jocular state senator, one of the top four or five most powerful legislators in the state.

The club which serves youth through high school also marked its 20th anniversary at the annual Celebration Dinner, a two-decade span that has seen it grow from a 2,000-square-foot space to a 35,000-square-foot campus. It served 200 kids in 1993; it served 1,563 last year. It boasts a 100 percent graduation rate among club members, compared to 73 percent nationally.
Terencia Aguilar, 15, told the audience that her life had not always been easy. It got immensely more difficult when she was attacked by a pit bull and suffered scarring wounds to her face. "The club is right by my side in these tough times," she said. She spiraled into depression after the dog bites but the club brought her back. "The club was actually one of the first public places I went after the attack. The club welcomed me with open arms."
Her friend told her she was always beautiful. Her teachers and mentors encouraged her. "I began to heal from the inside out," she said.
Tae Brown, an East Henderson High School graduate and the 2013 Youth of the Year for the local club, told of the support he got from the club, his mentor and the club activities. One summer day, staring down at the water from the high dive at Patton pool. "I was frozen," he said. His mentor, Josh, waited in the water, ready to help him. "He opened his arms to me in a time of need just like they had so many times before. And guess what? I jumped."

For more on this story read the Wednesday issue of the Hendersonville Lightning.