Orondo holds fourth town hall

A round table discussion is held during the Orondo Town Hall meeting Nov. 1. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)


By Darlene Paterson
Empire Press Correspondent

Orondo residents share a potluck meal prior to the Town Hall meeting. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

Over a year ago Hannah Poush, Millie Watkins and Rose Auvil began discussing ways the Orondo Community could better connect. As a result, the idea of a town hall was born — a time for residents to meet and brainstorm ideas and community needs.

The first town hall took place last year on Nov. 10. Two additional town halls this year — in April and June — provided many ideas and several committees were formed.

On Nov. 1, residents met for another town hall at Orondo School. The purpose of the evening was to explore community opportunities and challenges.

The evening began with a potluck followed by a panel discussion. Four community guests shared insights into their heritage, values and ways to cross cultural barriers.

Watkins served as facilitator and began the discussion with a brief recap of ideas from the first three meetings — such as a need for better housing, daycare facilities and community services.

As committees continue to explore ways to accomplish these larger goals, the town hall committee decided the current priority should be bringing the community together through better communication and shared activities.

“We decided to explore ways to get better acquainted, understand each other and learn basic needs in order to better connect,” Watkins said.

The committee chose four people to serve as panelists — Juan Ramirez and Rosario Hurtado from the Hispanic community, and Rose Auvil and Dan Harkey from the Anglo community.

Before beginning the panel discussion, others attending introduced themselves and shared ways they have been involved at Orondo. Though a fairly small group, they represented the broader community — Anglo and Hispanic, young families and retired grandmothers.

Panel members answered three questions during the evening’s discussion:

  • How did you come to live or work in Orondo and what things about Orondo are most important to you?
  • How are you influenced by family?
  • As an Anglo or Latino member of our community, is there anything you wish the opposite group understood better about your cultural group?

Juan Ramirez came to Orondo from Mexico at age 17. He works at Auvil Fruit, is married and has three children. He feels this is a great place to raise a family. He appreciated the way the community came together after the 2015 Orondo bus accident and he loves to attend bingo nights. Ramirez learned English through ESL classes at the school and has taken horticulture and college classes.

“My grandfather and mother’s good advice have always stuck with me,” he said. “I have plenty of advice in my mind to share with my own kids.”

Ramirez wanted everyone to understand that Latinos often feel insecure about mixing with Anglos because they don’t think they will be accepted.

“We feel like it is not our country, not our culture so we better be quiet,” he said. “We like to work hard and play hard. We are noisy when we get together. Our parties start about the time your parties end,” he laughed.

Juan would like more fun activities such as bingo nights. He also suggested evening classes as an opportunity for learning and mingling.

“Another way to get acquainted in a non–threatening way and learn what is going on in the community would be through social media sites,” he concluded.

Rose Auvil grew up west of the mountains, went to college in Ellensburg, and began her teaching career in a small community north of Moses Lake. While visiting a college friend in Chelan, she met Tom Auvil. Orondo has been her home since they married 32 years ago. She taught in Waterville, raised a family, and retired last spring from Eastmont School District.

“Now that I’m retired I am ready to get more involved,” she said.

Auvil was raised in a loving, supportive family. Her memories include visiting with neighbors, cousins and friends every weekend.

“My family made me who I am today,” she added.

Auvil said different cultures have a hard time connecting because of the language barrier.

“We are just as uncomfortable in our language ability as our Hispanic neighbors are about speaking English,” she said. “We share a lot in common. We love our families. We love our kids. We want to work together but we haven’t found the key. That is why things like tonight are important.”

Dan Harkey moved to Orondo with his wife Allison about four years ago.

“Allison and I enjoy it here, especially being near family and having a place for our kids to grow and explore,” he said. “As a helicopter pilot, I sometimes have to be out of town. I feel safe leaving my family and don’t worry when I have to be gone.”

“My mom taught me how to wander and my dad taught me how to work,” Harkey added. “Then I married into the Podlich family and they taught me how to look outward and get involved with other people.”

Harkey feels the language barrier is the biggest hindrance to communication with his Hispanic neighbors.

“We are shy too,” he said. “It’s a comfort thing. Maybe we can overcome that by throwing parties.”

He suggested activities like adult soccer, capture the flag, a sledding party or a snowball fight as possibilities.

Rosario Hurtado, the new executive manager for Orondo School District, is excited to be part of the community.

“It is an inviting, positive place,” she said. “When I interviewed here, I had another job offer with higher pay, but I wanted to use my skills and feel satisfaction in what I did.”

Hurtado will complete her master’s degree in April.

“Education is very important,” she said. “It changes our perspective on the world and those around us.”

The Hurtado family migrated to the United States from Mexico when Rosario was 2 years old.

“We didn’t have a lot of comforts but we did have a strong family,” she said. “My father made sure we understood we are not entitled to anything. I grew up believing if I wanted something, I worked for it. My family has been a great inspiration. They taught me that integrity, a good work ethic and passion are important qualities to build into life.”

“When you have two cultures, even within a culture, there are many unique individuals,” Hurtado said. “That is what makes the world amazing. Education can break our molds and help us understand other people and other cultures,” she added.

Following the panel discussion, community members discussed ways to accomplish better communication and understanding. The consensus was to start by adding group activities, both large and small.

Hannah Poush suggested renaming and updating the town hall Facebook page.

“I think we have some good things to work on,” Watkins concluded, as she closed the meeting. “We need to get this information out, give other community members a chance for input and find ways to implement some of these ideas.”

For more information, visit the Orondo Community Town Hall Facebook page.