Anai Ortiz: Born and raised in St. Helena
Meet Anai Ortiz, homebuilder and native Californian. Anai’s grandparents immigrated to San Diego from Mexico as part of the Bracero program that dates back to WWII. There were farm-labor shortages caused by America’s entry into the war. The Bracero Program brought Mexican workers to rural farm areas to work the fields, to plant and harvest crops. When the war ended, these workers stayed on. They married and had children; they brought their families here and became an indelible part of our Napa Valley culture. This is another chapter in America’s immigration story.
Anai is one of the families who’s building her own home at Brenkle Court
Like many families today, Anai’s family doesn’t fit the traditional description. She’s a single mom with a two-year old son, Isaac. While all eight families must work together to build the Townhome complex, each family is responsible for 35 hours/week for an equitable division of labor. For Ani to meet that requirement, it meant reaching out to her extended family for help. Her team includes her mom, a sister, two older brothers and their significant others.
Like many Latinos, Anai and her siblings attended the Catholic School
Anai graduated from St. Helena High School, attended Sonoma State and graduated with a BA in Latin American studies. She did some traveling, but came home when her father was diagnosed with cancer. Anai stayed in St. Helena to be near her family and help care for her father.
Teaching Spanish at the Catholic School
Anai got a job teaching Spanish at the Catholic School. Because her students’ language skills varied dramatically, she learned to assess their skill levels and group them according to their language facility rather than by age.
A job at Stonebridge Apartments with EAH Housing (Ecumenical Association for Housing)
Stonebridge hired Anai to be their ResourceCoordinator. Stonebridge is an affordable housing community; families must qualify in order to live there, and there’s a waiting list. It’s Anai’s job to help residents with pretty much everything that comes up—she’s their go-to resource. She manages the activities and assesses the needs of 300 residents in 80 units. A third of the residents are kids. She:
- Provides an after-school program and summer program for kids
- Helps residents with their resumes so they can apply for jobs
- Coordinates an exercise class 3x/week
- Helps plan and execute monthly events and holiday parties to build community among residents
- Writes grants. In August, 2018, Stonebridge received a grant to build their own playground. She coordinated 200 volunteers to build a playground in one day!
- Interfaces with provider agencies, public organizations, volunteer groups and the local school district to host workshops on a wide range of topics, including financial wellness, mental health, family education, computer training and access and disaster preparedness.
Anai remembers posting a flyer about OTSH and the Brenkle Court Townhomes
Anai kept thinking about owning her own home and decided to apply, but she failed to qualify. When she got a promotion and a raise, she tried again and was accepted.
“To live in and own my home in my hometown of St. Helena is a dream come true. Isaac will grow up in his own bedroom. None of this will be possible without the hard work and support of my family.”