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Staff and Board

Staff

Nelly F. Garcia Olmos

Executive Director

Nelly Garcia was born in Mexico City. Came to the United States when she was 12 years old. In High School she started to get involved in her community, specially working towards social justice issues and civic engagement. Nelly graduated from Mesa State College (Now Colorado Mesa University) with a Bachelor's degree in Arts with emphasis in Spanish Language and Literatures as well as Spanish Applied professional. After graduating,  Nelly became an interpreter/advocate, working towards just immigrant rights and minority equity. She also volunteered  as a Board member in different non profit organizations which allows her to gain experience in  areas like policymaking and community organizing. Nelly supported advocacy work that helped to pass important pro immigrant laws that have better the life and safety of the immigrant community. She has been a speaker for Grand Junction Women’s March and Latina LEAD Power Summit. Previous to La plaza,  Nelly worked  for the Migrant Education Program for 8 years as their Lead Migrant Recruiter and worked as The West Slope Regional Organizer for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.  Nelly is a longtime leader in the Hispanic Committee in Grand Junction and is now the Executive Director for La Plaza.

Amanda Perez Herrera

Community Resource Navigator

Amanda Perez Herrera is a native and 3rd generation resident of Grand Junction on her moms side, 1st generation on her dad's side. Graduate of Colorado Mesa University with an associates degree in social sciences and soon a bachelors of social work. She loves traveling, spending time with her family, learning and trying new things and foods.She is excited to use her learned experiences and education to better serve her community. She comes from a family who values agriculture from the orange groves in San Luis Potosí to the fields of green chile peppers here in Grand Junction. She is proud to serve the hands that harvest in the Grand Valley, her lifelong home.

Iriana Medina Leo

Community  Engagement Coordinator 

Iriana is originally from Venezuela. In her early 30’s she and her family migrated to the US due to the growing socio-economic crisis in her home country.  Volunteering has been part of her life and she has served at various non profits, two of them having impacted her profoundly like American Field service (AFS) exchange programs in Venezuela and Sister Carmen Community Center (SCCC) in Lafayette,CO.  When volunteering for AFS Iriana and her family hosted 5 exchange students at their home, she was also a student’s counselor and candidate’s coordinator.  At Sister Carmen, Iriana helped with interpreting and sorting donations at the thrift shop.  Iriana has a master degree in Human Resources and she is certified as a “community Leader” through Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI).   As of 2024, Iriana has become the Community Engagement Coordinator which is the newest position at La Plaza that will help us develop empowerment and engagement among our members. 

Geri Manzanares

Office Administrator

Geri Manzanares, having been born and raised in Grand Junction, CO, is a true native of the Western Slope. She graduated from Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College with a Bachelors’ degree in social science and a minor in business. Geri worked in the for-profit world after graduation with City Market Inc., in the buying department for 20 years. She then decided to follow her heart and use her degree and pursued work with the Department of Social Services the San Luis Valley of Colorado for a few years. Geri then spent the past 17 years working in non-profit with the Head Start Program on the Western Slope. Geri is excited with her new position as the Office Administrator for La Plaza, Inc. and working with migrant and immigrant agricultural workers, as her mother’s family migrated annually to the western slope from the San Luis Valley to work in the fields, as well as her father and brothers shearing sheep.

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Board of Directors

Meet the Directors of the Board and La Plaza Staff. All directors are volunteers and the board meets on the fourth Tuesday evening of each month, 6-8pm. The board members represent different walks of life and provide oversight and governance for the organization.  For more information on board membership, please contact Nelly Garcia Olmos at 970-902-2491 or nelly@laplazapalisade.org

Jenn Moore

President

Jenn has an educational background in environmental and agricultural science and engineering. She currently works as an administrator at the EUREKA! McConnell Science Museum.  Jenn and her husband have an 8 acre peach and grape farm in Palisade. She believes in providing opportunities for education and empowerment to help improve people's lives.

Joan Levy

Vice President

Joan “accidentally” fell into a career serving individuals with developmental disabilities. Retired in 2018 after working nearly 35 years at Mesa Developmental Services/Strive, 27 years of which were in senior management.  She is currently pursuing other avenues of social consciousness in retirement…including addressing food insecurity; supporting inclusion, equality and equity for people of color and other marginalized populations; and bringing truth and balance back to a skewed world.   She volunteers at Meals-on-Wheels, La Plaza, EUREKA, Restore the Balance and as a Fruita Trail Host, all while trying to save a little time for fun…hiking, cycling, gardening and travel.

Cailin Portra

Treasurer

Cailin lives and works in the agricultural community of Palisade, Colorado.  She is an owner of Carlson Vineyards and an occupational therapist serving preschool and grade school aged children with disabilities in the Mesa County School District. She believes doing good brings good and hopes to support the continued growth and strengthening of the community we service. 

Jeffrey Howard

Jeff began volunteering at Child and Migrant Services in May of 2015, shortly after retiring from St Mary's Hospital where he worked for over 25 years as a Registered Nurse.  He was elected to the Board of Directors in June of 2017 and served ever since, including time as the President of the Board.  He continues to enjoy volunteering and working with our members and staff.  He is gratified to see how much La Plaza aids the migrant community on a daily basis and is actively planning to further increase and improve the services it provides. 

 

Sonia Cardenas

Sonia was born in California but she grew up in Jalisco, Mexico. Sonia danced for Ballet Folklórico and won several awards. Sonia graduated from the University in Aguascalientes, with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and International Business.She worked at a Nissan company before moving back to California. Once in Grand Junction, she worked for Marillac Clinic for 8 years,where she found her passion for helping others. Sonia works at Mesa County Public Health since 2016, where she started as a Case Navigator, now she is the Hispanic Outreach Coordinator. Sonia leads the Spanish Advisory Group, is a trained interpreter/translator and is now  the Vice President of Mutual Aid Partners and board member of La Plaza.

Dan Robinson

Dan was born in Trinidad, Colorado. He and his wife Gigi have a family of 2 children and 5 grandchildren. He is a farm owner which he manages himself. Dan is a fluent Spanish speaker. Dan serves as a Municipal Court Judge in Grand Junction, Fruita, Palisade and Telluride. He graduated as a lawyer at the University of Connecticut School of Law, J.D. (New England Moot Court Champions) and he is an attorney at Robinson & Burkey, LLC., and Attorney of Counsel at Ramos Law Firm in Grand Junction, CO.  Dan was part of the Peace Corps Volunteer where he contributed with his time and work for 3 years in a remote village in Colombia, South America. 

Skiing is one of Dan’s interests and he has been a National Certified Ski Patroller (NSPS) for 25 years and he has been awarded a Lifetime Ski Pass. He also has been a Board member of Mesa County School, Board of Trustees of Colorado Mesa University, and appointed by 4 Colorado Governors of both parties to State Boards and Commissions. Dan has been a recipient of several community awards; MLK Jr. Award, Cesar Chavez Award, Mesa County Bar Association Community Outreach Award, GJ Police Department Award and Friend of the Family Award (LGBTQ Community).

Reona Beltran

Reona Beltran was born in Grand Junction, Colorado. Later in life married in 1994. She later had a son named Brian Lorenzo Montoya in 1996. She graduated High School at Central High School. She went on to obtain her college degree Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources from Colorado Christian University.

As a younger child, Reona moved to different states with her parents working in the fields. She moved around from North Carolina, South Carolina, Mexico, and Florida. She comes from a Migrant Family, which is where she became familiar with the working conditions as a migrant worker in the hot fields and the adversities that the workers endured. It was then she grew to know she was going to college for a better education.

As for her work history, she worked for Head Start and Migrant Head Start for thirty years. One of her proudest moments is when she and three other co-workers were the catalyst of obtaining the Head Start Grant with Centro De La Familia being the Grantor, in 2020. The Head Start Grant was obtained so the parents, children, and families could have a preschool program in the counties of Mesa, Garfield, and Moffat. It was evident that this is what the people in these counties needed, so this is why Reona and the team worked effortlessly until they received this grant. Currently she is working for the Mesa County School District at the Migrant Education Program.

Reona is dedicated to helping parents, children, and families with any needs that they may have, so they can have a brighter future for our tomorrow. She also serves on the Cesar Chavez committee for Mesa County, Western Colorado Migrant Rural Coalition for the Delta County, and currently serving on the Board of La Plaza in Palisade, Colorado.

 

Gwen Cameron

A second generation fruit grower, Gwen Cameron farms 40 acres of organic peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, cherries and melons at Rancho Durazno, just east of Palisade where she grew up. She believes the best fruit is grown from well-tended soil and is harvested by workers with a deep connection to the land. In 2022, Rancho Durazno became the first farm in Colorado to join the Fair Food Program, a stringent social responsibility certification ensuring fair treatment and wages for agricultural workers. From 2020 to 2023 Gwen worked with Hunger Free Colorado connecting food pantries with local farms and ranches to build a more resilient food system and to provide high quality, fresh food to communities who need it most. She currently serves on the board of Colorado West Land Trust, is president of Mesa County's chapter of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and was named Young Grower of the Year by the Western Colorado Horticultural Society in 2018.   .

Alma Rodriguez Diaz

Alma Rodriguez Diaz is a dedicated professional with extensive experience in social services and community outreach. Alma was born and raised in the border city of El Paso, TX. Her grandfather was a Bracero- and migrated throughout the United States from Mexico to work in the fields. Alma moved to the Washington D.C. area in the early 90’s where she began her rich history of service in various positions geared towards improving community well-being. It started with a dedication to language
access as an Interpreter/Translator at hospitals, law enforcement agencies, clinics for migrant workers and the community and working with a home visiting program for children with special needs. Community organizing and facilitation of cross-cultural services were a major part of her time living in the East Coast. After moving back to El Paso for some years she then came to live here at the Western Slope in 2009, where she worked at Mesa Developmental Services/Strive with the early  intervention program until 2016. Joined community organizations and non-profits in advocating and expanding services to the underserved. The opportunity to work at Mind Springs came as being an Interpreter/Translator in 2016, and since language justice is dear to her heart she took the opportunity.  While working at Mind Springs learning more about mental health and substance abuse and disparities
in access to services, a Community Health Worker and Program Coordinator she spearheaded initiatives to bridge gaps in mental health care and substance use service accessibility, particularly the underserved populations like the Spanish-speaking community and the unhoused. Currently Alma is a Sr. Case Manager for a work program at the Work Force Center at DHS and continues to actively contribute to the various committees and supporting grassroots organizations. Alma this year will be finishing up her degree in Social Work and as a Certified Addictions Specialist. Outside of her professional world, and when not working or doing homework, she loves spending time with her 3 sons and she is a nature and animal lover, and truly enjoys the beautiful landscapes of the Western Slope.

David Combs 

From Minneapolis, David has been a resident of the Valley since 1980 and is currently a co-owner of a small business in Grand Junction. His background in human services (BS Criminal Justice/Sociology Minor) has led him to give back to the community through volunteerism. He serves on the following committee boards:

Clifton Community Outreach – assisting with the uplift of the general Clifton Community.

Clifton Fire District – provide direction for the Clifton Fire Department

Crime Victim Compensation – the payee of last resort for victims of crimes in Mesa County.

Riverside Task Force – ad hoc representatives for Riverside Residents.

Grand Valley Outdoor Recreation Coalition – serves with other outdoor recreation business owners attempting to enhance the recreational experiences outdoor enthusiast who recreate in the Valley.

One Riverfront Trail – providing input with other members on connecting the Riverfront Trial from Palisade to Loma.

Governors 21st Judicial Selection Committee – Selects Judicial Candidates to fill vacancies in the 21 Judicial District.

Black Citizens and Friends – President of the committee that puts on the Martin Luther King Celebration, Black History Month and Juneteenth Celebration along with supporting other community cultural organizations.

Trout Unlimited – Board member of the local conservation and trout fishing chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Colorado Mesa Cultural Diversity Board- Community Representative for the board that interfaces with the community and CMU.

Black Parent Network – statewide committee dedicated to influencing and inspiring other parents of Black Students throughout the State of Colorado.

Former President of the Clifton Community Hall – oversee the board that operated the Clifton Community Hall.

La Plaza,  Palisade, CO – Current board member in Palisade, CO.

 A married father of 4, grandfather of 7 and a recent adoptee of 2 reservation puppies, he is dedicated to his family and community.

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