Downtown Hillsboro's Star Volunteer Grows Through Service


For those of us who know Star, it's hard to picture a Downtown Hillsboro event or organization without her warm and bubbly presence. That's why it was surprising for us to learn that Star only got really involved in Downtown volunteer work within the last four years. Even though she was born and raised in Hillsboro, Estella 'Star' Guerra still felt disconnected from her community until more recently. Only once she became more involved in volunteer work did she find connection through meeting new people and expanding her own skills and experience. For Star, everything comes back to bettering her work - supporting adults with disabilities.  

Star's work is personal

Star has worked as an aid and advocate for adults with disabilities for over 14 years.  She wants people to understand that disabilities come in many forms, from those born with physical or mental handicaps to people who become medically disabled later in life. Each person is unique; and broadening how we view folks with disabilities helps us to remove a lot of internal biases we might have. This helps us to remove barriers and create more opportunities for people to be  involved in their community both socially and vocationally. 

Star learned a lot of this from her own family, where she grew up with many family members who were disabled. One such example helped lead her to her eventual career in disability work: Star's sister suffered an aneurism which led to her leaving the state of Oregon. She was forced to leave Star's disabled nephew in the care of his grandmother who kept him close, even into adulthood. When she passed away, Star partially took over caring for her adult nephew and felt that his abilities were being underestimated. She became a natural advocate for him, helping him to secure a new job and find new opportunities. She realized that there are many adults like her nephew who just need an advocate to help them find success in work and in life.

Her personal experience didn't start with her nephew, though. Star also had a stepbrother who grew up disabled and a father who became ill and eventually ended up in hospice. These personal experiences illustrated not only the barriers people with disabilities face but it also showed her just how many programs and services are available in our community, many of which aren't well known. Though she began her work with an agency, Star eventually realized that by branching out on her own, she could go much deeper with those she served. When she began to take on clients as an independent contractor, Star wanted to find ways to learn more about what was happening in the community and help her clients get more involved themselves.  

Volunteering as a way to grow

Star first began to volunteer at HART Theater only four years ago. She had recently learned about HART Theater's SNAP program, where Oregon Trail cardholders can get discounted tickets to community theater shows. She realized that although this program could benefit the adults she worked with, many had no idea the program existed. Despite the fact that she didn't have any previous interest in community theater, she felt that many of the people she worked with could benefit from this type of activity.

Shortly thereafter, Star began volunteering as an usher and in the box office. At first the opportunity was just a new way to meet new people and give back, she soon found that she enjoyed the self-growth she found from challenging herself to try something new. From there, she branched out again to take shifts at Bag & Baggage with the hope that she could learn new skills to pass on to her clients. By getting involved herself in Downtown Hillsboro, Star began to find new opportunities in which she could help place the adults she worked with. She secured volunteer work for them and eventually paid positions that suited their skills and interests. She has continued to work at the theaters and even found a new passion, bringing clients and friends alike to shows Downtown.  

Through the people Star met at the theaters, she began to find more opportunities to volunteer at events like Holly Days, Block Party, Sip & Shop, and more. The more she got involved, the more opportunities seemed to present themselves. These days, its hard to find a Downtown event that Star isn't a part of, whether its organizing behind the scenes or out and about. More often than not, you'll find one of her clients by her side. 

How to get involved

At HDP, we celebrate folks like Star who strive to assist and connect above all else. Even for those who may have anxiety or feel shy, Star stresses the importance of being open to talking to people. Most of the opportunities she has found have come through a friendly introduction at a bar or restaurant in Downtown. She calls the restaurants she frequents her office, where she often sets up shop in a quiet corner to work and just observe the life happening around her. By putting herself out there, she stays open to potential new connections and opportunities. 

She encourages others to try things they might not think they would be interested in or good at, saying, "you might be surprised at what sticks." Star goes on to remind us that the worst thing that could happen is that you discover it's just not for you. For example, even though Star found that there was a place for her in community theater, a brief stint at the Hillsboro Herald taught her that writing was not something she wanted to pursue. This openness and willingness to fail is inspiring and can remind us that trying new things benefits not only just you but the people around you too.

Most of all, Star says that the more you know the better you can be there for others. 

Where you can find Star

You can find Star working with her clients at The Downtown Hive, at either HART Theater or Bag & Baggage, and at most of our community events in Downtown. Star posts a lot about her work with her clients and in the community on Instagram with the handle @btfldream. We hope you feel inspired by the work that Star does, and that you'll take a risk and try something new. You can visit downtownhillsboro.org/volunteering to sign up for one of the many volunteer opportunities available here in Downtown Hillsboro. 
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