Blanca Huijon of Napa’s Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center wins a North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award
Professional background: I began my career as a community leader in Napa in 2007, serving as a school adviser for Migrant Education at Silverado Middle School and Vintage High School.
In 2010, I began my wonderful journey working at Puertas Abiertas as case mentor. After nine years as Case Mentor, in 2019, I had the opportunity to apply for the executive director position. My professional growth continues with this amazing organization and community.
Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in Chicano Latino Studies; minor in psychology, and grant writing certificate.
Number of staff: 6
Describe your organization: The mission of Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center is to work hand in hand with Napa’s Latinx community to inspire healthy lifestyles, self-sufficiency and opportunities for leadership and community engagement. We offer programs in five areas: education, health, wellness, social services, legal navigation, and civic engagement.
By implementing programs aligned with our mission, we will achieve our vision of having a healthy, integrated community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and where equitable access to services, resources, and civic participation leads to a life of fulfillment.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am an independent woman of color, daughter, sister, visionary organizer, and experienced advocate for the Latinx community.
I was born and raised in Mexico and immigrated to the United States when I was fourteen years old. I am the youngest of five children. My father is a retired farmworker and mother retired factory worker where she used to make sausages.
What is your role in the organization?
I have been the executive director of Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center since August 2019. I am responsible for the organization's health and sustainability as well as ensuring we address the needs of Napa Valley vulnerable community members.
I have the obligation to bring financial resources in innovative ways (grants and fundraising) to continue serving our community with varieties of competency cultural programs and social services, grow the PACRC team, and support our Latinx community regardless of their immigration status.
I manage all the organization finance with the support of our accountant/HR staff and oversee human resources.
Additionally, I supervise all the programs and activities with the help of our program director.
Overall, my commitment is to make an impact among those who are in need and make the changes in the structure of systematic racial inequality in order to provide accessible shelter, health, food, and clothing.
How has your organization been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Napa County’s Shelter-at-Home order issued to curb the spread of COVID-19 caused the cancellation of five events that would have generated a total of $40,000 for our organization.
We had to cancel our sixth annual Cinco de Mayo fundraiser scheduled for May 5, 2020. We had planned to offer a 5-course Mexican dinner, prepared by La Tocque’s Michelin-rated chef Ken Frank.
We have postponed the event until people feel comfortable dining indoors with a large group.
Since 2020 marks the 15th anniversary of the founding of Puertas Abiertas CRC, we were planning to host a Quinceañera gala this summer but had to postpone our celebration until 2021. We were supposed to have been a beneficiary of Discover Coombsville—A Grand Tasting Event, sponsored by the Coombsville Vintners & Growers.
The event was scheduled for April 13, 2020 but was canceled. We were honored to have been included as a beneficiary of the prestigious Hall Cabernet Cookoff, which was also canceled. The Cookoff has been rescheduled for April 24, 2021. We also had to cancel Tannery Bend Beerworks Drink and Dine.
Instead of benefiting from these planned fundraisers, we are partnering with Napa County wineries so our community can support Puertas Abiertas CRC through an initiative we call 15% for 15 years.
Five wineries have agreed that Puertas Abiertas CRC will receive 15% of sales from any wine that individuals purchase through our website. Proceeds from the 15% for 15 years will help us meet unprecedented needs for Napa’s Latino Community related to COVID-19 while we continue our day-to-day programming.
We have shifted our fundraising priorities to applying for COVID-19-specific grants that have become available since March 2020. To date, we have raised $109,140 through foundations and corporate giving programs to support our COVID-19 relief efforts and general operating expenses.
What are the ways your organization responded to increased demands for services, and fiscally, in what has your organization been forced to adjust?