The Spirit of Giving

The HUB International employee benefits expert finds plenty of perks living in the Pearl.

Tracy Vicario relocated to Portland from suburban Alamo, California, nine years ago because her husband, Greg Timmel, landed a new job here. Timmel had a hunch that his wife would like living in the Pearl.

Not long after they’d arrived, they attended a Portland Trail Blazers game. On their way to the arena, they were drenched by a sudden rainstorm. At half time, completely soaked, they decided to leave and walk home. The rain by then had passed, and Vicario was so overcome by the beauty of the view from the Broadway Bridge that she spontaneously started dancing on the bridge. “I knew you’d like living in the Pearl, but I didn’t know just how much you’d love it,” Timmel observed.

The couple settled on the neighborhood because of one word that’s very important to Vicario: community. “When I found out I was moving to the Pacific Northwest, I’d heard it was going to be dark, rainy, and gloomy. I felt like living in the Pearl would be a way for me to be surrounded by positive energy.”

Vicario immediately set about becoming an integral part of her newfound community, looking for volunteer opportunities close to her home. The Salvation Army White Shield Center, which provides residential and behavioral support for young women ages 12 to 20—many of whom are new mothers—needed mentors. Vicario found the organization and its mission appealing, especially as she had recently become an empty nester, with both of her adult children residing back in California: “I felt I could use my skills as a mom to help mentor these girls to be good citizens in the community,” she says.

“I felt I could use my skills as a mom to help mentor these girls to be good citizens in the community.”

Vicario soon regularly began spending time with her mentees, accompanying them on everyday life tasks such as food shopping and banking, and along the way sharing guidance with them about parenting, career plans, and interpersonal skills. Although she’s recently taken a break from this particular mentorship work, she continues to volunteer with the Portland Pearl Rotary, an organization that she also became involved with immediately after moving to town.

“Most organizations you join, the common theme is, what do I get? In the Rotary, it’s what can I give? All of a sudden I had 75 new friends, some of whom have become my very best friends, and a sense of fellowship and community.” A particular highlight has been volunteering to prepare and serve meals to people without homes at the Transition Projects at the Bud Clark Commons. “Everyone comes from work—we all bring our kids and we’ve really perfected our massive taco salad,” she says.

Vicario incorporates the spirit of giving into her professional life as well. As a vice president at HUB International, she works as an employee benefits consultant. It may be a slightly dry-sounding job title, but her job goes right to the heart of people’s overall security in life: health benefits. “I look out for the well-being of companies, their employees, and their families as it relates to health care,” she explains.

“I look out for the well-being of companies, their employees, and their families as it relates to health care.”

While her job is to be an advocate for business owners, helping them navigate the shifting landscape of health insurance laws and regulations, she often works directly with employees. “I always start with a company’s mission, vision, and values, and work with the company to build health insurance around that culture to meet the needs of the organization,” she says. “It becomes quite challenging in an era where health care costs are rising.” Her goal is to help companies contain these costs without having to shift them onto employees, which could be a problem in a tight labor market. Vicario helps clients explore all options, creating customized plans for each company, thereby ensuring they’re receiving the most competitive option in the market that’s relevant to their employees, and supporting their recruitment and retention efforts.

Besides meeting with clients, Vicario works from her home office in the Pearl. But when it’s time for a break, she and her husband find much to see and do close to home. “I love living and working here—just walking down the street and seeing people you know, the events that happen in the district. First Thursdays are always our favorite—walking into restaurants where the owners know our names.”

Her favorite local spots include Irving Street Kitchen, Barista, the Daily Cafe, Nossa Familia, and—for a very specific reason—Piazza Italia. “Every Monday night they offer live music, and if they need a percussionist, my husband brings his snare drum across the street and plays,” she says. Vicario is also musical, but not likely to tickle the ivories at Piazza or any Pearl establishment any time soon. “I take piano lessons, but I’m a private piano player,” she says with a laugh. –Allison Stein