As one of the only local family resource centers run by a Latina, Puertas Abiertas Executive Director Blanca Huijon strives to stand up for her community in all aspects of life.
ESL workshops, help with job applications, DACA briefings and help with tax filing are just a few of the services offered by the organization, although staff consider themselves less as a collector of paperwork and more as an accompaniment.
“We are not here to judge people,” Huijon said. “We are there to help them and to help them move forward in their lives. “
Puertas Abiertas was first established as a non-profit organization in 2005, and since then has provided a variety of health, social and educational services to residents of Napa County.
In 2021 alone, Puertas’ small but powerful team was able to provide more than 3,600 community members with necessary services such as food assistance, legal navigation and targeted relief against natural disasters and COVID- 19. Customers can also stop with something as simple as wanting to learn to navigate on their iPhone.
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“It can be something crucial and essential for them, so we are happy to help them and provide them with reliable resources and to follow up with them and not just give them information,” Huijon said.
Programming in Puertas has been complicated by COVID-19 restrictions, but Huijon and her staff were able to help clients adjust to meetings on Zoom or in their outdoor courtyard. Typically, however, people can just stop by for any questions or concerns.
“We try to offer a compassionate and warm welcome to families, and that is why they come back often, even though they have been through their great struggle,” said Puertas Development Administrator Esmeralda Gil. “They’ll always come back for something simple… Or they’ll just call to say hello and check on how we’re doing.”
Puertas offers a plethora of workshops for community members, covering topics such as financial literacy, computer skills, college preparation, senior support, civic engagement, and focused personal care. empowerment and sharing of accessible information.
“The workshops are definitely crucial for Puertas as it is part of our mission to help make our community self-reliant and empower it,” said Alejandra Quintana, case mentor for Puertas. “So with these workshops, educational workshops on labor law or whatever, we’re really trying to give the community the opportunity to learn and provide them with the tools to be successful. “
The themes of these workshops vary from year to year and are entirely based on the requests of their clients.
“We are following the needs presented to us by our community, so if we see a trend of people coming a lot for something, we will think about how we can provide the tools and give them what they need to be successful. get out of it, “Gil said.
For example, Quintana was able to forge a relationship with the Napa Farmers Market to fill gaps in accessible products.
“Our families have the opportunity to get $ 100 for three weeks to buy fruits and vegetables here at the local farmers market, and that’s good because we can not only help our families and put food on their tables. , but also support local businesses at the same time, ”she said.
Another example is the popular La Cultura Cura workshop, which is essentially a trauma-focused psycho-education workshop focused on community and the importance of culture. Last year, the La Cultura workshops were held virtually, but the screens did not detract from the impact of the meetings.
“We got a psychotherapist to lead these workshops, and they were really powerful because I think during the pandemic a lot of trauma and things from childhood people happened because they were often alone during the pandemic. day, ”Gil said. “I was there every Friday just to help out, but I think it was really necessary. We still have a lot of ladies calling and asking when we’re going to do the next one.
“It was about healing through your culture, so using your culture to heal, but also learning to heal your culture and the generational cycles,” Gil explained. “It was very powerful to see how the participants reflected and how they recognized the generational cycles that they now want to break so that they don’t pass it on to their children, and I think that’s where a start begins. lasting change for the families. “
Likewise, work issues are a constant concern of Puertas, as many of their clients have been, knowingly or unknowingly, exploited for fear of persecution or simply for lack of information.
“Labor issues are one of the things our Latin community knows we’re here for,” Huijon said. “There is still a lot of injustice in Napa, [and] we’ve seen these cases that people think don’t exist anymore.
“People take advantage of [the community] because they just don’t know their rights.
So, Huijon, Gil, Quintana and the rest of the team continue to work not only to defend their community, but also to show them how to use the voice they already have. 87 percent of Puertas’ clients last year are below the U.S. poverty line, and as we head into another year in the midst of a pandemic, deeper systemic issues are proving to be problematic.
“We try to provide a holistic service, so even if they just come to be referred to another agency, through our admissions process and just sitting down with them and talking to them, we see what we can do. else to help them, ”Gil said.
“We’re not just familiar faces,” Huijon said. “We have empathy and trust in our community because we have had these experiences and these struggles, and that is why we are always open to dealing with different cases.”
The large community of Napa also recognizes the importance of Puertas.
“Puertas Abiertas is the go-to trusted entity for the Latinx population of Napa County,” said Michelle Laymon, community investment manager for Napa Valley Vintners. “This pandemic has demonstrated the invaluable value of having an accurate and up-to-date source of information for members of the Latinx community… I am particularly impressed with their self-reliance and education courses.”
As the main source of charitable giving in the valley, NVV is proud to have Puertas as a partner organization providing services with the help of their philanthropic donations.
“Their life skills courses offer individuals the opportunity to change their future and that of their children through English as a second language, basic computer skills, civic education and financial literacy,” said Laymon. “The acquired skills translate into professional skills, increased commitment to their child’s education and access to other health and safety services. “
For Nancy Weiss, this outside look at Puertas’ commitment to the community was enough to involve her within the organization’s board of directors.
“Before joining the PA Board of Directors, I had first hand experience of the need for better outreach and better service to the Latino community,” Weiss said.
“During the 2014 earthquake, I worked at the City of Napa Local Assistance Center and saw first-hand the need for a partnership with local government and a central organization to help to raise awareness, coordinate and provide resources to the Latino community, ”Weiss said.
“Puertas has been an excellent partner in this effort… [They] had the credibility and confidence of the Latino community which was essential to communicate emergency information and distribute resources quickly and efficiently.
Puertas Abiertas promotes self-reliance and healing in the Latin community of Napa
Puertas Abiertas Staff
Statue outside Puertas Abiertas
Outside the Puertas Abiertas building
You can reach Sam Jones at 707-256-2221 and firstname.lastname@example.org.