Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2006 | 9:04 a.m.
Tom Gorman's column runs Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (702) 259-2310.
Like most people moving to Las Vegas, Falcony and Lourdes Triunfo arrived with dreams. They left Brooklyn, N.Y., in search of a decent job and an affordable home in which to raise their four young children.
That was a year and a half ago, and they are still searching.
But unlike others who move to Las Vegas, looking for what they can get out of the city, Falcony and Lourdes moved here with something to offer: Lourdes' singing voice. And she's been giving it away, without worrying about what she gets in return.
Lourdes, 35, performed during Las Vegas' centennial celebration last summer, and also co-directed its 120-voice chorus, representing eight different faith groups.
"The audience grew quiet as she sang," said Deb Culbertson, who helped coordinate the event. "She brought out a spirit that (entranced) the entire audience."
What strikes me about Lourdes and Falco, as he likes to be called, is their sense of peace, even as they struggle daily to get by. They don't complain about their situation, as difficult as it is, but talk instead of how they have been blessed by the people they've met.
Lourdes home schools the four children, ages 6 to 13. I met them the other day, and they're gems -- outgoing, polite and smart, each of them.
Falco, 39, works at a privately operated halfway house, a couple of blocks off the Strip, where federal prison inmates live for several months, preparing for release back into the mainstream.
Falco is an on-site security monitor, making sure everyone is current in their drug testing and is home after spending the day on a job or looking for work.
For this, he is paid $10 an hour.
Do the math. On $10 an hour, Falco is trying to support a wife and four children. It is all but impossible.
He pays for his health insurance at work; Lourdes and the kids qualify for Medicaid. They also qualify for food stamps and subsidized housing.
The Triunfos moved here because it seemed hopeless they'd ever be able to buy a home in New York. For a time, the six of them shared a one-bedroom brownstone with Falco's mother. Falco, who spent 10 years in the Army Reserves, worked various security jobs in the city, including as a campus police officer at City University of New York.
Lourdes' brother, who lives in Las Vegas, suggested the family move here because -- at the time -- it was conceivable they could buy their own home. With no jobs lined up, the family moved on blind faith and rented an apartment on the east side of town that cost $880 a month. They had no car, which stifled their ability to find work and get around town.
By taking a bus, Falco worked 30 hours a week as a church custodian. For a time, he also worked a security job at the Orleans, but gave it up because the four hours he spent on a bus, getting there and back home every day, was torturous.
The couple joined Connecting Point Christian Church, and its members blessed the family with clothes and furniture. Another person gave them his car. In July, the family moved to Marble Manor, a 50-year-old public housing complex in West Las Vegas.
Any thoughts of buying a home have, for now, evaporated. They struggle just to pay the $365 a month for their duplex unit.
They don't say this, but it's not the best of neighborhoods. They hear gunfire at night, and they bought a protective dog to bring the family comfort while Falco is at work.
Lourdes probably knows as much as anyone about the kid-friendly side of Las Vegas. She's taken the children to all of the museums, and they regularly enjoy the local library for its lectures, presentations and arts and crafts programs.
"Certainly we would like a home with a big back yard for the kids," Lourdes said. That is, after all, why they came to Las Vegas. "But we are blessed. We have a place to live, we are not starving, and we have dear friends at church."
The feeling is mutual.
"Falco and Lourdes are a joy. They have no ego. They are not out for themselves or for their own glory. They are complete servants," said their worship leader, Pete Bresciani, who plays trumpet for Danny Gans' band.
As a teenager, Lourdes sang a religious hymn solo at Carnegie Hall. Those who have heard her marvel at the range and clarity of her voice. I would think she'd be able to find some sort of work in Las Vegas, but that's not the first thing on her mind.
She talks, instead, of the support she and Falco have received since moving here. "I hope," she said, "that soon we can be on the giving end."
With her work on the centennial commission's interfaith chorus, and her singing at church every week, I think they already are.