About Us

We believe that Latina women deserve to live a self-sufficient, safe and authentic life. We provide strong opportunities and tools to achieve these unique goals.

Our Mission

To empower Latina women to make healthy choices and live free from violence

Puertas Abiertas Staff

Andrea Inostroza-Castro

Andrea Inostroza-Castro

MS, ATR, LLPC, Founder & ED

Andrea Inostroza is the founder and executive director of Puertas Abiertas (Open Doors), a non-profit organization created to help Latina women live healthier life without violence. She finds honesty, authenticity, and dedication to be the most valuable qualities for success in running the organization. In the four years since founding Puertas Abiertas in January 2019, Andrea has led the organization to serve Kent County with a unique cultural sensitivity approach. Andrea was born in Concepción, Chile. She holds a Bachelor in Art of Education majoring in Plastic Arts from the University of Concepción. She arrived in the United States with her family in December 2002 without knowing the language or culture. After moving to Michigan, she received her education at the University of Phoenix, graduating with a Master's Degree in Science in Psychology, and later Saint Mary's of the Woods College, receiving a Master's in Art Therapy and Counseling. Andrea joined Fine Art America as a professional artist on July 17th, 2010. Andrea has spent her life using her personal and career experiences to help the most disadvantaged to overcome obstacles and provide them with the support they need when their life seems to be more than they can handle. While her focus is the Latino women victim of abuse, trafficking, and discrimination, she also provides services for children, men and LGTBQ+ who are dealing with traumatic situations of their own. Andrea has an extensive background in trauma-informed therapy. She is currently exploring private practice in Grand Rapids, MI, where she lives with her Goldendoodle, Bruno.

Jessica Aguilar

Jessica Aguilar

Bilingual Advocate/ESL Instructor

Jessica was born in Holland, Michigan, but because her parents were seasonal farm workers, she moved to and grew up in Florida. She returned to Michigan to complete her undergraduate studies at Michigan State University. She graduated with a minor in Psychology and a minor in Human Behavior and Social Services. Jessica is currently an instructor for the MSU HEP program that helps adults earn their GED. She is also working with Your Solutions Foster Care Youth Project, which helps youth who have recently left foster care.

Nicole Johnson

Nicole Johnson

LLMSW - Bilingual Therapist

Nicole graduated from Grand Valley State University where she received her Master's in Social Work and a Bachelor's in Spanish, French, and Linguistics. She has worked at Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids since 2014 with unaccompanied minors from Central America. She has also worked with adults struggling with substance use disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and other issues common to people who have experienced trauma. She is a strong believer in trauma responsive care and takes a relational approach to therapy. Nicole is passionate about working with women from all stages of life and sees therapy as a way to heal from past trauma and empower yourself to create a life worth living. In her free time, Nicole loves to read fiction books, spend time outdoors, eat out with friends, and arrange flowers.

Melissa Lucas

Melissa Lucas

LLMSW - Bilingual Therapist

Melissa Lucas recently joined Puertas Abiertas as a mental health therapist. She graduated from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in 2019 and received a master's in social work. Currently, Melissa works at Bethany Christian Services, working with unaccompanied refugee minors. Before that, she worked in a case management role serving refugees in the foster care population. Melissa is excited to continue serving the community and increasing mental health awareness. She believes in empowering clients to make informed decisions by providing them with the psychoeducation they need to be successful.

Liszet Chavez

Liszet Chavez

Bilingual Advocate

Liszet Chavez-Johnson recently joined Puertas Abiertas. Liszet was born in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, but raised in Grand Rapids, MI. She graduated from Ashford University in 2019 and received her master’s degree in Criminal Justice, specializing in law enforcement and correction administration. Liszet has three children and recently adopted her dog Wizard from the animal shelter. She enjoys watching movies, crime shows and going outdoors with her kids and dog. She is currently working with Bethany Christian Services, helping unaccompanied refugee minors. Before that, she worked with adults in different rehabilitation areas. Liszet has the passion and the heart to help those in need and is excited to be part of this team.

Sarai Gamez

Sarai Gamez

Bilingual Advocate

Sarai is a native of Grand Rapids, MI, and is currently pursuing a master's degree in social work at GVSU. She has extensive experience working with immigrants and other Latinx individuals in both the Wyoming and Grand Rapids communities. Previously, Sarai worked at a local school, where she was instrumental in developing school-community partnerships and supporting parents and students. Sarai likes to read books, paint, or explore the outdoors in her free time. She is a proud owner of a cat named Sid.

Zandra Vazquezz

Zandra Vazquezz

Bilingual Advocate Manager

Growing up I had a unique experience as a migrant farmworker, constantly moving between Florida and Michigan to follow the harvest. Despite the challenges I managed to attend school and acquire valuable skills. This unique upbringing exposed me to diverse cultures and instilled a deep appreciation for hard work and determination. I then pursued a higher education, armed with desire to make a difference, I embarked on a path of service by working in various non-profit organizations and found Puertas Abiertas. I am now proud to serve as a manager for this non-profit organization and with years of experience, I have developed a strong passion for making a positive impact in our community. In my capacity as a manager for the bilingual advocates, I oversee various aspects of our organization. I strive to foster an environment that encourages collaboration, innovation, and growth, ensuring that our team works efficiently to fulfill our mission. Additionally, I am also a Bilingual advocate. This skill allows me to effectively engage with diverse communities, breaking down language barriers and facilitating meaningful communication. I am dedicated to promoting inclusivity and ensuring that everyone has equal access to the service and resources we provide.

Merita Torres

Merita Torres

Donor Engagement Specialist

Daniela Centeno

Daniela Centeno

Bilingual Advocate

Born and raised in the City of Grand Rapids, but Mexican at heart from both parents from Morelos and Jalisco. She is currently a student at Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor's in Social Work, working towards her Master's in Social Work (MSW) and a minor in Spanish and Psychology while doing a lot of extracurriculars towards her community. Daniela plans to learn more about West Michigan and the Latinx community with one more year left in school. Daniela likes to spend time with her family and her adorable son but also likes to go out to the community and spend time with clients that require assistance, specifically with elder groups and kids. She has been working at Puertas Abiertas for almost a year. After learning so much, Daniela loves what she does. She is highly tech-savvy and manages to use many software programs at her school and work setting. Daniela would love to share her knowledge with others.

Julieta Tornes

Julieta Tornes

Program Manager

Born and raised in Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico. In 2002, she arrived in Illinois, where she learned English at Triton College. She has five beautiful children and a grandson. Julieta enjoys taking her dog Nato for walks and has recently adopted her cat Kika which she adores. Julieta acquired management skills while working at Start Sampling Inc. and other companies. In 2011, she moved to the city of Grand Rapids, MI, where she gained personal management skills in different capacities, managing over 60 employees. Julieta has always had a passion for giving back to the community, and in 2019, as a client of Puertas Abiertas, she began the journey. Julieta started volunteering for the organization and had the opportunity to intern at the Kent District Library, doing outreach in the community. Currently, she serves as the Program Manager at Puertas Abiertas, bringing a significant number of opportunities to the clients through community partnerships and addressing their needs.

Perla Peralta

Perla Peralta

Bilingual Admin, HR Director & Internal Auditor

Perla Peralta was born in Oaxaca, Mexico. She relocated to Grand Rapids, MI, in November 1997. For the past ten years, Perla has had the opportunity to serve the Grand Rapids Community as a Public Notary, Interpreter, and Tax Preparer. Perla is married and has four kids and 2 German Shepherds. In June of 2022, Perla joined the Family of Puertas Abiertas as an Interpreter, and now she is the HR Director/Internal Auditor of Puertas Abiertas. She is a constant student and is currently pursuing her Academic goals as she wants to become a CPA. A servant leader at heart, she brings Integrity, honesty, and kindness to serve, support, and encourage the staff and clients at Puertas Asbiertas.

Belkis Sulay Torrez

Belkis Sulay Torrez

Bilingual Life Coach

Belkis Sulay Torrez was born in Barquisimeto, Lara, Venezuela. In 2018 she moved to La Paz- Mexico, for one and a half years. In 2019 Belkis came to the United States. She began her university studies in 1978 at the Pedagógica Experimental Libertador (Libertador Pedagogical Experimental University) in Barquisimeto, a city on the Turbio River and the capital of Lara state in northwestern Venezuela. Belkis graduated in 1985 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. From 1998 to 2000, she did post-graduate studies at the Centro de Investigación of Psiquiátrica, Psicológica y Sexológica de Venezuela (Venezuelan Psychiatric, Psychological and Sexological Research Center) based in Caracas, D.F., Venezuela. Belkis graduated with a Master of Science in Behavioral Science. From 2002 to 2006, Belkis studied at the Santa María (Holy Mary) University based in Caracas, D.F., Venezuela, graduating with a Doctorate in Education Science. In 2006 she graduated as a Radio Announcer with certificate #38.083; the same year, she was accredited as an Independent National Producer #14.587.

Yesenia Velasco

Yesenia Velasco

Bilingual Advocate

Yesenia was born in Mexico. She immigrated to the United States at the age of 17, after completing a two-year course at Business School, with a certification as a shorthand-typing secretary. Yesenia has worked at Michigan State University Extension for 21 years as a Community Nutrition Instructor for the community of Grand Rapids. In her free time, she worked as a caregiver for the elderly. Yesenia’s passion has always been to help those who need the most. She started working for Puertas Abiertas because they accepted me as one of their own. She is proud to be able to continue helping the community.

Hayden Gebhart

Hayden Gebhart

Mentor

Hayden is originally from West Michigan but relocated to the Grand Rapids area in 2019 to pursue his studies at GVSU. In 2022, he obtained a Bachelor's degree in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and a minor in LGBTQ+ Studies. Hayden believes in the importance of empathy, education, and community, and his involvement with Puertas Abiertas has allowed him to foster connections and inspire others. He intends to further his education by pursuing a Public and Nonprofit Administration degree in Fall 2024.

AC

AC

Mental Health Therapist

Juan Rodriguez

Juan Rodriguez

Bilingual Instructor

Board of Directors

Our seven members' non-profit board serves a vital role in supporting the vision and mission of the organization. Board members also help as volunteers, by raising awareness in the community, and connecting with potential sponsors, donors, and volunteers. All board members also make a personal financial contribution once a year.

Board President

Claudia Pohlen

Claudia Pohlen

Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Campaign Coordinator

Board Secretary

M. Paola Leon

M. Paola Leon

Associate Professor MSW Program Director School of Social Work Grand Valley State University

Board Treasurer

Carly Haller

Carly Haller

Global Segment Leader - Dow Chemical (Global Marketing). IX Shoes LLC (owner, shoe start-up). Grool Rentals (co-owner, rental properties)

Board Members

Catherine Villanueva

Catherine Villanueva

Attorney at Michigan Immigrant Rights Center

Joan Williams

Joan Williams

Vicaress Dominican Sisters

Rafael Castanon

Rafael Castanon

Innovation Project Manger at Health Net of West Michigan

Beverly Thiel

Beverly Thiel

Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity