Mobile home managers make a difference |

Mobile home managers make a difference

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunMaria Soto, manager of Donner Creek Mobile Home Park, works at her desk on Monday. Along with her husband, Emigdio, she has started classes and worked to turn the park into more of a community.

The cold, snow and trash are the things that stick in Maria Soto’s mind from her first day on the job as manager of the Donner Creek Mobile Home Park two years ago.

And then there was the first person she met at the 94-unit mobile home park ” a staffer for the Nevada County Environmental Health Department.

“I was freezing,” Soto said of her first trip to the park from her home in Lodi, Calif. “It was so cold and I said, ‘Oh dear God, what are we doing here.'”

But two years later, a combination of a lot of heart, hard work and personal commitment from Soto and her husband, Emigdio, has spurred a remarkable turnaround at the mobile home park.

“She’s pretty much the best manager we’ve had,” said Antonio Cervantes, who has lived at the park since 1994.

Seated behind a simple desk in the manager’s office of the mobile home park, Soto, dressed in a white, long-sleeve shirt with a black scarf, offers the wisdom she has doled out daily in her two years as manager. One of the first things Soto learned about the job was “there’s a lot more than collecting rent.”

“They’ve always called this place Tijuanita,” Soto said. “But we’ve got to show people that we can be better than that.”

Her advice is part self-help, part motherly guidance, and part tough-love. It’s an approach that has garnered her the trust and love of the park’s estimated 200 children and the respect of tenants.

“The kids know if they have issues they can come to the office and if the office is closed they can come to the house, and we’re there for them,” Soto said.

In the two years the Sotos have run the park they have helped start numerous classes for children and parents. The children have had a chance to take crafts classes, English as a second language tutorials or nutrition classes. They have also raised money for muscular dystrophy and become a part of Truckee Day, a volunteer effort to clean up Truckee streets and neighborhoods.

Lately, a competition for the best decorated trailer during the Christmas season has the park twinkling.

Geraldo Ruiz sends his children to the classes. He said the park is cleaner and the attitude among residents has improved.

“It’s much better,” Ruiz said.

He noted that it helps that Maria and Emigdio Soto, unlike some previous managers, can communicate to tenants in both English and Spanish.

Much of the park’s transformation is owed to Emigdio’s hard work ” labor than included trucking continual loads of trash to the dump during the first month the couple managed the park.

“In the first month I paid $4,000 to the dump,” Emigdio Soto said.

And the changes are not slowing down at the park. The Sotos recently circulated a petition that lets the mobile home park owners know what improvements the tenants want to see, particularly an expanded recreation and activity room for the children. The couple hopes to soon lead an effort to expand the room that they said will be heavily used by the park’s children during the winter.

Maria Soto, who grew up with 11 brothers and sisters and has worked in jobs from retail and restaurants to mortgage lenders and education, said her job as manager has taught her to have a light heart despite hardship.

“I think I’ve learned a lot,” Soto said. “I’ve learned to laugh at people’s problems and my problems and help them laugh at their problems.”

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