“I feel like I’ve found my dream job,” an enthusiastic Ashley Salvador tells me over dinner. She is the Director of Strategic Planning for Jodi House, a non-profit that helps brain injury survivors reclaim their lives, and that helps their families and caregivers find solutions, resources, and support.
For Ashley, the Jodi House mission hits close to home. In 2010, her dad suffered a traumatic brain injury due to stroke. She became his primary caretaker while being a single mom to a daughter who was just three months old at the time. Fortunately, her dad made a good recovery – in large part due to Ashley’s determination and her talent for handling multiple difficult situations at once.
Although she’s originally from Santa Maria, CA, starting in 8th grade she would spend summers in Santa Barbara to be with her dad. “I didn’t come from a lot of money,” she confides, “so I focused on experience at an early age.” After graduating from high school, Ashley got her real estate license and also taught ballet. About the latter she says, “it was a very stressful job – teaching 4 year olds was like herding cats but they put a smile on my face.”
In 2008 she moved to Santa Barbara permanently and got a job at Novocoast, where she was promoted to accounts payable and then to Human Resources where she became the manager. “All of this gave me a well-rounded experience for my current position,” she explains.
Ashley longed for a position in the non-profit world when the opportunity at Jodi House came her way. “I actively want to do as much as I can with my life,” she shares. “This job has gotten me involved in advocacy for people with brain injuries.” Jodi House is one of seven such sites that receive funding from the California Department of Rehabilitation.
“Our current funding goes through 2018,” she expands. “We’re trying to get legislation to change the sunset date.” In order to achieve this, she’s working with Senator Bill Monning.
She’s also on the board of the Santa Barbara Human Resources Association and in the Santa Barbara City Council Advisory Committee.
Coincidentally, her dad’s home is two blocks away from Jodi House, which occupies the Victorian house on Chapala Street where the famous Chad’s used to be. “I was there very often at Chad’s for cocktails,” Ashley recalls. “I always wondered what was upstairs, and now my office is there.”
Ashley answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your most marked characteristic?
This question stumped me so I asked my friends. They said, “determination and good hair”. I don’t necessarily agree, but I’ll take it.
Who do you most admire?
My amazing daughter, Olivia. Seeing the world all over again from a kid’s perspective constantly reminds me of how easily we become jaded as adults. Her adorable gullibility and innocence remind me of the genuine kindness people are capable of before the harsh realities of life can corrupt us! My partner, Eric is also truly incredible. He’s a very dedicated firefighter so his diligence to wake up early every morning and find time to work out twice a day is just beyond me. There’s a reason I’m behind a desk most of the day.
What do you like most about your job?
The opportunity for outreach in this position is amazing. I have so much potential to really help the community in a variety of capacities. I’m also lucky to work with a genuinely great group of people. It’s nothing short of a miracle what we consistently achieve with just five people. I think we all have a passion for our work, which really translates into our program. All-in all, it’s a wonderful place to be, with great energy. My dream job, really.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I’d like to think I’ve achieved it! I really try to actively enjoy every moment of life and not live in the future or the past. Letting go of the need to always want more has allowed me to really appreciate what I have. Of course it’s difficult to maintain that mindset all the time, but once I started really embracing life and appreciating each moment, I was able to find true happiness in life. I know how cheesy that sounds, but it’s a really simple approach that tremendously changed my perspective.
What is your greatest fear?
As an adult I’m learning to let go of worry and fear. They’re not very productive emotions for me. I’ll probably always be deathly terrified of spiders, though.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I generally like to think that I am pretty budget-conscious but I tend to splurge on things I use daily: bed sheets, my sunglasses, and I absolutely love my Sonicare toothbrush.
What is your current state of mind?
I strive to maintain peace and gratitude throughout each day but usually it’s besieged by stress.
What is the quality you most like in people?
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Egos. I know we all have one but I get so annoyed when it gets in the way of meaningful conversation or relationship.
What do you most value in friends?
I’m incredibly lucky to have a core group of ladies that are all life-long friends. There are a million characteristics that I admire about each of them but I suppose humor is truly the glue of our group.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I’m embarrassed to say this but in all honesty, it’s, “dude.” I didn’t really notice it as much until I got older and more and more I find myself just sounding so immature. I suppose I just can’t help that it’s permanently ingrained in my Southern California vernacular.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Musical abilities, I suppose. I’ve gotten along fine in life without them but it would be fun to play an instrument or sing without clearing a room.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I had a better memory; mine’s awful. I used to try to take Gingko Biloba vitamins to help but I could never remember to take them.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I guess successfully raising the kiddo so far is my greatest achievement. I was so clueless as a first-time parent, she was (is) a total experiment in parenting. Luckily, she’s turning out pretty good! We’ve gone through a lot together, but I don’t think she even realizes when things get “bad.” She just has this ability to roll with life in such a positive way. I wish I could take credit for that, but I think she just has an innately joyful heart and grounded soul.
Where would you most like to live?
I’m right where I’m supposed to be! I am so grateful to live in Santa Barbara and try to never take it for granted. I have always wanted to live in New York for one year of my life, though. Maybe when Olivia goes to college.
What is your most treasured possession?
My cookbook. It’s all handwritten with new revisions from each time I cook. I really should probably laminate it or something, actually.
Who makes you laugh the most?
Again, my daughter. Do I sound like an annoying mom yet? She’s been making up jokes lately. “Mommy, what’s snow + white? Snow White!” Oh, ya she’s a crackup. I suppose there is a difference between laughing with someone, and at someone, but she constantly makes me do both.
What is your motto?
Free the aliens.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I honestly can’t think of anyone.
On what occasion do you lie?
Sometimes if Olivia wants to ride in one of those giant racecar-type shopping carts at the grocery store, I tell her they’re out of service or getting an oil change. I hate those stupid things.
On Saturday April 8, Jodi House will have their annual fundraiser Hike, Walk, & Roll – which is a family fun day to support brain injury survivors in Santa Barbara county. It takes place in Elings Park from 8:30 to 2pm, and people can register at jodihouse.kintera.org/hike2017.