As mentioned in a previous post, Adelante Mujeres is celebrating their 10 years of work with the local community by highlighting important individuals who have helped make the organization what it is today. Stories are published each week in the local News Times. This week's feature is about a family of volunteers, the Rickards, written by Charles Drummond.
"A Decade of Dedication"
As they prepare to celebrate their tenth anniversary this fall, the staff at Adelante Mujeres attributes much of the non-profit group’s success to the hundreds of volunteers who have stuffed envelopes, programmed computers, pitched tents at the Forest Grove Farmers Market, pulled weeds and performed dozens of other tasks from small to mighty.
Among them is a single family which has collectively booked several thousand hours of valuable service. Louise Rickard, her adult children Joelle and David Rickard and David’s wife, Alejandra Zavala Rickard, can all trace their work back to the very first days of Adelante Mujeres.
“I remember attending a July 4th party in 2002 at Sister Barbara Raymond’s home, which was doubling as the Adelante Mujeres office,” said David, who claims to be the first family member to volunteer with the organization. “I noticed their pair of older computers and a printer and I offered to get them networked and running better.”
As Adelante has grown, so has its reliance on David, a systems administrator for Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Cornelius, to keep the computer and phone systems humming.
Alejandra runs a close second to David when it comes to being involved in the early days of Adelante Mujeres. The pair had met while he was volunteering as an English tutor at Centro Cultural in Cornelius and Alejandra was one of the first people invited by Raymond and co-founder Bridget Cooke to be a member of the board of directors.
Alejandra, a medical assistant with Virginia Garcia at the Cornelius Primary Care Clinic, didn’t hesitate. “I wanted to be involved with my own community and to be able to help other Latinos become a contributing part of society,” she said.
Joelle Rickard served eight years on Adelante Mujeres’ board of directors, including a term as board president. Much of her motivation for volunteering, she said, comes from her mother, Louise, and her grandmother, Hazel Whalley.
Now a busy 37-year-old mother of two young children and a teacher in the Forest Grove School District, Joelle still finds time to be fully engaged with Adelante Mujeres programs.
One of the programs Joelle is most passionate about is Journey to College, the newest initiative within the Adelante Chicas program.
“Latino youth have the highest dropout rate in Oregon and even fewer Latino youth continue on to college,” she said. “Journey to College promotes a pro-college culture among Latino families.” As an advisor, Joelle is helping to strengthen the partnership with the local school districts and area colleges and universities.
Louise Rickard took an early retirement from a human resources position at Stimson Lumber Company in 2003. “I retired at age 58 after seeing too many employees wait until they were 65 and then drop dead a few years later,” she said. While she had always been active in community work, it was when David and Joelle left for college that she really became immersed.
"I was suffering from ‘empty nest’ syndrome,” she said. “Life had completely changed with no children at home. I could clean cupboards and be bored or I could get out and help make some positive changes.”
When asked what some of her responsibilities at Adelante Mujeres have been, she referred to herself as the “volunteer grunt.” She defined that job position as stuffing envelopes, filing, creating computer spreadsheets and doing whatever other chores needed to be done in the organization’s Forest Grove headquarters, as well as helping launch the popular farmers market.
“Back then I helped do anything that needed to be done with the exception of putting up and taking down the vendor booths,” she said. “That’s way too much for an old lady.”
Adelante Mujeres isn’t Louise’s only volunteer activity. One of her favorite jobs is sorting books at the Forest Grove library for annual book sales there. “I love opening donated boxes of books and discovering what’s inside,” she said.
Cooke, the executive director of Adelante Mujeres, said the family’s contributions are inspiring,
“You could say that the Rickards have service in their DNA,” Cooke said. “Their commitment to improving the lives of Latino families in this community is phenomenal.”