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Florencia Velasco Fortner

Florencia Velasco Fortner has made community, culture and nonprofit work her life’s passion. As the chief executive officer for the Dallas Concilio, a local nonprofit that serves the various needs of the Hispanic population, Fortner, a native of Mexico, strives to ensure that those in need have access to services and programs that will help to enrich their life.

But Fortner has another purpose, as well — navigating the sometimes-uncertain waters of motherhood both from the biological, as well as the stepparent, perspectives.

What she does: Fortner has one daughter, Gloria, 4, with her husband Bruce, who works both in the corporate offices of Bank of America and as a pastor of New Mount Moriah Baptist Church in south Dallas. The couple also shares custody of Bruce’s two children from a previous marriage, Martin, 8 and Danielle, 15, who reside in Houston and visit during holidays and summer.

“I think I’m harder on Gloria because I know that she knows I’m her mother and no matter how mean I sound, I still love her,” confides Fortner. “The challenge for me as a step mom is always being careful of letting them [Martin and Danielle] know that I’m being hard on them or disciplining them not because I’m trying to mean or wicked, but because I want them to be better people.”

Finding a happy medium in the parenting arena isn’t the only obstacle Fortner faces with her children — it comes down to a cultural level, as well. “My children are both Hispanic and African-American so my challenge is how to make them recognize that they’re American and to be proud of their roots,” she explains. “When my stepchildren met me, that was the first time they’d ever met an Hispanic person. It was really an educational process teaching them that we also have had struggles and continue to struggle and that there are a lot of similarities. [We strive to] teach them [all of our children] about accepting and embracing other cultures.”

How she does it: When she isn’t teaching her children a civics lesson or helping her community, Fortner is focused on finding ways to connect with the family. “On the weekends I try to spend time with Gloria playing dress-up and tea party. About once a quarter I take off with my husband. We try to talk without it being about work or church or the kids, where it’s just us and how we can stay in love,” she says wistfully, adding that another key to managing her life comes in finding the confidence to be OK with less than perfection. “When I first had Gloria, I was trying to do everything perfectly and I would get frustrated about the house not being kept … now I try to balance. The laundry will have to wait and sometimes I won’t dust for a couple of weeks. It’s basically being comfortable with [the fact that] I can’t do everything perfectly. So whatever I do, I’m going to do well, especially carving out time for my children and Bruce.”