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After serving his country in the National Guard, Ruben Neal (center) joined Public Allies Arizona to serve his local community.
July 15, 2020
Ruben Neal is a National Guard veteran who worked in the finance division of his branch. During his service, he was deployed to Afghanistan, where he worked with special forces personnel to track financial data.
Neal has always had a passion for public service - a reason he joined the military in the first place - and when he finished his contract, he wanted to continue serving the public. Fresh out of the military and trying to get his career started, he found Public Allies Arizona last year by searching online for opportunities. By joining the Public Allies program, Neal was able to get a jump on his career and continue to serve in a meaningful way.
He applied to join the next cohort of Allies and, after the interview process, he was paired with
Diana Gregory Outreach Services for 10 months of paid AmeriCorps service at the nonprofit organization. Along with work experience at a nonprofit, Allies further their personal and professional growth by learning about leadership, equity and creating lasting change during biweekly training days throughout the program year.
Diana Gregory Outreach Services (DGOS) serves senior citizens in the Valley by providing them with fresh food and health, nutrition and fitness programs.
When Neal started his work at DGOS, he was a nutrition coordinator, but as he worked, he saw a need for a social media coordinator in the organization. Before Neal joined the military, he worked a job where he gained much experience with technology and social media.
He approached Diana Gregory, his Public Allies supervisor and founder of DGOS, and pitched the idea for expanding the organization’s social media. He said he felt utilizing social media was the best way to get the word out about the organization.
Gregory loved the idea, so they switched Neal’s role from nutrition coordinator to social media coordinator in November. Since then, Neal has garnered 1,600 followers on the organization's Instagram page, which has helped the company serve over 6,000 people in that time.
Neal posts on the social media accounts very frequently, often about organizations that DGOS is collaborating with, such as the American Heart Association, the Arizona Lottery, Fry’s Food Stores and Kroger. He also posts photos and videos of the people helping with the packing of the food boxes or other roles in the food delivery.
Gregory said she is happy with Neal’s digital and social media work, and that it has had a huge impact on awareness for their organization.
Gregory said they liked that Neal is a millennial and a veteran and that since joining the team he has embraced compassion and the creativity that the organization was hoping for.
“We knew what we wanted, and when we interviewed Ruben, we were like, ‘He’s the guy,’” Gregory said.
DGOS tries to “enrich lives” by providing fresh food in food deserts and teaching people about health and nutrition. Their normal mode of function is teaching through classes and providing the food through farmers markets, but with the coronavirus outbreak making those large gatherings impossible, DGOS has had to shift to a delivery model.
Neal has been “instrumental” in implementing the new delivery structure, Gregory said. He helped come up with a lot of the initial ideas, and then he was also involved with the execution of it in the field.
Now DGOS safely pre-packs bags of food and delivers them to people at over 60 independent living facilities so that seniors and veterans can still eat healthy, which is especially important now as they need to strengthen their immune systems.
Though Neal’s main focus is documenting the organization and its programs, he has also been very involved on the ground level. At delivery events, he can be seen conversing with many of the people being served and helping them however he can.
“What I like about Ruben is that if he sees something that needs to be done, he just jumps right in and does it,” Gregory said.
Neal still has two months left before he completes the Public Allies program. DGOS wants to bring him on board full-time as soon as he graduates in August.
Gregory said she thinks DGOS has given Neal clarity for his next step in life.
Neal wants to someday start his own nonprofit organization that makes promotional videos for veterans starting up businesses. Then after that, he hopes to run for a local office to make even more of a difference for the community.