A desk full of administrative paperwork.
A line forming in the foyer, 10 minutes before opening.
That describes a typical Tuesday for Milagros Aparicio, who gets her three children off to school and then prepares to see clients on behalf of the Latino Community Association at its Bend office.
Aparicio believes, "By working at the association, I am not only empowering the Latino community in Bend, but my own family. I try to learn as much as possible from each client, community partner and volunteer... I want my kids to have the same opportunity as anyone else, graduate college and follow their dreams."
First moving to Oregon in 2000 from Los Angeles, LCA recruited Aparicio to volunteer in 2005. By 2015 she was a part-time employee and eventually gained the crucial title of client services coordinator. Aparicio also generously shares her expertise volunteering in similar capacities at her children's school and church.
LCA's clients and community have needs ranging from the translation of legal documents to advocacy with employers, lawyers, neighbors and landlords. Aparicio taps a vast Rolodex of allies, volunteers and professionals to match each person's need with a path to resolution. Depending on the need, it can take months—with high stakes.
Aparicio recalls a recent situation in which a landlord was harassing a tenant, asking to see the tenant's Social Security card—even though it's illegal to discriminate against tenants based on national origin. Aparicio encounters scenarios like that multiple times a week. Between possible language barriers and the power imbalances that can come from shortages in rental housing, she says entire families are sometimes forced to move—even in spite of laws designed to protect renters.
Between clients, Aparicio arranges activities for LCA youth to explore the larger community, including overseeing the Amiguitos (little friends) summer youth program, now in its second year. She's also forged partnerships with Oregon Natural Desert Association, the Tower Theatre, Deschutes Public Library, Cascades School of Music, the Environmental Center, KPOV, 2nd Street Theater and Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe, to name a few.
Through these partnerships, LCA youth learn about public lands, creative arts, how to paddle whitewater and more. The LCA and Aparicio are also unwavering in their gratitude to community partners such as Bend Immigration Group, Larson Immigration Group, Coffman Vision Clinic and Financial Beginnings.
To seek out and maintain relationships with so many organizations and people on behalf of her community, Aparicio is a born community builder in the truest sense. Although she has already proven herself as a professional, Aparicio dreams of the day she can go back to college and "have a career" because she believes, "education is the best tool to success."
Outside of translation and advocacy, LCA also hosts ongoing English and technology classes, health services, and the beloved annual fall Festival of Cultures. For 12 years, with additional offices in Redmond, Madras and Prineville, LCA has worked to advance its mission to empower Latino families to thrive.
According to U.S. Census data, between 2010 and 2015, the Latino population in Deschutes County has grown 18.6 percent. This growth has brought prosperity. Aparicio explains, "Many Latinos contribute to the community as business owners and in industries that may otherwise be short staffed, like manufacturing and labor."
Currently the LCA is looking for volunteers in various capacities, including community partners for programs—especially around education and recreation in snow sports.