Estela Ortega
Estela Ortega with her Lynn Allen Award (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

This evening, at our eleventh Spring Fundrais­ing Gala in Ren­ton, we induct­ed our fifth Lynn Allen Award Hon­oree: El Cen­tro de la Raza­’s Estela Orte­ga.

Named for our late sis­ter Lynn Allen, a found­ing board­mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, these awards rec­og­nize peo­ple who have made indis­pens­able con­tri­bu­tions to pro­gres­sive caus­es for a decade or more.

We lost Lynn to ovar­i­an can­cer in 2011, but her spir­it has remained with us. (And so have her pub­lished works, pre­served by NPI at Rebuild­ing Democracy.)

Lynn emphat­i­cal­ly believed in the impor­tant work of orga­niz­ing rur­al com­mu­ni­ties and act­ing on issues of con­cern to peo­ple liv­ing far away from our big cities and urban areas. She preached and prac­ticed the pol­i­tics of inclusion.

As com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor of the Insti­tute for Washington’s Future, she trav­eled reg­u­lar­ly to Washington’s rur­al coun­ties and small towns, cham­pi­oning sus­tain­able busi­ness and agri­cul­tur­al practices.

A skilled facil­i­ta­tor and gift­ed lis­ten­er, Lynn under­stood the impor­tance of and need for effec­tive activism. Not a day goes by when we don’t miss her.

We estab­lished the Lynn Allen Awards as part of our con­tin­u­ing effort to ensure that Lynn’s good works will be remem­bered and her lega­cy appreciated.

Each year, we hon­or two out­stand­ing indi­vid­u­als with a Lynn Allen Award.

In 2017, we pre­sent­ed the very first Lynn Allen Awards to Joni Earl and Paul Lawrence. Last year, Major Gen­er­al Paul Eaton (Retired) and Alex Hen­drick­son became our third and fourth hon­orees. Tonight, Estela Orte­ga joined their ranks.

Estela Ortega
Estela Orte­ga with her Lynn Allen Award (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

Este­la’s award com­men­da­tion is as follows:

Build­ing com­mu­ni­ty has been the cause of Estela Ortega’s life. In her ear­ly twen­ties, she made a con­scious deci­sion to become an orga­niz­er for social jus­tice with her hus­band and leg­endary advo­cate Rober­to Maes­tas. For over four decades, she has worked to take care of the beloved com­mu­ni­ty through El Cen­tro de la Raza (The Cen­ter For Peo­ple Of All Races), a com­mu­ni­ty action agency based in Bea­con Hill. Under Estela’s lead­er­ship, El Cen­tro has cham­pi­oned tran­sit ori­ent­ed devel­op­ment, build­ing over one hun­dred homes for peo­ple with lim­it­ed means next to its his­toric build­ing on Six­teenth Avenue South in Seat­tle. Estela’s con­tri­bu­tions to caus­es like edu­ca­tion, afford­able hous­ing, youth engage­ment, and pub­lic health have enriched our region and shown what can be accom­plished with vision­ary lead­er­ship and perseverance.

Este­la’s oth­er hon­ors include:

  • Lati­na Sym­po­sium’s Manos Unidas Award (2019)
  • Seat­tle Sea­hawks’ His­pan­ic Her­itage Lead­er­ship Award (2018)
  • NEA’s George I. Sanchez Memo­r­i­al Award (2016)

Con­grat­u­la­tions, Estela, and thank you for your tremen­dous ser­vice to our move­ment. Your con­tri­bu­tions tru­ly have been indispensable.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts