Behind the scenes at Parasol: Miguel Santiago’s tireless dedication
February 20, 2014
This is the first story in a three-part series of features about the people and programs that have led to sustained success for the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation. To learn more about Parasol, visit http://www.parasol.org.
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — When Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation CEO Claudia Andersen was asked recently to describe Miguel Santiago's importance to the foundation, she paused, before saying, "he's a jewel."
Then she added, "He's an angel, actually."
"Miguel treats this place as his home, and because of that, all of us feel at home here," said Andersen, who has been with Parasol since 2006. "Whether it's a client, a donor, a staff member, a board member, whoever, he is here to help and serve."
Helping and serving are synonymous with Parasol, and Miguel leads by that example.
“This is a really good community. What I notice is you treat everybody equally, everyone does, and there are really nice people in Incline.”
Miguel started working for Parasol in 2004 doing custodial work, while balancing a similar role at Incline Middle School, among other professional and volunteer responsibilities.
Over the years, his role with maintenance at the building has grown, and in 2011 he took on the full-time role of building manager.
"We're here to help out the community. This beautiful building, it's well maintained, and everyone every day who comes in respects it," Miguel said during a recent interview in his office.
And perhaps no one respects the Donald W. Reynolds Community Non-Profit Center more than Miguel.
A typical work day for Miguel begins when he walks both floors of the building, ensuring nothing is out of the ordinary and that all rooms are at the right temperature. In the winter, making sure ice melt is on all the walkways or removing snow is of utmost importance before the building opens each day.
As the people associated with the building's nonprofits begin to filter in for work, Miguel completes what he calls "all the little work orders" put forth by residents.
He stops mid-conversation to show an example of recent work orders — somebody needs a desk moved, a dripping water pipe needs fixing, small paint jobs need touching up, the list goes on.
Larger projects like setting up the conference room for a major event, heavy maintenance work, carpet cleanings or bigger paint jobs are handled on the weekends. Large-scale projects like the gutter system or other major jobs are contracted out.
Miguel oversees it all as well as the building janitor and, from time to time, some community service workers.
"I always tell everyone, if you ever want anything done, email me, because if you tell me, I'll forget," he laughed.
Before and after lunch, his role transitions to keeping up with the never-ending tasks and chores of keeping a building in working order so it operates efficiently and professionally.
He maintains a series of elaborate spreadsheets on his computer to track all the projects in the building. For example, there's a box to check for every fire extinguisher inside, as they require monthly safety inspections. The same is true for door locks and many other items inside the building.
One of the things he is most proud of is the building's complex security system to ensure the safety of the nonprofits inside, and to maintain Parasol's overall integrity. And even when he goes home for the day, since he's the point person for any issues, so he's always on call.
"Really in a way he is here all the time," Andersen said. "He really looks at this building as his baby."
It's more than just nuts and bolts, however — considering Miguel's heritage, he also acts as a bridge for the community's Hispanic residents who seek assistance from the many organizations located in the building.
He is bilingual and said he learned English both at school as he was growing up and from his friends.
"All the people who don't speak English, they like to come to me, and I can direct them to the organization that can help them," he said. "That's actually pretty rewarding in itself … when they come here and talk to me, they feel more comfortable being here and seeking help."
It's that kind of dedication that sets Miguel apart, Andersen said: "He's really a true mentor for so many young people. He does that, he's a father figure."
As much as he cares about his work, the community and Parasol, for Miguel, it comes down to faith and family.
When the conversation drifts toward family, his eyes immediately light up, and he becomes engrossed in his smartphone, his fingers furiously trying to pull up recent photos of his two children — son Jeffrey Alexander Santiago, who just turned 4 the day after Christmas last year, and daughter Abigail Morgan Santiago, who will turn 3 this April. Miguel and his wife, Sam, have lived in Incline Village since 2001.
"We're buying a house here — I'd like to see the kids go through school here," he said when asked about his future. "This is a really good community. What I notice is you treat everybody equally, everyone does, and there are really nice people in Incline."
And in the end, Miguel's family friendly demeanor and his ability to constantly help and serve are what makes him just as much a part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center as Parasol itself.
"There's always a positive attitude … it's great," he said. "You look forward to going to work here."