On his first mission to Uganda four years ago, Ric Small says he cried every night. “It wasn’t so much about how the people lived, it was that they didn’t have clean water. The water they drank was brown,” he says. Villagers often walked more than 5 miles, risking their lives, to retrieve it. His church, Northgate Christian Fellowship, is actively involved in raising funds to build wells in small villages in Uganda through Hope 4 Kids International, and he and his wife Kema have built two wells that each serve nearly 1,000 people with clean drinking water.
Back home in Benicia, Ric (nicknamed Rico Cruz by some friends) owns Alonzo and Small Insurance Agency, a business he and Kema bought in 1981 in Richmond. Raised in El Sobrante, the couple moved to Benicia in 1982, and moved their business here in 1985. Kema became an elementary school teacher for 20 years, and for the past decade, their son Garrett has helped with the insurance business.
For Ric, a big part of running a local business is giving back. “It’s better that people know who you are because of your involvement in the community, rather than inundating them with flyers.”
But it goes much deeper than that.
As an ordained clergyman, Ric serves as a police chaplain in Benicia, which means he’s one of the first to visit the home after a fatal accident, suicide or other crisis that requires emotional or spiritual comfort for the family. He’s also been a mentor at Liberty High School for 13 years, and is part of a movement to build a strong mentor program at the middle school and high school. “As mentors, we are not tutors, we are adults they can trust and talk to,” says Ric. “I believe in what this generation has to say. I’m just afraid that many from my generation aren’t listening—so I’m there just to listen.”
An avid downhill skier, and once a serious tennis player, Ric has had both kneecaps and a hip replaced. But that doesn’t keep him from riding like the wind on his motorcycle. Married to Kema for 42 years, they do everything together—including playing in a band for 20 years. (Ric played bass, and Kema sang.) Lately though, they spend their time doting over their three granddaughters: Presley (8), Dakota (5) and Capri (4).
When asked what inspires him, he said, “Kema inspires me, she is always there to direct me, and she gives me unconditional love—totally.”