Our Team

Philip Garrison | Founder

Philip Garrison founded APOYO in 1995. Minerva López-Caples and Stella Moreno were early sources of patience and good advice. Garrison, born in Springfield, MO, is the grandson of an Idaho homesteader and an Irish immigrant. Before retirement, he taught literature and writing courses at CWU, as well as at universities in Mexico and Central America. He is the author of five essay collections about life along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Board Members

Teodora Moreno Guzmán | President

Teodora Moreno Guzmán is a community health worker at Kittitas County Health Network. She has been meeting needs and responding to disparities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. She works closely with families in our community offering the COVID-19 vaccine to the Latino population. This service is creating a way to break down barriers so that everyone has equal access to resources and services in the community. She seeks inclusion and equity for all immigrants. She tries to gain knowledge by attending networking meetings with local organizations to be able to educate the community about disease prevention. Teodora graduated from the Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero’s Faculty of Medicine in 1992. She worked as a doctor in the mountain area of ​​the state of Guerrero, Mexico in marginalized and impoverished areas. She has lived in Ellensburg since 2007. Teodora always likes to motivate peers around her and brighten people’s days. In her free time, she enjoys reading books, poetry, writing, listening to music, spending time at home, and cooking with her family.

Leo Acevedo | Donations Manager

Leonel Acevedo is APOYO’s Donations Manager. Born in Mexico City, the youngest of eight children, he came to the US when he was 19. He worked in the fields for five years, then became a truck driver and provides pruning and tree cutting services. He has worked with APOYO since 1995. He loves working for APOYO because it enables him to serve the Latinx community, and he’s excited about the growth and transformation of the organization. He enjoys reading, working outdoors, and spending time with his family.

Fatima Andraca | Secretary

Since volunteering at APOYO’s food pantry in 2021, Fatima has been deeply grateful for the organization and its community. She’s currently pursuing two degrees in Sociology and Public Health with a focus on Population Health at Central Washington University. Her dedication to tackling social determinants of health and promoting equity has propelled her into leadership roles, including on the board of directors. During her spare time, she enjoys the Pacific Northwest’s hiking trails, baseball games, and journaling. 

Jesus Erasto-Garcia | Treasurer

Jesus Erasto-Garcia began his work with APOYO in the fall of 2021. He served as APOYO’s administrative assistant and Amigos Atléticos program director while also studying at Central Washington University. After graduating from CWU, he moved back to Western WA to attend graduate school at the University of Washington. He obtained his B.A. in Spanish with a minor in Teaching English as a Second Language/Bilingual Education and is now pursuing his Master’s in Teaching to ultimately teach Spanish at the Junior High/High school level. When he’s not busy with graduate school, he enjoys running, cycling, cooking, traveling, and watching anime. 

Mercy Gipson

Mercy Gipson was born on the Northernmost island of the Philipines, Luzon. She is the seventh of 11 children. Her father was a farmer and was fortunate to have lots of children to help with the farm. Mercy attended school through the middle of her second year of high school. Her formal education was interrupted by the imposition of martial law by the Marcos regime. This made it impossible to finish her studies. Instead, she helped her aunts and uncles work their farms. As a teenager, she worked in markets, buying and selling produce from the farms and worked in a restaurant in San Jose as a restaurant cook. At the age of seventeen she married and had three daughters before separating from her abusive husband. She was able to find work as a coiffeur and a seamstress in a garment factory before going to Manila. In Manila she managed and cooked for a large boarding house lodging 62 post-graduate students in the area around the University of Santo Tomas. A good friend helped her get a job working as a nanny in Saudi Arabia.She had the privilege of traveling with the Saudi family in Europe each autumn. She came to the United States and married. Her second husband had an electrical engineering degree from the University of Washington, had a construction business, and worked as a real estate broker. They had two daughters together. One is a University of Washington graduate and the other joined the Navy and has served for nine years. After eight years together, Mercy got bored and landed a job at the UW as a cafeteria manager. With her tuition waiver, she got her GED. She then became a certified nursing assistant. Her husband died from cancer. She began a third chapter of her life with her third husband. They met at UW, where they worked. They retired to Ellensburg and began volunteering at APOYO. In addition, Mercy loves gardening, cooking, sewing, and spending time with family. She’s grateful to have everyone at APOYO as part of her family.

Bernadette Jungblut | CWU Faculty Liaison

Bernadette Jungblut is a Professor of Political Science at Central Washington University.  She has worked in higher education for more than 20 years in a variety of positions.  For her, the most important and enjoyable work has been developing and implementing programs for first-in-the-family in college, lower-income students, and students of color – and working with programs that support traditionally underserved student populations such as TRiO Student Support Services and the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Scholars Program. She earned her Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Political Science from Rice University in Houston, Texas, and her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Binghamton University in New York. Before pursuing her doctoral degree, Bernadette served as an aide in the New York State Attorney General’s Office in Binghamton coordinating the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau. She has also worked in the private sector researching and co-authoring monographs on the political systems, domestic political and economic conditions, and foreign relations of various states. As the first person in her family to go to college, her current research focuses on higher education policy-making and strategies for addressing the many challenges colleges and universities face in serving the needs of students, faculty, staff, and surrounding communities. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, reading, cooking (or trying to cook) new dishes, and spending time with her husband and three cats.

Ivan Miron | CWU Student Liaison

Ivan was born in Texcoco Mexico, and grew up in Othello, Washington. He is a Biology Major at Central Washington University. Ivan began to get involved at APOYO through the APOYO Community Cup as a Volunteer during the Fall Quarter of 2023.

It is through this first involvement at the APOYO Community Cup that helped Ivan meet his friends and find his community at Central Washington University. 

Rex Wirth | Food Services Director

Rex grew up in Ogden, Utah, the eldest of nine siblings. He retired in 2019 after working for 36 years as a professor of political science at CWU and, before that, at Lambuth College. Service as an LDS missionary in Belgium and France, and then as a Marine in the Vietnam war, were also formative experiences. 

Staff Members

David Avalos-Martinez | Health and Wellness Director

David is a Senior majoring in Clinical Physiology with a minor in physical rehabilitation at CWU. David is also the recruiter of CWU MEChA. David loves spending his free time immersed in soccer, passionately supporting Cruz Azul, and never missing a match. He is happy to be part of APOYO, offering assistance to community members who have gone through similar experiences.

Carmen Barajas | Food Acquisition and Distribution Director

Carmen Barajas was born in Tamazula in Jalisco, Mexico, and grew up in Contla, Jalisco. She has lived in Ellensburg since 1995. When she first came to Washington, she worked in agriculture in the orchards. She then dedicated herself full-time to her children and family and later worked for the Nordstrom family for many years. There she acquired an interest in landscaping. She has her own business now, which includes offering landscaping and housekeeping services. In her spare time, she likes to be with her family and do outdoor activities such as four-wheeling and hiking. She loves coordinating APOYO’s food delivery service because it offers her the opportunity to interact with and serve the community – and drive the APOYO van!

Cristian Caballero | Food Services Assistant

Cristian was born and raised in Central Washington and is a student at CWU pursuing a career in music and accounting. He spends most of his day working on homework, practicing his saxophone, or at APOYO. In his free time, Cristian enjoys dirt biking, video games, and spending time with friends and family. What Cristian loves most about APOYO is giving back to the community he grew up in and meeting new people.

Gerardo Castillo | Food Services Assistant

Gerardo was born and raised in California, specifically the Bay Area. He is pursuing a bachelor’s in Apparel Textiles and Merchandising with a double minor, in apparel design and digital marketing at CWU. He also serves as the Director of Student Life and Facilities under the ASCWU student government. When not in his office, you can find him working on his business or training in mixed martial arts. What he loves about his recent employment at APOYO is the ability to practice selflessness while building community relationships.

Alondra Gomez Licea | Office Manager

Alondra is from a small town in the lower Yakima Valley. She is a first-generation Mexican Central Washington University student, double majoring in Public Health and Spanish translation services. Growing up always translating for her parents, pushed her to want to do it as a career. She strives to give back to the community that she grew up in by working as a Medical Interpreter in the future. In her free time, she enjoys spending quality time with friends and family.

Mary Cruz Ramirez Pulido | Warehouse Manager

Mary Cruz was born and raised in Jalisco, Mexico. She moved to the United States in 2016. She enjoys meeting new people, places, and cultures. Her favorite pastime activities include going on walks, listening to music, and dancing! She is entirely thankful for APOYO. Since hearing of APOYO, she’s known that the organization provides outreach to the community. Joining the team has allowed her to see all the hard work it takes from everyone to contribute to the organization’s purpose. For her, being part of APOYO is more than a job. It allows her to continue meeting our community and help out every day more and more. “¡Gracias APOYO!”

Jessica Whelan | Dietetics Consultant

Jessica Whelan is the daughter of two Mexican immigrants and grew up working in the orchards alongside her parents. After graduating high school she moved to Utah, then attended BYU-I in Idaho. Jessica is currently a senior and soon-to-be grad student at Central Washington University, where she studies food science and nutrition. She loves serving the community and hopes to become a Registered Dietitian, specializing in working with the Hispanic population. In her leisure time, she enjoys watching all the Star Wars movies and shows, dancing, and re-doing old furniture with her husband.

Stefanie Wickstrom | Executive Director

Stefanie Wickstrom has worked with APOYO since 2001 and has served as APOYO’s Executive Director since 2020. She lived in Tucson growing up, and then studied and taught at the University of Arizona and Pima Community College. Living in the borderlands and a South Tucson neighborhood and studying Mexican and Indigenous revolutionaries and activists shaped her awareness of justice. In Tucson and Eugene, Oregon, in the 1990s, she worked with nonprofits dedicated to protecting human and civil rights of Central American refugees and im/migrants from elsewhere in Latin America. She has had opportunities to live and study in Mexico, Chile, Panama, and Spain. She has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Oregon and offers classes from time to time at CWU. Cooking, gardening, and watching her children grow up keep her sane.

Interns

Kivima Acevedo | Health & Wellness Intern

Kivima was born in Everett, WA, and raised in Marysville, WA. She’s currently attending Central Washington University to obtain her Bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition with a specialization in dietetics and a minor in Spanish. After graduation, she would like to focus her studies and offer help to the Hispanic community. In the winter of 2023, she became a volunteer because of how impressed she was with how much APOYO had to offer to their community. Since then, she has joined our team and helped contribute to our efforts. During her free time, she likes to cook new recipes, go on walks, spend time with her family, and binge-watch a good show.