For those who know Lora Trujillo, it was a “no-brainer” that the full-time volunteer who dedicates her time to the Poore Medical Clinic and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul deserved the honor of 2017 Arizona Daily Sun Citizen of the Year.
For Trujillo, accepting the honor meant being rewarded for something she feels gives her so many rewards already, and being singled out when she feels that many people at the organizations deserve the same honor.
Trujillo divides her time between the clinic, where she is the front office coordinator and does the intake process and eligibility screening for new patients, and the traveler’s aid department of St. Vincent de Paul, where she and other volunteers help stranded travelers with money for gas, car repairs and other travel related expenses to help them get home. Trujillo previously served as the President and Vice President of Flagstaff’s St. Vincent de Paul conference.
“I grew up with parents who were very much volunteer-minded,” Trujillo said. “My family values volunteer work and the commitment that it takes, even as much as a paying job.”
Trujillo is trained as a nurse but has not been a practicing nurse since she moved to Flagstaff, about 18 years ago. However, she said her training and background as a nurse helps her at the clinic when doing intake and processing for patients.
“It’s nice to be in a position to help somebody in a difficult spot,” she said.
Renee DeVere, one of several people who nominated Trujillo for the award, said she nominated her because “I see someone being so selfless of their time, and it’s a thread in everything she does.”
DeVere said Trujillo always considers how much she can help others, even in simple instances, like buying gifts that also benefit a cause, so more people gain from her purchase than just the recipient of the gift.
“She tries to drive home how much you receive when you volunteer,” DeVere said of Trujillo, who encourages her children to volunteer their time.
But Trujillo is quick to deflect the spotlight onto other people in the organizations where she works, who she said are equally deserving of the honor.
“I get to do what I get to do because of other people,” she said.
DeVere said Trujillo is “very much under the radar” about her volunteer work, and gets her joy from giving back to the community.
“Her heart wells up when she helps others,” DeVere said.
Trujillo has been involved with St. Vincent de Paul for about 18 years, and got involved with the clinic when Bill and Barbara Packard, who were also involved with St. Vincent de Paul, helped start the Poore Clinic with Henry and Nina Poore.
“It just grew,” Trujillo said of her volunteer work.
Flagstaff has diverse opportunities for volunteering, with several organizations available for those who are interested in trying volunteer work, she said.
“It starts small,” she said. “You hear about something that you might want to try.”
Volunteering at the various organizations lets her meet interesting people and be around people who like to help the community.
“It’s inspiring,” Trujillo said.
People who find themselves in unfortunate situations are really no different than anyone else, she said.
“People aren’t very different,” she said. “When you have support, family support is a huge buffer from situations people find themselves in who don’t have that support. When you sit down with someone, listening is very important. You can learn a lot from it. We all have a lot to teach each other.”
For many years volunteering and fundraising for local organizations, such as Toys for Tots and Catholic Charities, was a fun way to pay it forward for Barry Brennan.
Then in 2006, volunteering became less of a fun way to help others and more of a way to repay a debt that can never be paid. For the inspirational work that followed, Brennan has been chosen the 2017 male Arizona Daily Sun Citizen of the Year.
In November 2006, Brennan was waiting on life support waiting for a liver transplant. He had been waiting for a transplant for two weeks when tragedy struck the family of a 14-year-old Arizona boy. The boy had been riding his bicycle at dusk when he was struck and killed by a motorist. After the teen was declared brain dead, doctors asked the family if they would like to donate their son’s organs.
The identity of an organ donor and their family is usually not revealed to recipients, but recipients are allowed to write a letter to the donor’s family. Brennan learned about the teen and his family after the family responded to his letter of thanks. More than a decade later, Brennan still keeps in touch with his donor’s family.
During one of the most tragic times in their lives, the family made the most generous decision, Brennan said. They donated their son’s heart, liver and kidneys to others who were in need of organ transplants. Brennan was the recipient of the boy’s liver.
“They really saved four lives,” he said.
After getting out of the hospital from his transplant surgery, Brennan said he decided to dedicate all of his volunteer and fundraising efforts to paying back the family for the gift their son gave him. He acknowledges that it is a debt that he can never fully repay, but he hopes that by devoting the time that was given to him by their gift, he can at least provide the family with a sense that their gift is being used to help others.
That spring he teamed up with Northern Arizona University’s football team and coach to hold a sign-up event to draw attention to the need for organ donors. The team and Brennan ended signing up more than 600 people to become organ donors in three days, he said.
He has organized motorcycle runs and annual Hal Jensen Memorial Christmas Raffle for Toys for Tots. Brennan started volunteering for Toys for Tots with Jensen in the early 1990s and has been working with the group ever since. Tickets for the raffle dinner have sold out every year for the last three years.
According to Gene and Molly Munger, Brennan has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last 20 years for NAU’s athletic programs, the Climb to Conquer Cancer, the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment, the organ donation organization Donate Life, Catholic Charities, Big Brothers Big Sisters, St. Mary’s Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity and If the Shoe Fits, an organization created by his wife that donates shoes to children in need at the beginning of the school year.
He is a former board member for Northern Arizona for St. Mary’s Food Bank in Flagstaff and in Phoenix. He and his wife created the fundraiser “You’ve Been Served,” which raised tens of thousands of dollars for the organization between 2012 and 2015 with the help of local attorneys and the 1899 Bar & Grill.
He also established the Barry Brennan Award to recognize those who volunteer and fundraise for NAU’s intercollegiate athletics. He also worked with his wife, Consuelo, to create a program that provides shoes for children in shelters at the beginning of each school year.
Brennan said he can’t do the work he does without the help of others and the great organizations that help those in need. It’s those people and the organizations they work for who really deserve the Citizen of the Year award, he said.
The year 2017 dawned with a new administration taking office and hundreds in Flagstaff promptly turning out to march in support of equal rights and reject what local march organizers called a message of “hate and divisiveness” from President Donald Trump.
Many marchers wore hand-knit pink pussyhats that skyrocketed in popularity after the election.
People in Flagstaff joined national movements several other times this year as well, whether to protest Trump Administration policies or speak out in other ways. In January, about 400 people showed up to Flagstaff Pulliam Airport to stand against President Trump’s initial ban on refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Then in April a crowd of about 1,000 turned out for an Earth Day march for science, which mirrored similar events around the world organized in part to oppose Trump administration policies toward the science around climate change and proposed funding cuts to science agencies.
Several Flagstaff residents also spoke up when Trump decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“What will I do? Will I go back or stay here?” said Kassandra Carrasco, who is in the DACA program and balances a full course load at Northern Arizona University while working full-time on campus.
Then in November, it wasn’t Trump but the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in workplaces and public settings that compelled women and men locally to join the #MeToo movement on social media.
Another national issue, the illegal immigration debate, struck home in Flagstaff this year with the death of the undocumented activist and convicted drug felon, Frankie Madrid. Madrid died by suicide in Hermosillo, Mexico, on Oct. 2, after he was deported for heroin possession. Reactions to Madrid’s story reinforced the polarizing nature of immigration issues, even in Flagstaff, and led to questions about whether Madrid should have been deported and whether he should have been treated differently, given the national opioid epidemic.
Social service agencies in Flagstaff made progress on a few fronts this year. Among them was the debut of a coordinated effort for homeless individuals called Front Door that helps streamline the processing for services and connects people with all the services available to them. Another was a second attempt among a collaboration of healthcare and social service agencies called Closing the Gap that provides stable housing to a handful of people struggling with substance abuse and homelessness.
Flagstaff City Council also took up the homelessness issue when it asked city staff to examine the ordinance that bans camping on public property, including sleeping in cars parked on public streets. Several members of the public asked the council to repeal the ordinance, saying it is inhumane to people who do not have shelter.
There were two major efforts this year to help people in the community join the job market. Coconino County launched StartHere to connect 16-to-24-year-olds who are not working and not in school with job opportunities while both the city of Flagstaff and Coconino County removed the question about previous felony convictions from their job applications. Those in favor of removing the question said it will prevent applications from being immediately discarded because the person has a felony conviction.
Not all efforts to help those who are struggling in the community have been immediate successes though. Better Bucks, a program billed as a compassionate solution to panhandling, has been slow to catch on. After two years, the program has seen 11,000 of its $1 coupons redeemed while the cost to the sponsoring foundation has reached $22,000. It is also still unclear if the program has done anything to curb panhandling or substance abuse for the transient population.
Some people said the coupons are demeaning to people who need money, but those who support the program said the coupons are a way to do a good deed without worrying about where the money is being spent.
NEW YORK — It began with a news story, and then a tweet, and suddenly it seemed like everything had changed overnight. 2017 will forever be known as the Year of the Reckoning.
Or, more precisely, the year of the beginning of the reckoning. Because at year's end, the phenomenon of powerful men being knocked off their perches by allegations of sexual misconduct — in Hollywood, on morning television, in chic restaurant kitchens, in the U.S. Senate — showed no signs of slowing. Each morning, we awoke to ask: "Who's next?"
To that question, we should also add, "What next?" Because as the year drew to a close, many were also wondering just how deep and lasting the change would prove, going forward. Was this, indeed, the cultural earthquake many have called it? Or was there a chance it might all eventually slip away?
"We can't be sure," says Gloria Steinem. "But what I CAN be sure of is that this is the first time I've seen women being believed." And that, says the feminist author, "is profoundly different."
Whatever forces had been stirring under the surface, it all burst into the open with an October scoop in the New York Times, a story alleging shocking misconduct by Harvey Weinstein. The powerful producer's misbehavior had long been the subject of whispers, but it was actress Ashley Judd who finally gave a well-known name to the allegations — a crucial launching point for what followed. Her account of a hotel-room encounter in which Weinstein asked her to give him a massage or watch him shower sounded familiar to many others, who were inspired in the ensuing days to come forward with their own allegations against Weinstein, from harassment to assault to rape. To date, some 80 women have come forward; Weinstein still denies all nonconsensual sex.
Then came the tweet heard round the world.
"If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too' as a status," actress/activist Alyssa Milano tweeted on Oct. 15, "we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem." Then she went to bed.
"I couldn't have been in bed more than eight hours, because I'm a mom," Milano says now. When she awoke, tens of thousands had taken up the #MeToo hashtag (a phrase introduced 10 years ago by social activist Tarana Burke.) Less than 10 days later, Milano tweeted that more than 1.7 million people in 85 countries had used the hashtag.
"The thing that was so surprising was the sheer magnitude and the quickness of how it happened," Milano says. But she feels conditions had been ripe for a good year.
It began, she says, with the election of President Donald Trump, who had bragged openly about groping women. On top of that came some aggressive investigative reporting — she cites Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker — and the domino effect of women emboldening each other to come forward. Public fascination with anything Hollywood didn't hurt either. "For this to have taken off the way it did, it had to be a perfect storm and we had to be ready," she says.
Even before #MeToo happened, and just a few days after the Weinstein story broke, Anita Hill was sure something significant was happening. "I think we need something to push the needle and I think this has done it," said Hill, a symbol of the fight against sexual harassment ever since her 1991 Senate testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Still, she noted, it was a lot easier for Hollywood stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie to speak out than it was for ordinary women experiencing harassment from their bosses.
But Hill, who for years has been living a quiet academic life at Brandeis University, stressed that the next step has to be more than just conversation: "We now have to start putting into place measures at schools and workplaces and the military ... about how people should be treated, and we have to enforce them." Hill has just been named to a new commission on sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.
As the weeks went on, the accusers multiplied, and so did the accused, from Hollywood (Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Brett Ratner, Dustin Hoffman) to the news business (top morning hosts Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer) to the music world (Russell Simmons) to politics (Sen. Al Franken, Alabama candidate Roy Moore) to the food world (Mario Batali). The accused lost jobs, TV shows, book deals, a Senate seat — with dizzying speed (Spacey was even erased from a completed movie.) Some simply apologized, while others fought back — like Simmons, with his hashtag #NotMe. Some apologies were more effective than others. Spacey drew flak for deciding to come out as gay as he apologized for unwanted sexual advances; Batali was scorned for appending to his email-blast apology a recipe for Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls.
A few voices called for differentiating between levels of sexual misconduct. It didn't always go over well. When Matt Damon said "I just think we have to start delineating between what these behaviors are," Milano replied on Twitter that there are various stages of cancer, "but it's still cancer."
Not to be forgotten were the accusers who decided not to come forward with their names, many out of fear of retaliation. Attorney Gloria Allred, who held news conferences with some Weinstein accusers, said there were many more she'd spoken to who have not yet gone public.
And what about the alleged abusers we've never heard of, because they're not famous? "There have been stunning accounts of farm workers harassed in the field, factory workers on lines, restaurant workers," says law professor Catharine MacKinnon, who decades ago pioneered the legal claim that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. "They don't have the high-profile man ... but I'm telling you, to the women he does it to, he's plenty big."
Still, says MacKinnon, of the University of Michigan and Harvard law schools, "any time any victim is believed, it's a miracle." And that's why the events of late 2017 have been unprecedented. "It's amazing to me that people are being believed and listened to and responded to, and their accounts being acted on," she says. "That's never happened before in the history of the world."
And to those who might still doubt there is tangible change, MacKinnon points out the remarkable sight of "white upper-class men deserting white upper-class men, in droves. We've never seen that before, ever. They feel they can no longer afford to be associated with this. THIS is cultural change. THIS is real social change."