Our Beginnings

In the mid-1990s, Central Washington experienced an influx of Mexican immigrants.  Philip Garrison, who had lived and worked in Mexico for years, soon got to know some of them.  Because of his familiarity with both cultures, he understood the challenges they were facing.  He and two immigrant friends decided to start driving to Yakima to get food from Northwest Harvest and hand it out from the back of a pickup truck.  Read his essay The Unforgettable Frozen Chicken Giveaway and What Ensued.

Intrepid APOYO volunteers 
Christmas in Old Heat

We join with CWU

In 1998, CWU president Ivory Nelson gave APOYO permission to operate on campus. In 1999, APOYO was incorporated in Washington State, and, in 2000, obtained 501(C)(3) status.  Our new status made us eligible to serve as a WSDA Emergency Food Assistance Program subcontractor. The food pantry became a joint endeavor between Central’s faculty, the MEChA Club, and the local immigrant community.


APOYO has a history of activism, dating back to Philip Garrison’s role in organizing a grape boycott to support farm workers in 1969.  Working with two local doctors and three nurses, APOYO helped found a free clinic that served to raise awareness of the need for affordable health care in Ellensburg. Today, with an ongoing shortage of bilingual staff working for health care providers and social service agencies, APOYO continues to advocate for more effective service to Spanish-speaking people in Kittitas County.

Check up at the Free Clinic
Community members protest the Ellensburg ICE Raid

ICE Raids

In 2011, an ICE raid carried off 30 people to a detention center in Tacoma. One of the detainees was the daughter of one of our founders. With the help of other community groups, we brought people home. Nonetheless, as a result of the raid, many immigrant families left the area. 

Shady Acres

In 2016, the Kittitas County Commissioners announced plans to demolish 58 low-income housing units in order to create an RV park.  The move would evict 115 people from their homes. APOYO and CWU allies joined with community leaders to help residents organize against eviction. By the end of December, 2022, however, Shady Acres was closed. The need for more affordable housing in Kittitas County has become severe and continues to grow. APOYO is partnering with Independent Order of Odd Fellows Ellensburg Lodge 20 to address this need.

Banner made by the children of Shady Acres

Academic Connections

APOYO offers internships and graduate study opportunities to Central students. Over the years, Central students have contributed thousands of hours of volunteer work. Many have their volunteer hours to classroom projects like the documentary below.

CWU faculty members have worked with APOYO since our founding. Many teach classes about Latinx culture, history, and politics. Others teach languages, including English as a second language (“ESL”). Some have published books and articles directly related to their work at APOYO.  And, our clients’ children have gone on to enroll in university classes. Two have receive doctorates.

In 2010, through its Centro de Documentacion e lnvestigacion de las Artes, the office of the Secretariat of Culture of Michoacán, published Porque me faltan alas, a translation into Spanish of Philip Garrison’s book Because I Don’t Have Wings (University of Arizona Press, 2006). The translation was done by CWU Spanish Professors Stella Moreno and Nathalie Kasselis-Smith, both members of the APOYO community. The University of Arizona Press published Garrison’s next book, The Permit that Never Expires. Like its predecessor, Because I Don’t Have Wings, it was centered on the APOYO Food bank.