Growing up, Lupe Reyes always helped take care of his older sister, Anabel, who was born with Down syndrome.

She often liked to keep to herself at home, but sometimes she liked to go outside, having visitors, said Reyes, 34.

“It made me a little bit more responsible growing up to be available to her, to my parents to help,” he said. “She’s like my little sister even though she’s older than me. I cannot help but think of her as someone I care about and want to help.”

He said she helped him understand life better, how he should be willing to take more time in the grocery store checkout line, why some people may make random noises.

“It may be something that they may be having a harder time with,” he said.

And it was that understanding that eventually catapulted him into a career in social work.

Reyes has worked for the State Department of Social and Health Services for nearly six years and has spent the past four years as a resource manager.

He spends much of his time connecting services to people living with Down syndrome, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Reyes also is responsible for authorizing financial assistance to clients to assure continued support while they are receiving services. He primarily serves the Lower Valley.

But that’s not the only outreach work Reyes does. He and his wife, Cristal, hold a class intended to guide youth toward good decisions at their church, St. Peter Claver in Wapato.

They’ve been holding the class weekly on Zoom because of the pandemic.

“It’s something to help out during this time,” Reyes said. “It’s something that we’ve held dear to us, anything we can do to help guide the youth to a better direction — that’s what me and my wife do.”

They have two children, Alicia Anabel, 7, and Ernesto Francisco, 3.

Reyes said he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he began college.

“You kind of fumble around and then realize, hey, this is something that has always been in my life, he said of social work. “It didn’t come easy, but it was a natural fit.”

He recalls when his sister was able to go to school.

“She still looks for the bus to pick her up for school,” he said. “It’s really nice that she still remembers that.”

He’s been working from home since the pandemic hit the area.

Weekly home visits have been moved to near daily Zoom meetings, he said. He’s also meeting with service providers, supervisors and other staff regularly via videoconferencing.

He’s grateful for the ability to work safely from home amid the pandemic.

“I’m definitely blessed to be in the position I am in,” he said. “I know a lot of other people have had to put themselves at risk going out into the community.”

Lupe Reyes

Age: 32.

Profession: Resource manager, state Department of Social and Health Services.

Community of residence: Toppenish.

What inspires you? “My family. A lot of what inspires me and encourages me to work hard is my family.”

Reach Phil Ferolito at pferolito@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @philipferolito

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