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Reno Resident Helps Improve Downtown as An Ambassador

José Manzo-Rodríguez stands in front of the Partnership Plaza sign near the Downtown Reno Partnersh
Sophia Holm
José Manzo-Rodríguez stands in front of the Partnership Plaza sign near the Downtown Reno Partnership offices.

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A Reno resident born in Guadalajara is helping to keep Downtown Reno clean and safe.

José Manzo-Rodríguez, an ambassador for Downtown Reno, does what he can to help others feel supported, whether they’re visitors who need directions or homeless people who need assistance for more serious issues. His favorite part of the job is making people smile, he said.

“You never know what somebody's going through. If I can bring a smile to them, then I feel like I do my job,” Manzo-Rodríguez said.

Manzo-Rodríguez has been an ambassador for three years and he feels that his experiences have helped shape the way he interacts with people. He previously worked at a Catholic Charities, using the opportunity to help people and guide them through difficult situations in their lives.

“I came out of a similar lifestyle as these people out here,” he said. “I managed to fight through everything and to be where I'm at right now. I feel like I'm helping the community for the stuff that I used to go through, the stuff that I’ve seen, the things that I lived. It helps me relate to them a little better.”

Manzo-Rodríguez was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and moved to Stockton, California when he was very young. He moved to Reno when he was four years old and has lived here ever since.

“I was raised, just me and my mom. She was always disabled and it was hard. She didn't work, so it was pretty hard growing up because I didn't have the luxury of all these other people,” he said.

He grew up in a bilingual household. His language ability has helped him in his work as one of only two ambassadors that can speak Spanish.

“If I notice that somebody doesn't speak English as well, it's easy for me just to speak with them in Spanish and help them out like that,” Manzo-Rodríguez said.

He usually gets up at 5 a.m. to get ready for the day before dropping his son off and heading to start his morning shift. He is a single father and is fully responsible for his son’s routine and wellbeing.

“My day starts off really early. I have to get my son ready for daycare, then from daycare and come to work, from where I go back, pick him up and just play the role of daddy. So it's a full time job. It's stressful at times,” Manzo-Rodríguez said.

He is grateful to the people at the Downtown Reno Partnership, who have stepped in to help when he needs to handle personal situations.

Manzo-Rodríguez picks up trash in Downtown Reno.
Sophia Holm
Manzo-Rodríguez picks up trash in Downtown Reno.

The ambassadors patrol a 110 block radius in Reno’s center with the intention of making the area safe, clean and vibrant, said Neoma Jardon, the executive director of the Downtown Reno Partnership. Beyond just picking up litter, the ambassadors help to direct visitors by providing information about the area, she said.

“They are the smiling face that helps to guide people in recommendations on all the great things arts, food, drink, shopping, all those things that are occurring in downtown,”Jardon said, “So they have many responsibilities.”

Another responsibility of the ambassadors is providing people in need with help, ranging from housing and food resources to providing transportation to the DMV for documents.

“As you can imagine, not having some of those critical documents is the first step and getting some of the other things you may need to get maybe into a healthier position. And so we really help them to get some of those very basic fundamentals,” she said.

The ambassadors recently implemented an overnight shift, from 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. These overnight shifts see ambassadors in pairs patrolling the downtown in cars with the goal of ensuring safety in the dark hours of the night.

The Downtown Reno Partnership is committed to providing help to anyone, and Manzo-Rodríguez wants people to know that there are resources available for those in need.

“That there's people that care, that when they're ready it's there for the taking. They have to just do their part and stretch out and grab whatever they need, because we have all the resources available for them. And it's up to them if they want them or not.” Manzo Rodriguez said.

Sophia Holm, is an environmental student reporter for Noticiero Movil and KUNR News.

KUNR’s Maria Palma contributed to this story.

Sophia Holm (she/her) is a Lake Tahoe resident with a deep passion for nature and an even stronger love for storytelling. She strives to provide KUNR’s listening region with strong stories about climate news, issues, and solutions as the station’s Summer 2023 Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D., Project for Visualizing Science Intern.
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