One of the first things you'll notice about Raina Mills, our new store manager in Washington County, is how easy she is to talk to. A Midwesterner by birth, her arrival in the Northwest almost 20 years ago took a route from Iowa to southern California.
Growing up in Iowa Raina, spent much off her time out in nature, playing in creeks and catching frogs. She said when her mother moved the family to the West Coast for better job opportunities, Raina felt like a fish out of water. The concrete jungle, the intense hustle and bustle had her looking north as she came of age.
"I just drove up the coast and landed in Brookings on my first visit to Oregon and I fell in love!" Raina said.
She was charmed and fascinated by the small banana belt town and its beautiful beaches. But she chose to settle in Portland for its proximity to plentiful hiking and primitive camping options.
"I know all different sorts of nooks and crannies in the gorge," she said. Raina's favorite hikes include Punch Bowl Falls, Triple Falls and Washington's Silver Star Mountain. Summers are spent at Washougal River or exploring beach trails.
On the job front, Raina has spent the last 10 years in hospitality management. While she was working as a restaurant manager, she also managed to graduate summa cum laude from Portland State University, earning a degree in psychology with a minor in business.
"I've always been interested in social justice issues and how to solve some of our larger societal problems," Raina explained. "That kind of goes back to my social psychology background. Like how do we fix this? How do we fix ourselves. How do we fix it on a large scale-more globally."
That led her to volunteer with Sisters of the Road, restaurant-style non-profit that provides meals to the unhoused population.
Raina also volunteered for Clean Water Portland during their 2012-2013 campaign, starting off manning the phone bank to managing the volunteer program as well as running the front office. She still sits on their board.
"I really enjoy interacting with the public-people with a variety of backgrounds," Raina said. "I think because I did so much social psychology, I spent time learning about perceptions and how we perceive ourselves, how we perceive others, and also some of the different errors we make in our thinking."
She says her university studies have helped her to empathize with other people, helped her to be more genuine... and that makes her more approachable.
So, go ahead. The next time you visit the Washington County ReStore say hello to our new ReStore manager, Raina Mills. Share a favorite hike or swap some campfire stories. She'll welcome the approach.