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.
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
Fatima Andraca is a first-generation Mexican-American who was born in Anaheim, California and raised in Kittitas Valley. Fatima is currently a full-time student at Central Washington University. She is majoring in Public Health, with a specialization in population health. Her work at KCHN has helped her develop skills in community outreach, client services and non-profit organization work. Fatima is passionate about implementing equity and inclusion in her community, and she is committed to making a positive impact in the lives of others. She believes that everyone deserves access to quality care and that addressing the needs of underserved populations is essential to achieving this goal. In her free time, Fatima enjoys supporting APOYO’s new project Amigos Atleticos, traveling and spending time with loved ones. She values the importance of building relationships and creating meaningful connections with those around her.
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 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 at 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.
Mary Cruz Ramirez Pulido | Food Delivery Service Coordinator
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 pass time 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!”
Gerardo Castillo | Assistant to Food Acquisition and Distribution Manager
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. It is worth noting 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 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 Assistant
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.
Gisselle Espinoza | Dietetics Consultant
Gisselle is a recent first-generation Central Washington University graduate with a bachelor’s in food science and nutrition with a dietetics specialization. She was born in Wenatchee, raised in Tacoma, and has been living in Ellensburg for 6 years now. She loves Washington and would not want to live in any other state. Gisselle is most passionate about food security and nutrition education in her latinx community. Her goal is to become a registered dietitian and work in a diverse community where her patients can find comfort in knowing their dietitian can relate to them. During her free time, Gisselle enjoys going on walks, hikes, concerts, and anything that involves being with her friends.
David Avalos-Martinez | Health and Wellness Coordinator
David came to work for APOYO as an Amigos Atléticos program director and is now coordinating and directing health and wellness programs for kids and adults. He was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and immigrated to the US at a very young age. He grew up in a rainy town rooted deep in the Olympic Peninsula. He graduated from Forks High School and Peninsula College in 2021. Currently, David is a junior studying Clinical Physiology at CWU. David is also the Political Action Coordinator for CWU MEChA. In his free time, David enjoys playing and watching soccer. David specifically roots for Cruz Azul and never misses a game! He is happy to be part of APOYO and getting the chance to help other people.
Carmen Barajas | Food Acquisition and Distribution Manager
Carmen Barajas was born in Tamazula en 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!
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.
Andrew Stevenson | APOYO Local Growers Intern
Andrew moved to Ellensburg in October 2022 and is a full-time student at CWU majoring in Environmental Biology. He applied for the Local Growers program to build upon what he is learning at Central. Growing food has always interested him, but he has never had the time or land to pursue it fully. Andrew also believes that it’s a great opportunity to give back to the community, since he only recently became a part of it. He loves the outdoors, cooking, music, and his cat.
Bianca Zapien | APOYO Local Growers Intern
Bianca was born and raised in Kittitas County. She is currently a junior at Central Washington University, double majoring in Spanish and Hospitality, Tourism, and Event Management, with a specialization in Tourism Management. Bianca got the opportunity to study abroad in the fall of 2022 in South Korea, and absolutely enjoyed it. This internship is an opportunity for her to learn and understand more about regenerative agriculture. She has always been interested in farming and how one is able to grow a variety of different kinds of food. Bianca is excited that this internship will enable her to learn and, hopefully, one day grow her own food. She also enjoys doing this internship because not only is she learning, but at the same time is giving back to the community, hopefully making a difference to many families in need.