Branch Feature: GIG of Laredo, Texas
Support Group Leader: Ann Hutyra
What is your group name?
Gluten Intolerance Group of Laredo
When do meetings/events occur?
We meet once a month on the 3rd Thursday of the month
Why did you start the support group?
Starting this group was a personal mission of mine, after my own diagnosis with celiac disease in 2012. My city is situated on the Texas-Mexico border, and there were literally no resources to help me in transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle, other than what I could find online. I had a hard time finding any gluten-free products in my city, and forget about eating a safe meal in a restaurant! I work as a news anchor for the Laredo NBC affiliate, so I shared my story on air with our viewers, and I started a Facebook community called ‘My Gluten-Free Life in Laredo Texas’ to help others in Laredo dealing with the same issues. I knew I couldn’t be the only one! Slowly but surely, people started contacting me asking for guidance and help in going gluten-free, or finding resources. So I decided to start a support group so all of us could get together each month and support each other in the gluten-free lifestyle. We have all learned from each other on this journey, and welcome any new members who want to join us!
How large is the support group?
Our group is only about a year and a half old! We have about 60 members.
Are there any great local GF places to dine for the families and kids?
Anise Kitchen is a wonderful (and safe!) place to dine out in Laredo, Texas. They are relatively new in town, and are the only restaurant of its kind, offering a vast array of gluten-free, vegan, and healthy menu items
What are some of the events planned for 2018?
For 2018, we have some fun TV segments lined up, as well as our monthly meetings, and hope to continue spreading education and awareness in our community. We also do fun monthly giveaways for our members of hard to find products and gluten-free cookbooks!
What are the largest challenges as a support group leader?
The largest challenge as a support group leader is juggling family, work, and time dedicated to the support group. Some months are really crazy, but the satisfaction of helping others makes it all worth it! Also, the medical community in our city is way behind when it comes to understanding celiac disease and other conditions which could benefit from a gluten-free lifestyle. Very often I find myself educating a medical professional. It can be really frustrating at times, but also very rewarding to know I’m helping educate, raise awareness, and advocate for those living a gluten-free lifestyle.
What is your favorite thing about being a support group leader?
My favorite thing about being a support group leader is the people I have met along the way. We have found our tribe! Some of us are now very close friends, and know there is always someone we can talk to, who understands the challenges of being gluten-free.
Check here to see if there is a support group near you: https://www.gluten.org/joinus/start-a-gig-branch/
If you’d like to start a support group in your area, we would be glad to assist you in getting started. Contact us by clicking the Branch Inquiry Form link at the webpage listed above if you’re interested!