Alberto “AJ” Jaimes says he’s been working since he was six years old. He’s referring to growing up on his grandparents’ farm in Hillsboro where chores included caring for livestock, checking the field watering timers, and his all-time favorite: baling hay.
“I’ve also worked every long night and hot summer there since I started walking,” AJ adds. “So I think it kind of goes hand in hand to stay equally as busy in my adult life.”
AJ’s father died when he was quite small, so his grandparents helped to raise him and his six siblings on the farm that has been in his family for generations.
He has a particularly close bond with his grandfather, a “super, super kindhearted very, very tall Danish man. (Grandpa is 6’4, oldest brother was 6’3″ and youngest brother is 6’1” at age 16.)
Growing up, AJ’s grandfather told him stories about the energy it takes to produce things-not just the cost of labor, but the raw materials and natural resources used to make a new product. It helped AJ put things into perspective.
“Things would break on the farm and we’d never throw things away, just repurpose or reuse it,” he says. “[Grandpa] definitely taught me a lot about recycling, longevity and the life things have. There’s a lot more uses for stuff versus just throwing things in the trash. I think our trash can was the smallest one you could get in Hillsboro, and we very seldom filled it up.”
AJ is proud of his hardworking, multi-cultural family.
“Being Hispanic 50 percent and Eastern European 50 percent, it’s a nice eclectic mix,” he said. But he regrets not learning either Danish or Spanish as a child. His grandparents and mother believed speaking fluent English would prove more beneficial in terms of education and job opportunities. He’s rethinking that.
“For me and my family, I kind of hit the reset button and I’ve started teaching my son Spanish and learning it myself,” AJ explains. “So the paradigm kind of shifted in a generation, you know?”
At PSU, AJ studied nursing but finished with a general science degree in 2014. He also has 17 years of experience in the food industry, including being a chef at several New Seasons Market locations.
When he joined our staff in July as assistant manager of the Beaverton ReStore, they already knew his face. For years he’d been shopping ReStore for tools and supplies to remodel the fixer upper he’d purchased in 2014. He has since rehabbed practically the entire interior using skills honed not only from his years on the family farm, but also remodeling home interiors and exteriors for his stepdad’s concrete and landscaping business while at university.
Ever industrious, AJ is currently working on a deck and attached dual swing for his soon-to-be 1-year-old son and himself. He loves spending time outdoors with his wife and son, playing disc golf and hiking. He cites Piers Park in Northeast Portland for disc golf and Crater Lake as his favorite trail.
At the Beaverton ReStore AJ is surprised at the sheer volume of donations that arrive all day long. And he’s in awe of the generosity, not only by the number of donation drop-offs, but also by the people themselves–all the people at the ReStore: the customers, the donors, the volunteers, the staff.
“Coming to work here I didn’t have any preconceived notions about what the day was going to be or how people were going to be interacting with one another, and I’m pleasantly surprised” he said. “Day after day interacting with the donors and the patrons and the volunteers, I’m just astounded not only by their stories, but about the amount of energy and time they want to put into helping other people.”
Things move fast at ReStore, and that’s a good match for AJ’s high (he says hyper) energy level and consistently positive attitude. He enjoys the banter with customers and coworkers, but stays focused on the task in front of him-getting those home improvement goods on the floor and into the hands of capable DIY shoppers and inquisitive treasure hunters.
AJ: “ReStore has something for everybody, even if you didn’t know that you were looking for it.”