Carlos Herrera’s actions speak much more powerfully and profoundly than whatever humble words he may choose.
In the 26 years since he founded Interior Removal Services Inc., word has gotten out about his enormous heart. Heading a company that specializes in commercial business demolition with 240 co-workers Herrera’s personal mission guided by his Catholic compass extends beyond finding value in things a building tenant has left behind. In the essence of taking care of God’s creation, he has often found someone else in need who values it even more.
With what’s left, he refuses to allow it to be sent to landfills that could be toxic to the environment.
“I’ve seen how recycling brings a community together, Herrera says. ™It’s God’s work in rebuilding.”
As a result, word of mouth got out about the company’s 80,000-square foot warehouse and recycling compound. Dozens of churches and other non-profit organizations, from Dolores Mission in Boyle Heights to Sister Anne Kelly’s Good Shepard Shelter, have been recipients of reclaimed tables and chairs, doors and drywall, light fixtures and white boards.
Add to that how the company’s family-focused workforce that often has to spend nights, weekends and holidays doing difficult labor include former gang members seeking renewed value through Fr. Greg Boyle’s Homeboy Industries in downtown L.A.
Herrera is on the Homeboy Recycling Advisory Board where Homeboy employees thrive.
It makes sense. Herrera has been there himself. Herrera is the oldest of five from a family that moved from Texas to Colorado to central California, guided by the seasonal migrant field work taken by his mother, Virginia. When the family landed in downtown L.A., Herrera and his siblings took pride in becoming “pickers spending weekends finding discarded aluminum cans, redeeming them to help the family survive. Different L.A. neighborhoods were scheduled each day, and games at Dodger Stadium and USC football at the Coliseum were profitable.
Praying the rosary regularly gave them a direction as their weekends were often exhausted in work.
“It was a family affair, Herrera said.
“My mother taught us a migrant work ethic, the importance of giving back.”
Herrera said his dream was to go into the military, but when he was 7 he was shot in the left ear and lost his hearing. At 12, he became pulled into the gang world, doing what he says ™are my share of embarrassing things I’m not proud of. He attended four high schools in L.A. and, as he says, ”broke the record for getting kicked out quicker than anyone else.”
Ultimately, Herrera was deeply affected by what happened to his younger brother of just one year, Eddie, who landed a prison sentence at 17.
“Carlos and Eddie ran the streets together but were always there for each other, says Vicky Herrera, who, at six years younger than Carlos, is the baby of the five siblings. “I think it gave Carlos a sense of power and belonging because we didn’t have a father figure that the time in our lives and Carlos has limited schooling.
“When Eddie was apprehended after several years on the run, it was hard on all of us, especially our mother. Carlos made sure Eddie was always taken care of while inside prison.”
Relying on lessons taught by his mother, Carlos Herrera had no doubt what he would do when the opportunity came to give back. Virginia Herrera, was able to see her son help rebuild Parroquia Immaculada Concepcioun, a Catholic church in Ensenada, Mexico. She died four years ago, just six months prior to the church’s dedication.
“To donate back, that’s just so easy for me, said Herrera. “It’s just the right thing to do. It’s contagious once people know you’re doing this and it’s encouraging to see others do it too.”
Vicky Herrera, who became the company’s field operations manager, calls Carlos” the most influential person in my life. Watching him go through the trials of life at such an early age to where he is today has always inspired me.
“Carlos’ life and leadership are a tribute to the Catholic values with which we were raised. His faith is what he profoundly believes is the reason it is his responsibility to help others. He is an inspiration to everyone that knows him. Our family is so happy to be celebrating the honor bestowed here on Carlos.”
Herrera, living with his wife, Karina, in La Habra Heights, appreciates how he was able to give a Catholic education to their sons, Ernesto, Charlie and Samuel, on journeys that took them to Bosco Tech in Rosemead and St. Catherine’s Academy in Anaheim.
Herrera calls the Cardinal Award an “outrageously humbling” honor in his life.
Fr. Boyle says Herrera is “exactly the person who should be acknowledged because Carlos lives as though the truth were true. He knows how to find the marrow of the Gospel and it’s not pious, it’s real. He takes seriously what Jesus took seriously. So, I don’t know how people measure spirituality, but I’ll take Carlos Herrera any day.”