A slice of local life -- Dinora Trejo leads the (United) way

Dinora Trejo, center, with Juana and Paula Magana, who helped her prepare food.

Photo by Trisha Walker.
Dinora Trejo, center, with Juana and Paula Magana, who helped her prepare food.

Dinora Trejo has only been volunteering with United Way of the Columbia Gorge since March 2013, but she’s already made a big impact in the organization’s fundraising campaign.

Trejo’s association with the United Way comes through Diamond Fruit, where she’s worked since 1989. Diamond has always supported her in her pursuits, she said, whether she’s taking time off to further her education (she received a degree in cultural anthropology from Portland State University in 2003, and also holds a nursing assistant degree) or moving through the company ranks (she began as a packer at 17, and applied for the payroll position she now holds two years ago).

It was no surprise, then, that Diamond supported her when she began volunteering with the United Way.

Trejo credits Gordy Sato, United Way board member, with introducing her to the organization. Sato was involved in putting together a new United Way video, and wanted to “do a little segment on what Diamond Fruit does for their (fundraising) campaign,” he said. He asked Trejo to serve as translator for Diamond’s then-campaign fundraiser because “I liked her great energies, and she seemed truly interested in finding out more about how United Way operated,” he said.

At that time, Trejo “was oblivious” to the United Way.

“I lived in my own little bubble. You don’t see a lot of homeless people (here) like what you see in Portland. Because it is Hood River, a nice town, I never realized there was such a need.”

As she translated for Sato, “Gordy decided I was a good candidate,” smiled Trejo. “He suggested I could do allocations with Ali (Church, campaign and allocations manager).”

And that’s what she did. Serving on the committee, Trejo “truly became entrenched in the allocations process, and saw how United Way allocates to the greatest needs in our community,” said Sato.

For Trejo, the allocations process was an eye-opener. “To see through allocations how money is used gives you perspective,” she said. “You are helping in the community.”

She likes that United Way is connected to so many local organizations — Big Brothers Big Sisters, Hearts of Gold, the woman’s shelter, children and elderly advocacy groups, and Meals on Wheels, to name a few. She also likes that 99 cents of every dollar raised helps local people.

“Ali says it’s not the amount you earn, it’s that every dollar counts,” said Trejo.

After her experience with allocations, Trejo took it upon herself to lead the United Way campaign at Diamond Fruit, said Church. “Serving on our allocations committee exposed her to the tremendous need in our community as she, and the rest of the committee, met directly with over 50 directors of core human service programs in the Gorge who were asking for funding to provide critical ‘basic need’ services,” said Church.

“I believe that Dinora’s experience on the allocations committee ignited the desire within her to lead the United Way campaign at Diamond Fruit.”

Trejo decided that, instead of asking Diamond’s employees to donate money, she would sell food and raffle tickets as a new way to raise funds. With a selected group of women — Juana and Paula Magana, Marcella Gallegos, Estelle Martinez, Gloria Lachino and Guadalupe Bruno (“I chose those people because they enjoy cooking, are great cooks, and like to help with United Way”) — and the blessings of CEO David Garcia and Manager Carla Bailey, she began a month-long food service using the company’s kitchen on the company’s time.

From Nov. 17 through Dec. 31, the kitchen produced posole, enchiladas, sopes, gorditas, tostadas, tacos, atole, and rice and beans. Trejo sold food at other packing houses in Odell and Parkdale, too. And in the end, between the food and raffle ticket sales, Trejo and her team raised a record $6,634.14 — up from around $1,000 last year.

Despite her success, she shies away from taking credit. “Credit is to be given where credit is deserved,” she said. “All employees contributed by buying what we are selling. Carla Bailey and Dave Garcia have been a big help spreading the word, supporting the cooks … it’s been a team effort.”

Trejo also credits the many donations she received from the community with the success of the campaign. Juanita’s in Pine Grove donated tortillas, chips and tostadas; Guadalajara’s Market in Hood River donated meat. She also received raffle items from El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant, and Church donated an Ixtapa gift certificate, too.

United Way was, of course, thrilled with the results.

“Dinora’s an inspiring example of a truly humble and compassionate person who, seeing the tremendous need in the Gorge, put her energy and heart into making a real difference,” said Church, “and the results of her efforts at Diamond Fruit are extraordinary! We are so thankful for people like her — caring, local people who unite with others to ignite positive change in our community.”

Trejo sees volunteering as a way to look beyond oneself.

“Volunteering is a great thing to do,” she said. “You look at your life … I live in my own little world. United Way helped me to realize there are bigger problems out there. My problems are not so big. It’s nice because sometimes we don’t realize that.”

Trejo has two daughters, 15-year-old Vanessa Olivias, a student at Hood River Valley High, and 19-year-old Perla Olivias, who attends Hawaiian Pacific University in Honolulu. Vanessa is following in her mother’s volunteer footsteps, working at the Odell FISH food bank site every Thursday.

“It’s very appealing to me to see she can do something like that,” Trejo said. “She enjoys it.”

In addition to her position at Diamond Fruit, Trejo has worked as a nursing assistant on the weekends at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital since 2007.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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