“He was one of my role models. He taught me how to be strong. I learned my work ethic from him and now he was gone,” Andrea O. recalls sitting in the center of the Zen Garden. The “He” Andrea’s talking about was her beloved Grandfather, Manuel Ocampo. The first Latino Secretary/Treasurer in LA’s Local 630 of the Teamsters, Manuel was an accomplished, generous, and loving patriarch to Andrea’s family. Raised along with her two younger sisters by her grandparents and later by her parents, who had Andrea when they were very young, Andrea learned early on the power and meaning of family. “Culture and family were always very important,” she says.

Coincidentally, her Spotlight interview just happened to take place on one of the most hallowed and revered holidays in Mexico – “Dia de los Muertos,” the “Day of the Dead.” Hailing from a proud and successful Mexican-American family, this holiday has so much significance, considering its focus on the remembrance of those family members who have passed, but are never forgotten. Practically from birth, Andrea was a hard worker and an exuberant social butterfly. As she puts it, “I’ve always been outgoing, and I made a lot of friends in and outside of school.” She enjoyed being a cheerleader from eighth grade through the end of high school and, like most teens her age, she enjoyed having fun and going to house parties. However, she did have a little rebellious streak during those years and, at times, ran with a rough crowd. But her grandparents and parents made sure she steered clear of those entanglements to focus on schoolwork and her future. To that end, she attended Cal State-LA following high school, where she would eventually graduate.

Prior to that, however, at age eighteen, she met the man who would become the father of her children. “He showed me the world. My first trip ever out of Los Angeles was to Canada,” she recalls with a smile. Following that trip she found out she was pregnant with her first child, a son. “That was a G-d send. He gave me purpose,” she explains. Sadly, around this same time, her beloved grandfather was diagnosed with colon cancer. He refused any and all medicinal treatments for the disease and passed very quickly. But, as Andrea recounts, “I was hoping he would live to see his first great grandchild and fortunately he did.” Shortly after his passing, Andrea was blessed with positive news. She was pregnant again, this time with a little girl. She was now a mother of two beautiful children and she was barely into her twenties. Her children’s father lived at home with her and the kids for the first twelve years of their relationship. But after that period, the couple drifted apart and separated. However, the focus remained on the wellbeing of their children and they put their co-parenting ahead of any issue they may have had between each other.

In 2007, Andrea received devastating news. Her maternal grandmother had passed. Two foundational rocks of her life were gone, but two new additions had come along to provide Andrea with the motivation to work hard and provide for them, as she had been taken care of by her beloved grandparents. She threw herself into raising her kids, as well as taking on the loving task of caring for her surviving grandmother. She encouraged her kids to play sports as well as engage in other high school activities. In fact, her daughter followed in her footsteps by becoming a cheerleader. They both did well in school and have grown into successful adults and beautiful reflections of their mother’s love. Andrea’s son, only twenty-two, just bought his first home and her daughter will be graduating from Cal State-L.A. next year.

And while her family and kids are a large and loving focus of her life, Andrea has many other drives in life. Having always had a strong work ethic and some type of job or employment since she was fourteen, Andrea has had a multitude of occupations throughout her life. Three years ago, she found herself working at a job that gave her no fulfillment. “I was just going through the motions,” she says. But then she came across a job opportunity working in accounting at a Jewish faith based rehab facility called Beit T’Shuvah. A practicing Catholic, she had never met any Jewish people in her life. But as she investigated the listing, the mission of BTS moved her. “I loved the fact Beit T’Shuvah’s main focus was to help people,” she says.

And she loves the team she works with everyday. “Julie and Gela are so supportive. They’re like my mentors. We’re an amazing team,” she proclaims with that exuberant smile that lights up any room she enters. She also brings another gift to her work at BTS. Having been an event planner, on and off throughout her work life, she is extremely festive and loves bringing joy and inventive decorations to the community during various holidays throughout the year. This coming January, she will have worked at Beit T’Shuvah for three years, and as she tells it, “I’m so lucky and blessed that I work for an organization that saves lives everyday.”

But there is still so much more to Andrea’s life. While there may be some joking disagreements within the walls of Beit T’Shuvah, there is no bigger Dodger fan than Andrea Ocampo. Having attended games all her life with her family, she definitely bleeds Dodger blue. Yet, it’s not just base hits and strikeouts for Andrea. In 2017, her cherished father, a man who provided her and her sisters with a loving and steadying father figure presence throughout their lives, especially following the death of her grandfather, passed away after an unexpected and short battle with cirrhosis of the liver. He was always a drinker but he was also a loving dad and massive Dodger fan. The entire family would go to the games—it was as much a bonding experience as it was a sporting event. “Now Dodger games remind me of my father and the family bond we built around those games together,” she relays with tears welling in her eyes.

Having survived her own health scares in 2020, Andrea has an even more powerful perspective on life and the importance of family. Recently, she was also asked to become the coordinator for the BTS 2022 Marathon team. “I accepted it so I could connect even more with my community at BTS,” she explains. And she doesn’t mind the health benefits it provides as well. At this stage in her life she wants to travel more. She loves music and wants to attend more unique and varied concert experiences. She loves helping people and wants to expand that calling even further. She loves her kids and can’t wait to watch them bloom further into their adulthood. And she really loves her little dogs, Foxxie and Prince.

“I try to live an authentic and engaged life. I’m in a really good place emotionally and spiritually and I’m looking forward to more interesting and fulfilling experiences,” she concludes with that radiant smile still beaming

Spotlight on Andrea O. by Randall S.

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