Phillip 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.
Alex Mandujano | Community Outreach Coordinator
Alex Mandujano came to the U.S at age fifteen. He spent fifteen years working in agriculture, including reforestation work after damage caused by the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. In 1990, he began college. After attending YVCC, he transferred to CWU to complete his bachelor of science degree in biology and chemistry. After graduation, he worked as a science technician (also at CWU). In addition to his regular workload, he offered science tours to potential students, with a special emphasis on encouraging minority students. After 11 years, he left to work as an administrative interpreter for the Grant County Superior Court in Ephrata for a year and went on to work for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries as a safety inspector. He now has his own consulting business. He has been a proud member of APOYO for the past fifteen years. In addition to this work, his other service work in the community includes serving as an English/Spanish facilitator. Alex has three sons, two who grew up in Ellensburg.
Hope Amason | CWU Faculty Liaison & Secretary-Treasurer
Hope Amason is an Associate Professor of Anthropology & Museum Studies at Central Washington University (CWU). She is also the director of CWU’s Museum of Culture & Environment (CWUMCE). She attended Hendrix College (BA in Art and Sociology/Anthropology; 2002) and, after a brief stint working in museums, earned her Ph.D. at the University of Arkansas (Anthropology; 2009). As a cultural anthropologist, Hope studies the need for affordable housing and equitable access to food, healthcare, and political participation. Though her ethnographic research is rooted in Appalachia, her interests have inspired her to join forces with like-minded community members to advocate for fair and equitable housing and food access. As a museum professional, Hope has experience in object-based learning, curriculum-driven educational programs, and museum exhibit design. Hope has worked with CWU students to co-curate exhibits on a wide range of topics, from the cultural significance of living rooms to the relationship between people and fire in central Washington to the impacts of household allergens (specifically dustmites). As Museum Director, she has worked to expand the CWUMCE’s audience and to develop collaborative projects that highlight the diversity of the CWU and Ellensburg community. In her spare time, Hope enjoys running, drawing, reading novels, hiking, camping, and snowboarding. She also loves cuddling with her 14-year old weimaraner, Blue, and hanging out with her rock-climbing hubby, Dave.
Fatima Andraca | CWU Student Liaison
Fatima Andraca was born in Anaheim, California, and raised in Ellensburg. She is a first-generation Mexican-American student working to obtain her bachelor’s degree in public health at Central Washington University. Fatima currently works at Kittitas County Health Network as an outreach assistant. She has obtained skills and knowledge about substance use disorders, planning COVID-19 vaccination events, volunteering, and serving the Latino community. Fatima looks forward to implementing equity through action in our community. She enjoys going to the gym, reading books, and traveling during her free time.
Teodora Moreno Guzmán | Community Outreach Coordinator
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.
Elizabeth Allison | Public Relations Coordinator
Elizabeth Allison was born and raised in Cordova, a small town in rural Alaska. She spent most of her free time involved in sports and volunteering at non-profits. She went on to study public relations and sociology at Central Washington University. In the spring of 2021, she began her internship with APOYO and then served as APOYO’s CWU Student Liaison. She graduated from CWU in spring of 2022. Working with APOYO has given her many opportunities for growth. She has gained experience in technical writing, website and document design, and event planning and now works as Public Relations Coordinator. She is passionate about food security and enjoys spreading awareness of products and programs APOYO has to offer.
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.
Rex Wirth | Facilities & Food Distribution Manager
Rex Wirth is APOYO’s facilities manager. He 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.
Mercy Gipson | Food Services Coordinator
Mercy Gipson was born on the Northernmost island of the Phillipines, 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 to serving as APOYO’s Food Services Coordinator, Mercy loves gardening, cooking, sewing, and spending time with family.She’s grateful to have everyone at APOYO as part of her family.
Jesús Erasto-García | Administrative Assistant
Jesús Erasto-García is APOYO’s Administrative Assistant. He is the middle child of three siblings. His parents were raised in Mexico and he was born and raised in Puyallup, Washington. A first-generation college student, he completed his degree in Spanish at Central Washington University in spring of 2022. He plans to go on to graduate school, and then teach Spanish at the middle/high school level. During his free time he enjoys going for runs, playing Mario Kart, cooking, and watching anime.
Rocio Franco | Administrative Assistant
Rocio is currently on our staff as an Administrative Assistant, her pronouns are she/her. She was born in Othello, WA and grew up in Grant County, specifically the small town of Warden, WA. She is a first-generation student and the youngest child with 2 older siblings. She recently moved to Ellensburg in Fall 2022 and is a graduate student at Central Washington University, pursuing her Master of Science Degree in Information Technology and Administrative Management. She completed her undergraduate studies at Big Bend Community College and Eastern Washington University. Her experiences include previous jobs such being a College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) Mentor for first year students and previous office aide jobs or doing projects for EWU and BBCC. At CWU she participates in clubs and orgs like MECHA, FASA, Latinx, FGSO, and more. On her free time, she likes to watch Netflix, listen to music, hang out with friends, and learn about current trends in different areas.
Abel Valadez | Program Coordinator
Abel is APOYO’s Program Coordinator. He is a first generation Mexican-American college student and the oldest of five siblings. Abel was born in Hillsboro, Oregon and raised in Marysville, Washington. He is currently enrolled as an undergraduate student at Central Washington University, majoring in Biomedical Science. He plans on becoming a Physician Assistant after graduating from CWU. During his free time, Abel likes playing sports, traveling and most of all, spending time with his family.
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 PhD 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.