Manager at Santa Rosa's Redwood Credit Union wins North Bay Latino business leadership award

Alma Magallon

Assistant manager, Member Service Center

Redwood Credit Union

3033 Cleveland Ave., Santa Rosa 95403


Quick takes

Words that best describe you: Generous, trustworthy, reliable, and passionate.

Current reading: “More than Ready” —Cecilia Munoz

Read about other winners of this year’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.

Some in the Latino community were not prepared for the pandemic financial crisis, said Alma Magallon of Redwood Credit Union, a 2020 winner of the Business Journal’s North Bay Latino Business Leadership Awards.

Professional background: Began working for RCU in 2010 as an entry level position in our member service center. I have been able to move up with in our organization as our lead trainer, then supervisor and now assistant manager

Education: Santa Rosa Junior College – associates degree, administration of justice; Sacramento State University, major: criminal justice; minor: sociology

Staff: I currently have 11 representatives who report to me.

Tell us your story and that of your organization: From an early point in my life I quickly realized that I loved to volunteer and to be involved in what was going on my community. Helping others is something that is truly rewarding, and something that became a passion of mine.

At one point I felt that a career in criminal justice would allow me the opportunity to work with our underserved youth. I pursued an education in this field, only to finish my schooling in 2008 when many parts of our county sectors had either hiring freezes or were laying off their employees.

I worked for a local nonprofit working with at risk youth, however funding soon became an issue and we had to close our doors.

It was at this point that I learned about RCU and the fact that they had a call center. Having call center experience, I decided to apply, thinking that this would be my temporary job until I could get my foot in the door back in the corrections field.

Ten years have gone by since then and I’m still here, and I can’t see myself working anywhere else. RCU is certainly much more than just a financial institution and our commitment to our community is what motivates me to come to work each day.

Here at RCU we truly believe in doing the right thing and our mission statement allows us to do what a CO-OP was built to do which is people helping people, and because of our values I have been able to continuously serve my community which has been and continues to be an important part of my life.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

The achievement that I am most proud of is being able to be part of Saint Joseph’s Community Building Initiatives program and meeting with their directors to explain why their services were extremely needed in the neighborhood of South Park. I have lived in South Park for over 30 years and have seen how what little resources we at one point did have are now completely gone.

Meeting with Saint Joseph’s and then having our neighborhood be selected as their new 3-year project has been extremely rewarding as I am part of the core team and can share my own personal experiences on growing up in this neighborhood.

We are working to have that collective voice that has lacked over the years and bring our neighborhoods concerns to our city council. We are providing our neighborhood residents the opportunities to get involved and we are working to bring in resources to our community and to our children.

I am now raising my own family in this neighborhood and I refuse to let my children be labeled by our law enforcement, by our school systems, and by our society because of where we live. To be able to be part of a movement to change the stigma South Park has had over the years is something I am extremely proud of.

What is your biggest challenge today?

Not having enough time.

Working full time, having two little ones, one of which is doing distance learning, being part of the South Park CBI core team and being part of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce can at times feel overwhelming and when our community faces challenges such as the recent fires, it depends on volunteers to get through these hardships.

Not having the time to help when our community needs us, is what I see as a challenge because I want to help in any way that I can.

However, being able to prioritize my responsibilities and volunteer at events where I can bring my son with me is how I have been able to work through this challenge, and reminding myself that even the smallest act of kindness can have a huge impact on someone’s life.

What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of the area Latino business community and what are the greatest challenges faced by that community?

I am proud to see our Latino businesses come together and give back to our community.

Our county has been impacted time and time again by fires, power outages, and even floods. I have seen firsthand how giving our Latino business owners have been and have seen how quickly they have responded to make sure that our first responders have a warm meal and that those individuals who have been evacuated can enjoy a freshly prepared lunch or dinner.

It is their commitment to our community that reinforces the importance of supporting local businesses. They truly depend on us just as much as we depend on them.

The greatest challenge faced by our Latino business from what I have seen is the fact that many were not prepared to endure the financial hardships that this pandemic has brought upon us.

Here is where I see the biggest opportunity in further assisting our Latino business owners, from helping their businesses become innovative to encouraging our business owners to think strategically on how they can shift their business model to meet the needs of our community and to be in compliance with the counties ordinances.

Words that best describe you: Generous, trustworthy, reliable, and passionate.

As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

Growing up in a very traditional Mexican family, I feel that at times my biggest obstacle has been not meeting my mother’s expectations of what in her eyes is a traditional mother and wife.

Choosing to pursue a higher education was not something that my parents had planned for, and being the only girl of four children. I know it pushed our cultural traditions when I let them know that I would be moving to Sacramento to go to school.

Now having a career where I am in management in what we call the corporate world is something that at times requires I work longer hours than your typical 8 to 5 p.m. work day which then leaves little to no time to cook a meal for my family as perhaps as what she would expect or to maintain a perfectly clean home.

I am very fortunate that my husband is very supportive and understands my workload and supports me in all the work that I do in our community, and so these expectations have become nonexistent in my personal life.

Although at times this does feel like a personal obstacle, I know that I am not alone in having these feelings.

I have been very fortunate to work with other successful Latina professionals who have felt the burden of these same expectations and I have realized that we are leading the way for the next generation.

We are setting the example that Latinas can pursue a higher education, that you can be a business owner, that you can have a career in the corporate world and that you can find a balance between all of this and still be proud of your cultural traditions and you can find a way to incorporate these in your lifestyle the way that you see best.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

As the needs of our community change, I know that Redwood Credit Union will accommodate the way we serve our community to meet its needs.

In the next five years I look forward to the opportunity to continue to provide financial education to our community and to our business owners. I intend to continue to build and expand my relationships with our Latino Business community in where I can partner with them to provide financial assistance for their business needs through the products and services that RCU has to offer.

Who was your most important mentor?

One of my most important mentors has been my SRJC School Counselor Rafael Vasquez.

Rafael has been and continues to be an advocate for Latino students as the Extended Opportunity Program and Services Outreach Specialist.

I was very fortunate to work alongside him at Routes For Youth, a juvenile diversion program, where Rafael was the coordinator for their programs working with at risk youth.

Rafael is an active volunteer and speaker in the Latino Community, He works diligently with our students with MECHA both at SRJC and at Sonoma State.

He has his own radio show at KBBF called “lideres del Futuro” where he discusses important topics that are impacting our community.

Tell us about your community involvement: I am currently the vice president for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and I have been actively involved with our chamber for five years now.

I am part of the Saint Joseph’s Community building initiatives work group here in South Park.

This has been my third year helping and planning our South Park Day and night festival, an event that has been ongoing in our neighborhood for 12 years which helps promote the importance of unity amongst our neighbors.

I am an active board member for a new nonprofit called Small Business Hardship Fund, which is dedicated to helping small businesses via micro grants to help get them through the financial hardships that we are seeing with the pandemic and with the fires.

It’s a challenging time for all but the COVID-19 virus has been especially tough on the Latino community. Tell us your experience either personally or with the group or company you work with in dealing with the economic impact of the virus.

We understand that one of the challenges our Latino community has experienced is the lack of access to information due to the digital divide.

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has worked diligently with boots on the ground to get our business owners the information that they need in order for their business to be in compliance with our county’s ordinances.

We have gone out and personally delivered the required signage and the required guidelines in order for our businesses to stay open and or to re-open. We have partnered with other organizations to ensure that our business owners have access to masks and other needed PPE items.

We have partnered with different outlets to help us share the needed information such as Poder de Saber, and online talk show, as well as with the radio Station Exitos.

Most recently we partnered with Sonoma County Job link to provide COVID19 training to business owners. These trainings provide the necessary structure for their businesses to be in compliance to help spread this virus and it also prepares our business owners on what to do if an employee were to test positive.

We continue to work with our partners at SBDC and with their assistance we have been able to provide workshops to help our business owners during these times. The work that we do in our Latino community is important and the partnerships that we have been able to create throughout this journey has been amazing.

What are the lessons of this difficult year – including the COVID-19 virus, the economic downturn and the fires – for you and how has it changed your outlook for the future?

To be prepared.

In every way shape and form because we never know what can happen. Having a plan and thinking ahead of time of how we can handle a worst-case scenario allows us to start working on that now.

Everything from, what if my spouse gets laid off, to what is our plan if we must evacuate and even topics such as how will my work life balance be impacted if my child cannot return to school. These are all things that we perhaps haven’t put too much thought into and sadly for some of us all three of these situations have happened simultaneously.

In addition to being prepared, one of the lessons I have personally learned from this experience is the importance of advocating for others.

It’s understanding that if something does not look right, if something does not seem fair, that you speak up and say something. We have a social responsibility to ensure that our community is provided equal access to resources and that decisions are made looking through the lens of equity. This is certainly going to be an ongoing lesson that I intend to continue to fight for.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Hector Velazquez owner and CEO of Nexo Media.

I admire Hector’s vision and his passion to grow his business to where he can fully serve our community. He has pushed me to go beyond my comfort zone and has made me realized that I am capable of so much more. He has been a great partner in all the work that I have done and I look forward to what the future hold for him.

Alma Magallon

Assistant manager, Member Service Center

Redwood Credit Union

3033 Cleveland Ave., Santa Rosa 95403


Quick takes

Words that best describe you: Generous, trustworthy, reliable, and passionate.

Current reading: “More than Ready” —Cecilia Munoz

Read about other winners of this year’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.

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