Maria Portilla Appointed to Special New Position

By Jennifer L. Warren

GREENBURGH – “Little by little.”

It’s a phrase you can often hear Maria Portilla utter as she smiles and positivity blankets her face. The familiar three words refer to her new position as Special Advisor/Liason to the Hispanic community by Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner. Her unique role officially initiated November 9, 2021; however, Portilla was hard at work preparing much sooner by sending out detailed emails and posting critical fliers among other helpful measures.

The volunteer position requires the 20 year Greenburgh resident to be in her specially designed office at the Town Hall every Tuesday from 12-5. Well-versed in and passionate about giving freely of her time, the Special Advisor/Liason role is a natural evolution for the Peruvian native Portilla who came to the United States in 1993. Although holding both undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology, she had to start her 13 year work venture here as a fast food worker and then nanny. In addition to those paid roles, she immediately devoted herself to volunteer work.

“Doing volunteer work is nothing new; it comes from the heart, said Portilla who has helped with issues involving women’s rights and drug addiction and is a District Leader for the Democratic Party in Greenburgh as well as a member of the Greenburgh Human Rights Advisory Committee. “I really care about these people.”

The people Portilla is referring to is her Hispanic population. It’s a group of individuals she has been relentlessly advocating for for years and could not be happier to finally have a safe, secure and tangible office space to perform a host of duties in to do so, including; making recommendations to town officials on ways they can address needs of growing Hispanic community while encouraging them to participate themselves in Town Advisory Committees and Boards, try to persuade town officials to hire officials who speak Spanish and can interact with the Spanish community as well as be there for residents with personal issues and need government assistance and translate important documents in Spanish. The list of duties, along with its challenges, are long, but the need is critical and the work is life-changing.

“Little by little the program is working; the real challenge is to do outreach, and the Hispanic community is a hard one to develop trust with, but many know me with my volunteer work, and those important relationships are already in place,” explained Portilla.

“The holidays are busy, so it’s a slow time now, but it’s important to have patience, and know the people will come, especially knowing they have a steady place; they will no longer feel as if they are lost.”

Portilla is familiar with that feeling of uncertainty, once having a lack of identity herself as a new immigrant. Despite having multiple college degrees when first arriving in the United States, Portilla, a now proud first generation professional in her family (her son and grandson followed suit), had to redefine herself in many ways, locating the correct resources. In time, she earned a second Masters Degree in counseling at Pace University, opening up a whole new world of possibilities, working as a social worker at a host of places and equipped with a critical skill set. It’s a “toolbox” she will rely upon in her new volunteer position, and it’s that very personal upward climb and unlimited potential that has further fueled her to genuinely help all who enter her Greenburgh Town Office.

“I want the community to get educated about immigration; I have an attorney doing a presentation on that topic one time a month as well as a teacher discussing school issues with parents one time a month,” said Portilla. “I also want to provide help with citizenship classes and develop a scholarship for the students who are our future.”

Taking a deep, grateful breath, while a broad smile emerges on her face, Portilla adds what has become her uplifting mantra, “Little by little.”

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