LATINX + PHILANTHROPY: Felicita Monteblanco

What a month it has been! I am officially one year (and one month) into my philanthropy career after having always been on the nonprofit/grantee side. While switching sectors during a pandemic brought unique challenges, I am thankful for the opportunities that have presented themselves and that I was ready for. One of those opportunities was a job posting for a Public Affairs Manager at Northwest Health Foundation (NWHF), an organization I have long-admired.

As I celebrate my own professional milestone, I also am looking forward to another meaningful celebration for me and many in our community: Hispanic Heritage Month. September welcomes this important celebration of the Latinx community and its history, contributions and successes.

My father came to the U.S. from Peru with his family in the 1980s. Like every kid with an immigrant parent, I have been on my own personal journey to embracing my roots and identity. With age came a deep desire to connect and lift others, and to celebrate all the ways Latinx individuals shape communities. “Oregon is so white” – says who!? That is certainly not my lived experience. Growing up, my Sundays were spent eating arroz con pollo with lots of cousins. My large, boisterous family spends Christmas Eve together and at midnight we walk around the house hugging every single family member and saying “¡Feliz Navidad!” It wasn’t until I was older that I learned most of y’all don’t even have fun traditions on Christmas Eve!

For most of my adult life, I have self-identified as a change-maker, and my identity as both a Latina and a change-maker are inextricably linked. I desire progressive change and spend my energy lifting up policies and leaders who fight for immigrant rights, reproductive justice, and voting access. My 9-5 and my volunteer work connect to my desire to keep my family and friends safe and healthy.

That is why I ran for office, becoming the first Latina and youngest woman elected to the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District. It is why I got up early this week to testify before the legislature about redistricting. It is why I host a quarterly Latinx Social Hours with local Latinx leaders to discuss issues relating to social justice. My desire to create change and fight for my community guides everything I do.

And that is why I want to work in philanthropy, especially at NWHF. Most of my volunteer work is hyperlocal. I live in Washington County – one of the most diverse counties in the state with a large population of Latino families. Some have been here for decades, like my family, while others are new community members. I am so excited to be part of the “big picture” work at NWHF to fund growing C4s to build power across the state. This includes groups like PCUN, Causa, Latino Network, Washington County Ignite and more, who all ensure our communities of color register to vote, engage in elections and run for office!

Starting a new job during a pandemic can be a bit lonely, but when I am having a tough day at work, I find a video or podcast with Carmen Rojas of the Marguerite Casey Foundation to get my head “back in the game.” In the Pacific Northwest, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by leaders of color in philanthropy; whether they realize it or not, they lift me up, inspire me and keep me motivated. But I know there is more to do to ensure a diverse workforce in this field. I’m too new to think I have all the solutions, but I’m hopeful that my same desire to lift up and connect will benefit my new sector and the next generation of Latinx philanthropic leaders.

– Felicita Monteblanco