Each year, the Denver Public Library celebrates the contributions of Latinos with the Latino Community Service Awards. Chief among those awards is the Lena L. Archuleta Community Service Award, named for the late educator and community activist. This year, that award was bestowed on Dr. Irene Martinez Jordan.
Martinez Jordan is known in the Denver community for her work and devotion to the education of young people and providing them with encouraging environments such as designing the modern library and presentation studio at West High School. She also works to make life better for older adults and their families through her volunteer work with AARP Colorado and the West Campus Food Bank.
Martinez Jordan has been an AARP volunteer since 2008, when Lena Archuleta recruited her to be a part of AARP’s El Comité, an organization that advocates on behalf of Colorado Latinos 50-plus.
In 2010, Martinez Jordan expanded her volunteer work with AARP and joined AARP Colorado’s advocacy group, which advocates on behalf of Coloradans 50-plus at the Colorado State Legislature.
“The commitment is minimal, but it makes us feel like we’ve made a big difference and contributed to the welfare of seniors, the community as a whole; and a lot of what we do also affects the indigent, so we’re making a contribution in a way that is easy and keeps us active and involved as seniors,” she said. “We remain educated about the issues and influence what our Colorado Legislature does.”
When Martinez Jordan is not working on legislation to help older adults, she is helping the students and families of Denver West High School.
In 2018, the West High Alumni Association answered the call to help end food insecurity for the students and families by creating the West Campus Food Bank. Along with Alumni President Rita Cordova, Martinez Jordan, who was the West High School principal from 1997 to 2004, developed a diverse team of volunteers to help stamp out hunger in West Denver.
“Rita and Irene work the entire week, making and coordinating food orders from Food for Thought, Food Bank of the Rockies, We Don’t Waste and local merchants subsidized by a Healthy Food for Denver Kids Grant,” said one of the program’s many volunteers.
The food bank now operates as a Saturday drive through pick-up by parents. It distributes 86-100 boxes of food and bags of fresh produce to 80 families, about 450-500 individuals a week.
“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the Lena Archuleta Community Service Award than Irene Martinez Jordan,” said Angela Cortez, AARP Colorado spokesperson. “She is an amazing volunteer and one of the most intelligent and kind people we at AARP have had the pleasure of working with. We're all so happy for her and proud to know her.”
Born in Trinidad, Colorado, Martinez Jordan grew up in Pueblo. If it weren’t for the local college where she received a good education and could save money by living at home, she would not have been the first person in her mother’s 200-plus member family to graduate from college. After graduating she moved to Denver where she had a rewarding career in the Denver Public Schools as a teacher, counselor, community liaison, principal and area superintendent. She devoted her career to helping young people and as a retiree, she continues to serve as a volunteer and friend to many.
_ Erlinda Archuleta is a member of the AARP Colorado Executive Council, El Comité and AARP Colorado advocacy team.