The days are heating up here in Moscow, so I stopped into the Co-op yesterday, where Lela Hopkins served me a cool glass of Orange Zinger iced tea. Lela started working as a barista at the Co-op in early March, not long after she moved to town.

A Co-op employee who is a friend of a friend told Lela she ought to consider working here. “The Co-op feels like a slice of Portland, where I’m from,” Lela told me. She grew up shopping in food co-ops for organic foods, and has long been familiar with the principles behind local food, good health, and local business.

“I like how friendly and welcoming the Co-op is,” Lela said. She feels that she is part of a team here, and she likes being encouraged to be creative in her work. Lela told me she has met great people at work, both customers and employees. “Working here has been a big part of my growing to love Moscow,” she said. “This town feels like Portland did when I was growing up. There’s music and art, the farmer’s market, and organic foods.”

Lela lives in town with her boyfriend, Daniel Iacob, who recently finished his graduate studies at UI. She moved to town February 1, planning to live and work here for a year before she and Daniel travel to Romania. “They give you a 90-day visa, so that’s how long we’ll stay,” she told me. Their plan is to backpack and travel around, experiencing the country where Daniel was born but hasn’t visited since he was nine. Though Lela loved to read the world atlas as a child, she hasn’t traveled much yet and is very excited about her upcoming trip.

Lela has many interests. Her life goal is to be a translator. She studied Spanish in school, and says she’s always been good at languages. “Growing up in Portland, my neighbors were Russians, Nigerians, and Romanians. So I’m used to being around people from lots of different cultures,” she said.

A talented seamstress, Lela learned to sew from her grandmother when she was five. “I’m really into style, which to me means expressing yourself in how you dress,” she said. She sews many of her own clothes and has worked professionally as a dressmaker. Lela also enjoys photography and hiking. “I’m really enjoying discovering Idaho,” she told me. Lela is clearly a woman on the move. If you like a good cup of coffee or tea, stop in to the Co-op Deli. Lela will serve up your desired beverage, with a smile.

Naomi hopes to convince Lela to make her one of those fabulous dresses!