Gracias for Giving Back!
“I volunteer to serve my community because it’s in my heart, and meaningful to me.”
Efrain Lopez faced obstacles growing up in South Central Los Angeles, with its high crime rate, gang activity and financial distress. “Because of what was going on around me, I had a negative outlook and there was no positive role model to emulate, so I dropped out of school in the 10th grade,” he said.
But through the AmeriCorps program, which places young adults in service positions where they learn work skills and earn money for education, he changed the course of his life. “Americorps taught me to be more self-motivated, learn efficiently and to show initiative,” he said. Through that experience he got his first employment with a contractor operating and maintaining passenger loading bridges at airports.
Today, he works for the Port of Seattle as head mechanical maintenance engineer for baggage equipment at Sea-Tac Airport, and pursues a passion for volunteerism and community involvement. “Being active, advocating for others, making a difference, and voicing my opinion are all important ways to contribute,” he said.
Over the past 20 years, his volunteer work benefited kids who needed a helping hand, and the Latino community in general. He volunteers at Ronald McDonald House, managing photography at family brunches. He is chair of marketing and events for Latinos Unidos de South Sound, giving visibility to the needs of Latino residents.He also is known for wearing his “charro” mariachi suit to Seahawks games to show his Latino pride, and working with the Wenatchee High School Mariachi Band.
At the Port he is founder and co-chair of the new Latinos Unidos, served as co-chair of the Port's Development and Diversity Council, and helps organize the Port’s annual Hispanic Heritage Month observance.
When new Americorps workers visited the Pacific Northwest recently, Lopez invited the group to tour Sea-Tac. “As someone who was helped by a youth program, I am passionate about giving back to my community,” Lopez said. During the visit, he shared about his background, his journey and career path.
“I volunteer to serve my community because it’s in my heart, and meaningful to me,” he said. For him, community service is a calling. “I was an underprivileged kid, but I found a bridge to become a skilled Port of Seattle worker with a family wage job.”