This week’s Woman Crush Wednesday goes out to Lilieth Armenta, Program and Mission Manager for the Sunshine Division and passionate volunteer.
Lili came to the United States – Gilroy, California – from her native Costa Rica 35 years ago. While in college, she found a job at a family-owned restaurant. She worked her way up from dishwasher to hostess to bussing tables to waiting on tables, all while learning a foreign language. One auspicious day, one of Lili’s regular customers offered her a job, as a life-skills trainer for patients suffering brain damage. The customer was the company’s director. Lili balked at first – she was scared of her lack of experience working with folks who were having to re-learn basic life skills – but the director said, “Lili, I have faith in you. You can do it!” And do it she did, for four years, until an injury forced her to step aside. While recovering, she continued her outreach in the Hispanic community, which she’d been doing for years. She started her church’s very first Hispanic youth group while she was working at the restaurant. Clearly Lili has always had leadership qualities! When she was fully recovered and able to work full-time again, a priest at her church approached her about a job as program manager with St. Joseph’s Family Center, the largest food pantry in Santa Clara County. History repeated itself! Lili asked him, “What makes you think I can do that?” And just like her former restaurant customer, he responded “I know you can do it!” She spent 15 years running the center, its thrift stores and programs helping folks in need with food, clothing vouchers, and furniture. She left to support a sick family member who lived here in Oregon – he recovered, and Lili ended up staying – as a nature lover, beautiful Oregon was and is a great fit for her!
Lili volunteered for the Susan G. Komen foundation before ultimately landing at the Sunshine Division. In her current role as Program and Mission Manager, she manages the food pantries, which have been busier than ever in the past several weeks. The stress and strain the pandemic has had on folks in need is immense. Every week, Lili and her team distribute food boxes to anyone who needs them. She also coordinates the summer food boxes, Thanksgiving food boxes, and holiday food boxes. In addition, she does a staggering amount of outreach, connecting the Sunshine Division to more than 100 social service groups, schools, churches and governmental agencies. She coordinates Izzy’s Kids “Shop with a Cop” program – self-explanatory – and “Shop with a Hawk” – where Portland WinterHawks players take elementary school kiddos shopping.
Lili inspires us not only because of the great work she does (she’s also a passionate volunteer, donating her time to a number of organizations, providing Spanish translation and other important work), but also for her enthusiasm for opportunities. When she sees an opportunity, she grabs it. Even if she thinks she CAN’T do something – she gives it a try. So take a cue from Lili and TRY – and of course, always try your best!