Donna Zapata of Santa Rosa’s Redwood Credit Union has won one of North Bay Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Tell us your story and that of your organization:
I’ve lived in Sonoma County my whole life. I grew up in a family of nine children. I am second to the oldest. Prior to working at Redwood Credit Union I worked as Executive Director for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Sonoma County for four years. I also worked for Hewlett-Packard/Agilent for 30 years as a Program/Project Manager. I am going on my 5th year with Redwood Credit Union and am enjoying every minute here. Each day is a gift for me. I am able to reach out to our businesses and community to share all the benefits RCU offers to help people with their money! To be able to provide a solution to help someone understand their financial picture and to make it better is the best job I have ever had. To be able to see smiles on faces of those that I interact with daily is key. This is what keeps me going each day… positively making a difference in the lives of our members is a wonderful feeling.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?:
I was extremely honored to receive the Hall of Fame award from the California Hispanic Chamber this year – and even better was having my Nina (godmother) Charlotte at the event to celebrate with me!
What is the achievement you are most proud of?:
The opportunity to help people in our community and make a difference in their lives every day is something I get to be proud of every day.
What is your biggest challenge today?:
I wish I could be two people so that I could help support even more financial education efforts, and share the “RCU magic” at more community events
Words that best describe you: Kind, passionate and focused.
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?:
I’m the type of person who wants to help everyone all the time — but it’s just not realistic, so my biggest challenge is not saying “yes” to everything! Prioritizing is important, and I try to focus on efforts that will have the biggest impact and reach in helping others.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?:
With the continued focus on promoting financial literacy we will be able to help more people in our communities. That is exciting to me!
Who was your most important mentor?:
My most important mentor was my grandmother Cenobia Reyes. She was the kindest and smartest woman who I admired greatly. She gave so much of herself to support and encourage me.
Tell us about your community involvement:
I’m very involved in the local Chambers and Hispanic Chambers in Sonoma and Napa, and I love supporting financial literacy efforts, like partnering with our branch managers to present money management workshops at local nonprofits such as La Luz in Sonoma, and COPE Family Services. I’ve served by appointment of Senator Mike McGuire on the Sonoma County Human Rights Commission, and also on the Press Democrat Leadership Program. I’ve been a mentor for the Mariposa program—a violence and substance abuse prevention program of the Napa County Office of Education, and I’ve also served on the Sonoma County Advisory Council for Sunny Hills Services, which helps vulnerable youth and their families develop healthy relationships and fulfilling lives. I love helping people achieve a better life!
What advice would you give to a young person today?: Stay focused, and find and follow your passion!
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Dr. Carlos Garcia with Kaiser Permanente
Current reading: The Alchemist (for the 3rd time) and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Most want to meet: Carlos Santana
Stress-relievers: Visiting with my two grandsons, Anthony Jr. and Elijah, and enjoying the ocean.
Favorite hobbies: Working on my Victorian dollhouse that I am building - I am including electricity!
Is there something we didn’t ask that you would like to add?:
My cultural background is Mexican. I was born in Cloverdale 62 years ago. The cultural roots that have been handed down to me by my elders are my strength in all that I do.