03 June, 2024 7:26 AM

Three Good Luck Wishes

3 people posing for a picture

IFR’s fiscal year closes at the end of June, and with it, we will say goodbye to three staff: Sila Alvarenga, Elia Dominguez, and Esperanza Macias.

[As with many nonprofit organizations, this has been a tough fiscal year for IFR. A waffling state and local economy have resulted in reduced funding for many valued programs and services. While much is still unknown, nearly all organizations will likely experience at least a few layoffs. Given this backdrop, we struggled about whether it might appear insensitive to include an article wishing these three well when others may soon be laid off. Ultimately, we chose to proceed for two reasons: first, the departure of these three women had been planned for up to a full year; and second, we decided that we can share in our laid-off colleagues’ sadness and also hold a place of joy for three of IFR’s most supportive staff. For all who are impacted by pending layoffs, we hope you will agree.]

Sila Alvarenga is one of IFR’s come-back kids. She was IFR’s HR Manager for two years, went back to her old job, and then returned to IFR for two more years before retiring. When she arrived at IFR, the good economy was pricing out and displacing low income Mission district residents. She briefly left IFR before the pandemic, but was bad to in 2022 to support the recovery. Sila still recalls her first memory of IFR:

“I was at the front desk and saw the altar. I thought WOW! I had never seen an organization feel proud to embrace our culture this way. It’s priceless! To this day, it’s still my favorite thing about IFR.”

Elia is a Mental Health Consultant with IFR’s Sana Sana program. She has been with IFR for an amazing 28 years! When Elia first started at IFR as an Intern, the agency was getting its building at 2919 Mission Street, hosting its first Miss & Mr. Safe Latino event, and starting to bring mental health services to grassroots groups and into the schools. Connecting with Casa de los Jovenes, RAP, CARECEN, and others, Elia participated in, and helped to develop, Proyecto Charla, a support group for young women. She slowly made her way to working with young children.

When asked about Elia’s earliest memories of IFR, she recounts: “I remember feeling held through many of my life transitions. That can happen a lot in 30 years! I received a lot of consejos, and through the work, grew into the person I am today.”

Esperanza is IFR’s Director of Development & Communications. She has been at IFR 14 years. When she started at IFR, new programs like Latinas Unidas, SPARK, and Promesa were starting. While her role has always included development work, it also morphed over time to include communications and policy.

She shares that her lasting memory of IFR was when she attended her first all-staff meeting. At that time, IFR had a staff of about 60 people (now the staff number is closer to 100). A female staff person was leaving IFR and then-Executive Director Estela Garcia was blessing her with sage. “It was unlike any staff meeting I’d ever been part of. I wondered how the staff person felt to be leaving such a revered place and how I would feel when my time came. Now I know.”

Even as all three are eager to embark on new paths, there is a level of sadness that sits under the surface. “There is something about IFR that pulls you in, that feels familiar,” Elia explains. “Yes!” chimes in Esperanza. “It’s been such an honor to hear so many client stories about the challenges and hardships they’ve faced and the transformations that IFR has helped them accomplish. There’s nothing like it.”  Sila jumps in and adds, “One of our pilares is tú eres mi otro yo. I see it embedded in IFR. Places like this are very rare, and are important to preserve.”

Taking these experiences with them, Elia, Sila, and Esperanza all three have planned very different adventures. Sila’s is the most adventures. “I want to take trips with my grandkids, go hiking in the mountains, make jewelry, and enjoy the simple things of life.”

Usually the long-term planner, Esperanza’s plans are strangely open-ended. “I’ve got a long bucket list, but I don’t yet know which path will come first. I want to travel to destinations my partner and I have put off for several years; but I also want to undertake various art projects, and learn new things like animation, photography, and sculpture.”

For Elia, her journey will take her to Mexico to spend treasured time with her mother. “I have my mom right now, and I want to enjoy her.” The other two nod their heads in unison, encouraging Elia to follow that path. Having lost their mothers, Sil and Esperanza are eager for Elia to have the gift of time with her mother.

The three women – all serving in different capacities at IFR – agree that IFR has been a place of learning and growing, as well as a place for unlearning oppression. It’s been a combination of finding or rediscovering themselves. They all insist they’re not really leaving IFR. 

“I’m not leaving Instituto,” Elia explains. “I’m just moving into something else.”

IFR thanks Elia, Sila, and Esperanza for their service to the community and to IFR. Their many direct and indirect contributions have helped to make our communities healthier. We wish each of them great happiness in their future journeys.

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