Mendez Found Her “Family” in Gothenburg and at YMCA

By Antonia Mendez

The definition of family is a group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit. Another way family is defined is as descendants of a common ancestor. While I somewhat agree with the above definitions, I also have to slightly disagree. As someone who is adopted, I grew up with two parents and siblings but never grew up with anything as defined in the second definition. This always led me to feel a bit out of place and wondering if I had more family in the world to find and relate to…and I’m happy to say I have.

Almost six years ago, my husband and I moved with our four children to Gothenburg to be closer to his job. We found a rental to move into and realized we needed a few things to take care of the lawn. We met Matt, Tiffani, Brittani, Kylie and Carsen Farr after we had purchased our first-ever lawn mower from them. They were the first family we met in Gothenburg, and we were excited to get to know them better.

After a brief period of time, Brittani, the oldest daughter babysat for us on occasion. Before the 2017 school year ended, we had stolen Brittani away from her job at Shopko and asked her to care for our youngest daughter, Vivianna, 6 months old at the time, while I worked. Over the summer and before the start of the upcoming school year, the Farr family had cared for our kids and helped us adjust to our new home. Brittani cared for Vivianna until she graduated high school, with Kylie following to care for Vivianna until she too graduated from high school and Vivianna started kindergarten.

Vivianna’s first steps were taken in the Farr household, along with so many loving memories of lake days, karaoke in the car, truck rides, prom pictures, graduations and wrestling with Carsen that we will cherish forever. Mama Tiff, daddy Matt, Brittani, Kylie and Carsen have loved and cared for our family since we moved here. We are blessed to be a part of their family.

The Mendezes and Czocharas were destined to be family! I first me Julie and Greg Czochara at the Sun Theatre as I was shuffling my four kids in their seats for the movie that evening. We sat in front of them in the theatre. After the movie was over, Julie commented on how well-behaved and cute my kids were (little did she know what the future was holding lol). We introduced ourselves to one another and exchanged small talk. After a few months, I applied for a job at the YMCA that was coming to Gothenburg and realized Julie would be my boss if I was hired. Julie offered me a position to run the after-school program at the school until the building was finished. The rest is history!

Julie and I have been working at the YMCA since it opened putting on many daddy-daughter date nights, Nerf wars and holiday parties. The overwhelming amount of faith, love and support from Greg and Julie to our family is never-ending. From bringing our kids a new Christmas tree after our basement flooded and ruined ours, to buying an abundance of burritos from our daughter to help send her to STEM camp, the love is never ending for the Czocharas and Mendezes.

I first met Tinna, Kevin, Parker, Sawyer, Molly, Lucas and Grady Therrien when the three younger kids enrolled in the after-school program at the YMCA. At the time Parker was close to graduation, and Sawyer was in the same grade as my oldest son. Molly was and still is beautifully magical in every way! She is always the first to volunteer and help people in any situation. She has put a smile on my face on some of the worst days and cared for my kids while I have had life talks with Tinna. Lucas has the most enticing personality that draws you in and just makes you want to hang out with him. With his confidence and sweetest heart, he has helped my youngest son to find his confidence and has been there to stand up for him. The outlook Grady has on life is one that I think everyone should have. Being happy with who he is and never growing out of the way he shows that love for people in his life has made us all sit back and learn to enjoy all that we have in life a little more. Sticking his tongue out at me as I was doing the same to him as he was up to bat during a baseball game this summer shows us he will never be embarrassed when we yell, cheer and do silly things in support of him. Sawyer is the most impressive high school boy I have met. He is wicked smart, honest, kind, incredible with all kids and is pretty blunt but in the most respectful way. His support of my oldest son this year and the friendship he gave is something that I am forever grateful for and so is my son. Parker keeps it real. We all are always so excited when we see his car parked in front of the house indicating he is home!! We have the best most honest conversations with him on how to get through to our soon-to-be college kid. I can’t count how many times Tinna and Kevin have been by our side to walk with us in life. From talks until 2 a.m. to filling out FAFSA papers for the first time. Tons of happy and sad tears have been on their shoulders as they help us navigate this adventure we call life. Many nights we have left their house with our hearts full, tummies happy (Kevin is an amazing cook) and sleeping kids from all the love they give us. So many memories to hold on to and many more to come!!

As I said before, for most of my life I have felt a bit out of place in search of my family members that I belonged to. But throughout our move to Gothenburg, and my work at the YMCA, I can honestly say that space has been filled for quite some time. While all the people listed above are not in direct relation to my family or ancestry, they are our family and will be forever. Family isn’t defined only by last names or blood but by commitment and love. Showing up when you’re most needed and choosing to love each other exactly as they are. We are so grateful for these incredible individuals we came to love and call family in Gothenburg and through my work at the YMCA!

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