If you’re a Chinese member of the Division-Midway community in need of help, you call Yuyan Luo. If you’re planning a fundraising event, Luo’s got your back. Newsletter to fill? Food drive to organize? The 25-year-old Portland State University grad will get stuck in. Since mid-2021, Luo has been the program assistant and Chinese community liaison for the Division-Midway Alliance, a nonprofit providing business and social support to one of Portland’s most diverse areas, straddling SE Division Street between 117th and 148th Avenues, overlapping with the neighborhoods of Centennial, Mill Park, Powellhurst-Gilbert, and Hazelwood.
“She really cares about that community, and she really does have the personal and professional chops to jump in and get stuff done,” says Rich Reece, a former district manager for Venture Portland, who first met Luo while volunteering at a Division-Midway Alliance food giveaway. “Everybody knew her name,” he recalls.
Day to day, Luo says her job includes event planning, risk management reporting, data manipulation, social media posting, and newsletter editing. “Basically, I support everything,” she says, working alongside Lisha Shrestha, the executive director of the Division-Midway Alliance, and the rest of its small staff and interns. A former high school teacher pointed her toward the position, and Luo says it provides a welcome push to link with the people around her.
“I’m an introvert,” she admits. “I don’t really go out a lot, and I don’t get a lot of chances to know about the neighborhood, so this is a good chance for me.”
The most gratifying discovery, Luo says, outside of the cornucopia of BIPOC-owned businesses in her area—among them beauty salon Hair Centric and Arabic bakery Sunbela—has been her capacity to support her Chinese neighbors. “I didn’t realize there are so many Chinese community members living here,” says Luo, whose family moved to Portland from China in 2013. “I’ve experienced some elderly Chinese community members who don’t speak English but need help, and I’ve been able to provide them support.”