The new leader of Re:Vision knows the importance of food, which is after all at the heart of her nonprofit.
“It’s like a party,” JoAnna Cintrón said. “You can’t have a good party without food. Everyone’s always in the kitchen. The best times are around a meal.”
Re:Vision announced last month that its co-founders Joseph Teipel and Eric Kornacki were leaving and that Cintrón was taking over as executive director.
Members of the Westwood community had impressed upon Teipel and Kornacki the importance of food, specifically reliable access to fresh, affordable nourishment in one of Denver’s food deserts. Finding jobs and building wealth were also on the neighborhood’s agenda. Re:Vision has taken on those challenges as well.
Cintrón likes to tell the story of Matilde Garcia-Rubio, who started out tending one of the home vegetable gardens that Teipel and Kornacki launched as part of a food security project in 2009. Re:Vision went on to establish more than 2,000 vegetable gardens it estimates have produced more than 600,000 pounds of fresh produce and saved the low-income families that tend them over $1 million in grocery bills.
Garcia-Rubio went on to become a Re:Vision promotora, or community navigator, helping her neighbors start their own yard farms.
As a promotora, “the leadership skills she learned … helped her realize she wanted to pay it forward,” Cintrón said.
Garcia-Rubio founded Mujeres Emprendedoras to foster women in business. Re:Vision incubated Garcia-Rubio’s cooperative and turns to its members for catering work. Mujeres Emprendedoras recently began producing salsas. Jars of the brick-red sauces along with the cooperative’s jewelry can be found on the shelves of the Westwood Food Cooperative, a community-owned grocery shop that is independent but a close partner of Re:Vision.
“In a lot of senses, we are a community development nonprofit with food being the catalyst,” Cintrón said.
Cintrón was in a way incubated at Re:Vision. She was its director of communications and individual giving before taking over as executive director. Westwood community members such as Yuri Bahena, a Re:Vision program manager and active grocery co-op member, have said the promotion of Cintrón from within embodies the spirit of Re:Vision.
Just a few months earlier, another Denver food nonprofit named an insider to take over as executive director. Christine Alford first came to Denver Food Rescue for help feeding her family. She later started a no-cost grocery store in her Five Points neighborhood and joined Denver Food Rescue’s board of directors. Last September she was hired as program director. Alford took over Denver Food Rescue from Turner Wyatt, a co-founder of Denver Food Rescue who left to move to Crested Butte to continue fighting food waste.
Teipel left Re:Vision to lead the Chaffee County Community Foundation in his hometown of Buena Vista and Kornacki launched THRIVE Partners to continue working in community economic development and took on consulting for the Denver Public Market, a new food hub and market in West Denver.
Cintrón took on her new role July 1 after spending much of the previous month shadowing Teipel. Teipel had been executive director while Kornacki was director of impact. Together the two men, Cintrón said, left an important legacy of starting small, planning carefully and being led by those you have set out to help.
“Our promotoras are really our ears on the ground as far as listening to the community on a daily basis,” Cintrón said.
She said having already worked for Re:Vision for two years has given her a head start that a newcomer would lack.
“Not to say I don’t have a huge learning curve ahead of me,” Cintrón said.
She said taking on financial responsibilities would be the biggest challenge. Her skills as a communicator will also play a role in her new job, she said. She came to the organization after a stint at the Denver Film Society where she was marketing manager and helped start a Latino film festival.
“Latino representation, whether it’s in film or anywhere else is always what’s driven me,” said Cintrón, who was a fellow of the University of Denver’s Latino Leadership Institute and sits on the board for the Westwood Creative District.
Coming to Re:Vision in predominately Latino Westwood gave her a chance to tell, year-round and not just during CineLatino, the story of a “beautiful, vibrant community of people who are working harder than you could ever imagine.”
“It’s my job as an executive director to tell the story to multiple stakeholders,” she said. “I do think of my job as one of a storyteller.”
She’ll be guiding Re:Vision into a new phase. Work that began in February on Re:Vision’s campus at 3738 Morrison Road is almost complete. The space will have an arts and culture center, a classroom and a commissary kitchen to support local food entrepreneurs. An urban farm and a hydroponic garden already on the site will continue. The food co-op envisions one day having a full-service grocery store at the site.
Cintrón took a reporter on a tour Wednesday, pointing out the commissary kitchen’s walk-in freezer and other equipment ready to be rolled into place. This past winter’s blizzard had set construction back slightly, she said. Being close to food gave her perspective. The urban farm had also suffered delays.
“We’ve just had our first little bundles of broccoli come in,” she said. “It’s so exciting.”
“I almost feel guilty that I get to inherit the building now,” she said, adding that Teipel and Kornacki would be invited to the ribbon-cutting.
“I can’t wait to get in there and get programs running,” she said.