Maps Community Awards: Meet the Winners, Part III

Published September 7, 2023

 

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Each year, the Maps Community Foundation honors individuals in the community who are going above and beyond to “Make a Difference” in the Mid-Willamette Valley. The winners (who are nominated by someone in their community) are then given the opportunity to select a charity that will be awarded a $1,000 grant in their name. Here are the uplifting stories of our 2023 winners (part 3 of 4).
 

Antonio Dias and the Mid-Valley Literacy Center

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Grant winner: Antonio Dias (nominated by Vivian Ang)

About Dias’s chosen charity: The Mid-Valley Literacy Center (MVLC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was established in direct response to the needs of non-traditional adult English speakers and English language learners. Their mission is to empower adults with the literacy skills necessary to gain and sustain economic stability while improving their overall quality of life. They offer literacy programs as well as GED certification, citizenship classes, and basic computer courses to individuals from all backgrounds and races including the homeless, the incarcerated, and refugees.

Why Dias chose the Mid-Valley Literacy Center to receive the $1,000 grant: “I have learned about being a citizen there. They help so many people to learn so many things that are important to citizenship. They volunteer this service and are so nice.”

Dias’s give-back story: Dias—who currently attends a citizen preparation class at MVLC—volunteers to translate for adult students who can’t understand the instructor in English. He also offers assistance to fellow students when they have questions about the citizenship process. What’s more, at a recent gala dinner, Dias won a cash prize of over $550 and graciously donated it back to MVLC. After he receives his citizenship, Dias plans to continue his volunteer efforts with MVLC.

“Antonio’s willingness to help others is an inspiration to me personally and to others in the community,” says nominator Vivian Ang. “He always goes above and beyond the required and he motivates others to do their best…Antonio inspires generosity and makes a difference in the community. This is his attitude in every area of life.” 


 


Kat Lee and the Homeless Outreach & Advocacy Project at Northwest Human Services

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Grant winner: Kathleen "Kat" Lee (nominated by Ana Lopez)

About Lee’s chosen charity: The Homeless Outreach & Advocacy Project (HOAP) at Northwest Human Services offers safety and support for adults facing homelessness. They have been providing a hand up with resources (like laundry, showers, hygiene kits, meals, clothing, bus passes, health screenings, and activities) since 1986.  

Why Lee chose to receive the $1,000 grant:  “Every day I turn people away without meeting their needs because the supply is far less than what is needed. I could help twenty to thirty people a day with clean jeans, if I had them. This gift will go a long way towards giving people who struggle, living in dire conditions, a little taste of the things we take for granted. Clean clothes and a shower can make a huge difference in a life.”

Lee’s give-back story: Almost two decades ago, Lee owned a home and business in California, but fell victim to the economic collapse of 2008. Soon after, she found herself living on the streets and addicted to heroin. Fortunately, she got help from Northwest Human Services and was able to see firsthand how powerful a helping hand and safe haven can be. Now, Lee serves as a Day Center coordinator for HOAP, welcoming each person with grace, compassion, and empathy. Through her work, she has made countless unsheltered individuals feel loved and cared for.

Nominator Ana Lopez is one of those individuals. “While I was homeless, I was in active addiction and would utilize HOAP frequently. Through all this Kat never judged or treated me differently,” says Lopez. “Once I was sober, I began volunteering at HOAP and that’s when I was able to see what Kat did and how much she cared for everyone, not just me…If it wasn't for God putting Kat in my path, I know I wouldn't be where I am today.”


 


Carlee Wright and the Oregon Artists Series Foundation


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Grant winner: Carlee Wright- Maps member (nominated by Christine D'Arcy)

About Wright’s chosen charity: The Oregon Artists Series Foundation (OASF) is a non-profit that collaborates with the City of Salem and the Salem Convention Center to site public artworks throughout the downtown area. They pioneered the installation of over 13 public sculptures and were a key player in the development of both the outdoor Sculpture Court and the mayor’s art exhibitions at the Salem Convention Center. Since 2015, OASF has also presented an annual event to raise awareness of public art and to recognize key innovators and leaders in the Salem arts community.

Why Wright chose OASF to receive the $1,000 grant: “Public art enhances our community, creates a more vibrant environment, and engages visitors and residents alike. And one of the most impactful groups in Salem helping to secure, develop and promote art in public spaces is the Oregon Artists Series Foundation.”

Wright’s give-back story: According to her nominator, Christine D’Arcy, Wright is a self-described “community instigator.” In fact, the artist, designer, and former journalist serves on multiple boards that support and encourage culture and the arts in Salem and the greater Willamette Valley. Wright is well-known in the community as the publisher and creator of Press Play Salem, a website and magazine that covers the arts, entertainment, and culture across the region, but she is also known for organizing events like TEDx Salem and Make Music Salem. Wright was the co-founder of Cherry City Roller Derby and is the current secretary/treasurer for The Moxie Initiative, a community engagement organization that aims “to inspire people to embrace their unique and creative individuality while helping create a whole, connected community.”

“Carlee Wright is one of Salem’s biggest boosters” notes D’Arcy. “She sees Salem’s potential as Oregon’s capital city to use arts, culture and creativity to bring people together—to experience new and fun things, to celebrate Salem’s diversity, to discover new artists and nonprofits—and to talk about what makes Salem special and who the people are behind those efforts.”

 


Raul Marquez Guerrero and Pineros Y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN)


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Grant Winner: Raul Marquez Guerrero- Maps member (nominated by Joshue Fuentes Ventura)

About Guerrero’s chosen charity: Founded in 1985, the Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN) is one of the largest organizations representing Latinas and Latinos in Oregon. The organization, which is based in Woodburn, was created to amplify the voices of unfairly marginalized workers in the state. The non-profit is divided into three categories—a community building 501(c)3, a political action-focused 501(c)4, and a 501(c)5 labor union. Their work—which grew from the 1977 legal aid organization, the Willamette Valley Immigration Project (WVIP)—serves to strengthen a network of integrated Latinx individuals and organizations to improve the livelihood of all.

Why Guerrero chose PCUN to receive the $1,000 grant: “PCUN has been fundamental in the advocacy of farmworkers rights for over three decades and continues to expand their impact by serving farm workers and their families in various capacities. Over the years it has been a pleasure to witness, as a beneficiary of their work and as a volunteer, the number of ways PCUN helps create a better tomorrow for so many lives.”

Guerrero’s give-back story: Guerrero has been impacting Salem-Keizer communities since a very young age by volunteering for organizations like Causa and PCUN. As a student at McKay high school, Guerrero was moved by the story of a homeless girl named Taylor who died because she lacked a safe place to sleep. In response, he wrote to Oregon lawmakers and lobbied for the funds to open a shelter in Salem dedicated to housing homeless youth. He secured funds to form Taylor’s House, an emergency home that can accommodate up to 10 youth 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. While at Willamette University, Guerrero continued to make an impact through Alianza, an on-campus organization centered on Latinx culture that aims to empower the outer Latinx community in an effort to seek higher education. Guerrero is currently working as a real estate agent and provides services and education to underrepresented communities by helping them understand the home-buying process.

“Time and time again [Raul] puts his best effort toward impacting our Salem-Keizer communities in positive ways!” says nominator and Maps financial services officer, Joshue Fuentes Ventura. “He inspires me to continually find ways to help specific communities…Even outside of work he inspires me to do things for others and better help our local communities through different organizations and effort to make a positive impact.”



We have more amazing give-back stories to share with you in the coming days. These four individuals are just a few of the 17 Community Awards we gave out this year. In the meantime, click here to learn more about the Maps Community Foundation and discover what we are doing to ensure a healthy, vibrant life for our members and all of the residents in Willamette Valley basin. 

Just catching up? Meet more of our 2023 winners herehere, and here.  


 

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