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Meet DAP Health Chief Strategy Officer B …

The Second Time Around 

In her return tenancy at DAP Health, Chief Strategy Officer Brande Orr has one immediate goal — purposefully mapping out the nonprofit’s future. 

Words by Kay Kudukis 

 

As a kid, Brande Orr practically lived in her grandmother’s backyard. In a massive treehouse nestled within one of the biggest maple’s highest, strongest branches, she’d spend hours with her younger brother Cody. “It was covered by leaves, and it was big enough to have eight kids up there,” she recalls. “From that vantage point, you could see over the houses and imagine a bigger world.”  

Not surprisingly, decades later, Orr is an avid believer in the healing properties of forest bathing, her favorite spots being along the Kumano Kodo in Japan. 

Suitland, Maryland, where Orr grew up, is a congested urban town a mile southeast of Washington, D.C. Dad taught history before becoming a high school principal. Mom taught kids living with disabilities. The family simmered in generational trauma — poverty, alcoholism, abuse — though camping trips, beach days, visits to the Smithsonian Institution, and activities like a pen pal in Zimbabwe balanced the mysteries of why. Orr also played sports through college, this despite critical knee and back injuries. 

“I wasn’t very good at any of them,” she admits. “But I’m a really great cheerleader. I often won the unsung hero award, and you rarely cut the kid who’s an optimist!” 

 

Growing Up on the Move and on the Rise 

At a most awkward stage of life — 8th grade — the family relocated to Annapolis, where Orr attended high school. “Pretty posh compared to where we were,” she recalls. It’s here that Orr had to rapidly wrestle with understanding racial discrimination. In her previous neighborhood and school, while among the racial minority, she was just becoming old enough to sense the privilege her skin color bestowed regardless of socioeconomic status.  

Asking these questions led to more exploration into injustice and activism. She debated for animal welfare, the right to peaceful protest, recognition of diverse faiths and worldviews, and death with dignity movements as early as high school, and continues to do so in her personal life today.  

These experiences equipped Orr to be adaptable, forgiving, curious, deliberate, calm in chaos, and admittedly an overthinker. Which is distinct from being a risktaker, she notes: “I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was nearly 21.”  

She also promised herself to find work environments where a sense of camaraderie — a commitment to mission — provided common ground and a second family. With undergraduate degrees in history and French, Orr worked at two museums — but she realized this nonprofit sector had limitations. 

 

Diversity, Equity, Belonging, Inclusion 

The desire to foster what we now call diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion (DEBI) led her to create culturally inclusive American history resources at Primary Source, a Massachusetts nonprofit that works to advance global education in schools. “We wrote textbooks on Chinese American history, and Native American history, that would complement K-12 teaching requirements,” she says. “I worked on the African American history project.” It was there she met her late mentor, lifelong educator Clara Hicks, and adopted Clara’s mantra: “Keep on, keepin’ on.” 

By then Orr knew she wanted to see the West Coast, and applied for scholarships to earn a master’s degree at only California programs, deciding on Pepperdine University, where her grandfather attended on the GI Bill after WWII. She left her best friends in exchange for the adventure, but upon arriving, found the only other person pursuing their MBA to serve the nonprofit community: a guy named David Brinkman, whose career path led him to the CEO seat at DAP Health, which he has occupied for 17 years. Commonality crafted a close comradeship between Brinkman and Orr. But more on that in a bit.  

When she graduated, Orr took a position at a center serving teen moms and dads back in Boston. “We had an amazing program with housing and school, but we also taught job skills, parenting skills, and health care.” A year later, the phone rang. It was Brinkman, who was now executive director at My Friend’s Place, a nonprofit dedicated to serving unhoused youth in Los Angeles. Would Orr consider coming to work with him as director of development? It was an immediate “Yes.” 

It was a small organization, so they rolled up their sleeves with the most amazing colleagues and put on all the hats: fundraising, leadership, communications, finance, community relations, facilities (plunging toilets and painting over graffiti fell under “other duties as assigned”). “Because MFP was so small, and we were meeting emergent needs of terribly misunderstood, stigmatized, and marginalized human beings,” admits Orr, “it was a sobering opportunity to understand the breadth of nonprofit management and the chops required to weather the blood, sweat, and tears.” The most exciting times were chances to meet new needs. Orr’s most memorable moment was the first day the center opened on the weekends. 

 

Successful Leaders Enlist Highly Qualified People 

Orr is admittedly a little uncomfortable about the optics of her history with Brinkman, but leans in and shares the story. Now nearly 30 years into a nonprofit career, she accepts the truth — that successful leaders surround themselves with highly qualified people who bring value to their organization, an obvious testament to her considerable talents. And at this point in the story, Orr’s eyes get big and she says, “It gets worse.”  

Brinkman had several childhood friends who would visit him in L.A. The trade-off was they would volunteer for the nonprofit’s events. One such friend was an artist named Dan. Four years later, Orr married him, and followed love to Iowa. She credits her spouse with introducing her to three more loves: salt, Star Trek, and sumo. 

The next work years found Orr honing expanded skills with a wide spectrum of stakeholders at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Valley Hospice, and Allen Health System. Again, strategic activities like helping to offer free colorectal cancer services and launch a nursing pipeline program for high school students from low-income families kept Orr looking forward. That’s when the phone rang again. You guessed it: Brinkman. With yet another invitation to apply for an opening. 

 

Starting at Desert AIDS Project 

Orr was hired as director of grants at Desert AIDS Project (as DAP Health was then known). With tandem interim stints as director of quality assurance, and director of programs, Orr led DAP Health’s pursuit of FQHC status to open the doors wider. This milestone extended the legacy of the organization’s founders to more community members.  

She happily thrived there for over nine years, finishing out her tenure by serving as director of strategic initiatives. And then, the phone rang yet again. This time? Not Brinkman. Dad. Mom had Alzheimer’s, and it was time for a radical plan of care. So, Orr and Dan, and Mom and Dad, all moved to the Midwest, closer to more affordable dementia services. After Mom and the pandemic passed, Orr worked for Interfaith America before Brinkman came calling one last time.  

 

Returning to DAP Health 

Following DAP Health’s overnight expansion, having acquired the Borrego Health system, would Orr consider applying to become the integrated organization’s chief strategy officer, leading the charge into what is sure to be a promising future? Why, indeed, she would! 

Almost a year later, Orr couldn’t be more excited about DAP Health’s mission. She feels drawn to the organizational culture by the conviction that access to affordable, compassionate health care can inspire and inform solutions to inequity, suffering, and conflict of all kinds. The labor of love means even more as an aunt to four nephews who will inherit the world she leaves behind.  

“I love this work,” she says. “I love looking at what the needs are, what every possible solution is, and then narrowing that down through all the different types of lenses and criteria to figure out how we’re going to have the biggest impact.” 

Hold all calls, please. Orr is finally home for good. 

Meet DAP Health Chief Administrative Off …

Good With Money … and Mission

For Chief Administrative Officer Judy Stith, kindness matters as much as numbers.

Words by Kay Kudukis

 

Caldwell, Texas, population 4,000, is where Judy Stith (née Mize) was born, but didn’t stay. First stop was Wichita Falls, Texas, then Tulsa, Oklahoma, until the family found home in Fort Worth, Texas.

Dad was a jeweler who’d taken a steadier, higher-paying job as manager at a cafeteria. Mom was a nurse. Stith likens her to John Nash, the subject of the film “A Beautiful Mind.” “She lived here,” Stith says, pointing to her head. She did not live in their reality.

Her parents divorced when Stith was six, maybe seven. Dad got custody. The oldest boy-twin got a job to help with finances. There were five kids altogether: that twin’s sister, another sister, and their baby brother. Donnie & Marie, and Sonny & Cher, were Stith’s first two concerts, but her tastes would change.

When algebra is mentioned, Stith practically recoils, but she weathered it anyway because it’s a nursing requirement, and she was going to be a nurse like her mom and sister. She was 16 when she began a work-study program and got certified, then staffed, as a phlebotomist at the local blood center. When she graduated high school, she began taking nursing classes at University of Texas Arlington (UTA), then finally took some practical, hands-on, nitty-gritty nursing courses. That’s when she decided nursing wasn’t for her. No touching of things that made her go “Ew!”

 

Finding Love, if Not Career

Stith was still contemplating what career could match her humanitarian instincts when, at 19, she said “yes” to the airman she’d met while babysitting her friend’s toddler. Everything was going great except for that elusive career. She took random jobs, and while cashiering at a convenience store, got robbed. They took some money and took some snacks. Stith took another job.

Stith applied for a receptionist position at an accounting firm, which required everyone take an aptitude test. “I didn’t get that job,” she says, “but they hired me to do bookkeeping, bank reconciliations, and journal entries, and I liked it.”

It may sound odd that someone who despised algebra might enjoy a math-centric job, but Stith says, “I do money. I always put it into money, and it makes sense that way. It’s not quite the same as math.”

Accounting, she found, fit that criteria, and she began classes at UTA. She recalls a professor, for the first half of a very advanced course, who enjoyed humiliating his students. “The class was hard, and he would call you out. I worked full-time, but I did my homework. I was never unprepared.” Still, his class was brutal, but you learned.

 

The Joys of Parenthood

Baby boy Brian came along six years into Stith’s marriage, and five years later, baby boy Ben joined the world. He was just a year old when her husband got laid off from his airplane mechanic job. He got another one at U.S. Airways in Dayton, Ohio, and they moved to Cincinnati, where his family lived.

Stith took a full-time job as the Dayton YMCA’s finance director, and transferred to Wright State University School of Business. “And guess who had joined the faculty?” She shakes her head and laughs. “I had him for the second half of that advanced class.” But because of her past experience with Professor Humiliation, plus her real-life experience, she became her classmates’ go-to for help.

Quick recap: She’s married with two kids, working full-time at a nonprofit, going to school for her degree in accounting, and she still manages to find time to help her college colleagues.

Stith was so laser focused on getting her CPA, she had Brian, 12, hold her homemade flash cards to help her study for the grueling 16-hour test. “He could probably still tell you the formula for how to calculate the gain on the sale of a residence,” she says with a laugh.

In 1996 she had baby girl, Rebecca. A year later, the family of five moved to Arizona, where she had been tapped as CFO at Valley of the Sun YMCA, staying four years.

 

Finding Love: Part Two … Plus DAP Health

Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) contracted her to write their policy and procedure manual. When she was done, they wanted her to stay on as vice president. “I liked the people, I liked the culture,” so she stayed for 12 years. When she left, she did some consulting, then spent three years as controller at Goodwill before being offered the CFO position at Horizon Health and Wellness, an FQHC in Arizona.

She was divorced now, and in those 10 years had met David. He was in the food industry. She fell in love, and they married and honeymooned in Napa Valley. He taught her how to enjoy fine wine, and the former rocker was also starting to enjoy his country music. Everything was going great.

Horizon was considering her for their CEO position, and her big sister (her rock) and baby brother had moved closer. What more could Stith want? Then a recruiter called her up and told her about the CFO position at DAP. He was so high on the organization she figured it deserved a peek.

“You’re taking the tour, hearing everything CEO David Brinkman has to say, and what he has to offer, and you think, ‘I want to work here!’ I mean, you just get so hyped up on it,” Stith recalls.

She’s been the CFO since 2019, and post-acquisition, was tapped as chief administrative officer. They’re looking for a replacement CFO, but it’s not easy finding candidates with the same dedication to the mission as the rest of the team. “The passion of this agency for the people they serve in the community they live in is just … there’s not a mean bone in anyone’s body.”

That’s why Stith stays. “I’ve always said, if there’s anything you can be, be kind, and the people at DAP Health just exude kindness. They treat their patients with dignity and with respect. And that’s so, so important.”

Professor Humiliation need not apply.

Meet DAP Health Chief People and Places …

To Fly, You Need to Take the Reins

As an avid equestrian, DAP Health Chief People and Places Officer Sheri Saenz always knew how to fly, but the day she joined DAP she learned what it felt like to soar.

Words by Kay Kudukis

 

“There was nothing here,” says Sheri Saenz, indicating to the area across from DAP Health’s main Sunrise campus at the corner of Vista Chino and North Sunrise Way in Palm Springs, which is now filled with stores and condos. “I used to keep my horses over there when I was a kid.”

 

The Palm Springs native’s dad was a tradesman — jack of all. Mom stayed home with the kids until the last one was old enough to fend for herself. That was Saenz (née Barklow), number four. She was a shy girl who preferred horses to people. She liked math, but not school — that’s where the bullies were. High school? Literally dream-crushing. Saenz loved riding horses and spent all her time at the stables. Growing up in the Palm Springs area, her interests were hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and off-roading. The great outdoors was her happy place, and she envisioned a career as a forest ranger. She told her careers class advisor, who promptly ill-advised her: “Girls cannot be forest rangers, that’s a man’s job. Pick something else.”

 

Entering the Job Market

 

At 16, she applied at General Telephone, where Mom worked, and got the job. She continued working there while attending College of the Desert in business administration. An opportunity to step out of a telephone operator position and into an installation role in telecommunications equipment and fiber optics intrigued her. She learned how to lay cables, mount electrical outlets, and solder. The job required some traveling, which meant more time outdoors. She was pretty happy approaching her tenth year with the company, when the telecommunications industry went through deregulation and she was laid off, a crappy practice companies use when employees are closing in on enough years to earn a retirement pension. (See Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman divorce. Allegedly.)

 

Her next move was unclear until she was talking to her friend about her dad’s job as a civil engineer. The land surveyor piece piqued Saenz’s interests. It was math, and it was outdoors. She got into the apprenticeship program at the Operating Engineers Union, and when she was done, “I did a lot of construction surveying out here [in the Coachella Valley].”

Pioneering in a male-dominated field did not make for a pleasant work environment. But Saenz was used to bullying, and the work suited her, so she stuck it out until a recession curtailed construction. That’s when her classes at COD came into play. She took a position in the accounting department of the Desert Princess Country Club. She was inside, but the grounds were lush and green.

 

It was a small office of 30, and her duties grew to include human resources. It was an exciting time. The 1990s were all about labor reform, and Saenz was pioneering once again, in the trenches working in collaboration with a labor law attorney, making sure they were in compliance. It’s also where she met Lonnie, who worked as the maintenance manager for the property. They were friends for several years until she finally let him catch her. Lonnie came with a 7-year-old daughter who, over the past 30 years, has given them two grandchildren, ages 1 and 16. Both geniuses, of course.

 

Saenz stayed at Desert Princess for seven years, until she realized they weren’t going to address the disparity between employees and contractors. The majority of the workers had been there years but were still paid as contractors. No benefits, something Microsoft got sued over in 1993 — and lost. Unhappy with management’s unwillingness to change their own practices, Saenz wanted to find work where she could make a difference. “I wanted to give people a voice,” she recalls. “I wanted to make sure everybody where I worked felt valued and heard.”

 

Finding Her Calling at DAP Health

 

She applied at Bird Products, the namesake company of the man who invented ventilators, and at Community Counseling & Consultation Center, Inc. (CCCC). She took the latter position as an HR assistant. She was their 50th employee. That was in 1998, before they publicly identified as Desert AIDS Project. “We were on Vella Road then,” she says. “We weren’t there too long before we moved here.” She’s talking about the current 44,000 square-foot Sunrise campus acquired thanks to the generosity of local philanthropists. But it was still a time when people with HIV not only carried that burden, but also the burden of others’ ignorance. Those who were HIV-positive were shunned, unable to get work. DAP gave them health care, compassion, jobs and dignity.

 

As a notary public, Saenz went to hospitals and homes with a case manager or an attorney to provide notary services for health care directives and/or wills. She recalls how appallingly hospitals treated people with AIDS back then, and how poorly the average family treated their loved one’s partner. Her voice softens: “These guys were the nicest people, who would give you the shirt off their back, even though they didn’t have anything.”

 

When Saenz joined Desert AIDS Project, she knew it was a place for her.  Being a part of an organization that provides services and support to our community vs. a for-profit company made all of the difference. Working in human resources and helping recruit staff as the organization grew was such an awarding experience. “I love working with everyone here,” she maintains. “It makes such a difference working where everyone is passionate and connected to our mission. I really enjoy placing the right person in the right job. It is a win-win for everyone.”

 

Saenz has kept pace with human resources laws and regulations over the years, leveling up with certifications, and in 2014, she obtained her bachelor’s in business administration from the California State University, San Bernardino, in Palm Desert. She worked her way up over the years from human resources assistant, and human resources administrator, to director of human resources. Last year, she moved into the C-suite, but her unnamed position’s responsibilities included finding the role a moniker. It took her a minute. Since she has a crucial role that encompasses human resources, facilities, construction, safety, and security of the organization, she wanted to make sure it was accurate. “Chief people and places officer” said it best.

 

On a personal note, another passion is advocating for rescue dogs. She volunteered at Animal Samaritans as part of their Highway Heroes program, driving shelter dogs to rescue organizations to get them a better chance to be adopted. Again, she likes to give voices to those who don’t have one. Her motto is “adopt a rescue dog, don’t buy one from a breeder.” Dogs are part of the family.

 

A few years back, Saenz’s mother moved into her and Lonnie’s casita after her husband died of COVID. When she’s not spending time with her, or the grands, or working to help marginalized humans, or helping rescue pups, she and her love like to travel. Self-care is very important.

 

It’s been 25 years since Saenz joined DAP, and in that time, she has created a workplace where her personal and professional values coincide with the people and places personifying the 10 words she lives every single day: Be the change you want to see in the world. Courtesy of Mahatma Gandhi, another people and places guru who just happens to be an idol of hers.

Meet DAP Health Chief Compliance Officer …

In My Life

DAP Health Chief Compliance Officer Dana O’Neal Erwin lives by Maya Angelou’s motto: Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

Words by Kay Kudukis

 

DAP Health Chief Compliance Officer Dana O’Neal Erwin was born in Punta Gorda, Florida, and raised in Miami and Tallahassee alongside four sisters. Dad was a lobbyist. Mom was a housewife who’d gotten a full nursing scholarship at Tulane but who did not practice in the field post-graduation. Instead, she married and had children. “I always felt like she would have been happier had she had a career,” says Erwin. “I think that’s why I’m a career person.”

Five years older than Erwin, sister Donna was 15 when she turned to drugs, creating great stress for the family. Donna got pregnant and had a daughter, whom their parents adopted. That’s how Erwin came to have four sisters, but she wasn’t around for most of that. At 14, she was sent to a boarding school in Tennessee. That’s where she cleaned the school’s restrooms after classes, made brooms at a broom factory, sold on the floor at a department store, and rang up customers at McDonald’s. “I’ve just always worked,” she says with a smile.

She dreamed of being an attorney. “Girls aren’t lawyers,” claimed Dad. “You will be a nurse, like your mother.” Disappointing, but Erwin admits she did love dissecting stuff in biology. Two years were spent at Southern College in Collegedale, Tennessee. The rest at Walla Walla Community College and Walla Walla University in Washington state, where she married.

 

Neurosurgery, Nursing, and Night Shifts

After graduation, Erwin experienced being a nightshift neurosurgery nurse overwhelmed with tragic accidents. “It’s the most depressing job I’ve ever had in my life,” she laments. “We had an unusual number of new paraplegics and quadriplegics.” Some survivors begged for mortal release post-surgery. Dark stuff.

­“I had no business being the lead nurse fresh out of school,” she continues, “but I was the only RN they had on nightshift on the unit. There were licensed practical nurses (now known as licensed vocational nurses) who worked on that floor for 18 years and knew everything about neurosurgery.” She loved the challenge, but the veterans weren’t thrilled to take orders from a kid just out of college.

After a year and half on that neurosurgery unit, Erwin transferred to the much cheerier labor and delivery department. “When one of the OB-GYNs had a terrible skiing accident and was unable to do surgeries, she became the chief quality officer,” Erwin explains. “That was when quality in health care was becoming ‘a thing.’ She recruited me to help her build the Quality program. So, I worked with her after my labor and delivery shifts.”

Erwin would call in patient reviews to the insurance companies, which led to her being offered a position with Kaiser-Group Health. “They were starting complex case management in their contracted network in Eastern Washington, and asked if I could come assist with a pilot program.” It ticked all of Erwin’s boxes. She accepted, spending a wonderful decade working with a high-functioning and loyal team of nurses.

During that time, Erwin and her husband had three children, then divorced after eight years. “We’re still very good friends,” she says. Not long after, pals set her up with a wheat farmer at a friend’s birthday party. That man had three children too, and they clicked. They married, Brady Bunch-ed it up on his farm for the next 20 years, the eight growing together as a family.

 

Degrees, Data, and DAP Health

By 2015, their nest was empty. The farm was sold, hubby started consulting in Denver and Canada, and Erwin craved a new challenge. Although she’d already furthered her education in health care administration and management, and had been consulting for years herself, she wanted a master’s. Not an overachiever at all, she obtained one in nursing leadership. Through that experience, she found out she excelled at statistics — using data to solve real-world problems, which comes in super handy in compliance and quality management. And no, she’s not a lawyer, but the compliance and risk piece scratches that itch.

Erwin spent five years at a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in Washington state. A friend from the Joint Commission kept calling with consulting opportunities, which led to her spending three years at a large hospital in Idaho, two years at a critical access hospital back in Washington state, and two years in Colorado as chief compliance officer for a national PACE program.

When Erwin was called to join Borrego Health, she politely sent regrets. But they were persistent, and in 2021, she finally acquiesced. She’d barely signed on as their CCO when DAP Health acquired them, offering her their CCO role. She was thrilled.

“I've never worked for an organization that has the mission and philanthropy we have here, and the support we get from the community and the state,” she says enthusiastically. “Thanks to our very active board and CEO, we have such a great reputation. It’s one of the most exciting places I’ve worked.”

Life is full of surprises, both cruel and kind. Sister Donna overdosed at 28, leaving her institutionalized until her death eight years ago. Dad suffered a massive heart attack that resulted in his death at 59. Remembering the past with her remaining sisters has been healing, and although she recently divorced Hubby #2, they, too, remain great chums.

Erwin believes everything that happens is an opportunity to rethink one’s values. “It’s all in how we look at the human race, despite color, gender, whatever,” she says. “We have patients down in Indio who are hardworking, but who don’t have running water or proper housing. Everyone has different challenges, but everyone can greatly benefit from the culture DAP Health has built.”

“In my life, I’ve loved them all.”

– Lennon & McCartney.

Meet DAP Health Chief Operating Officer …

Against All Odds

The average age of a chief operating officer is 51. Corina Velasquez had earned that esteemed title by 36.

Words by Kay Kudukis • Photo by Yohana Moreno

 

Being a medical assistant (MA) wasn’t the dream of Corina Velasquez in grade school. She was into poetry and prose. She was good at it too. Won an award and everything. In high school, that dream morphed into one of law school and a seat on the bench. All that changed with one test.

 

“I dropped out of high school midway through because I got pregnant with my daughter,” Velasquez says. She was 17 when she gave birth. It didn’t take long for her to realize that, domestically, she was in a bad situation. She left the father within two years.

 

“Statistics say I’d still be at my house on government assistance, but I didn’t let my fear of not being good enough stop me,” she says. She returned to her studies, became a certified phlebotomist, and took a job working in-patient at Eisenhower Health.

 

But Velasquez had her sights set on becoming an MA, so it was back to school. After a few internships, she got her first paid MA position at Borrego Health’s Centro Medico Cathedral City, which had previously been a private practice. Velasquez was also able to draw blood in the small, one-doctor clinic, where it was hard enough to get a patient through the door, much less go elsewhere for blood tests.

 

It was a great time in Velasquez’s life. She was 24, had a full-time job in an exciting field, and she’d found love again. They had two daughters, but after 10 years together (three of them married), they divorced. They’re such good co-parents, people think they’re still a couple.

 

The Humble Beginnings

Born in Ventura County, Velasquez completed kindergarten in Coachella after her single mom moved the family of four there, courtesy of a new job. A middle child, she was sandwiched between an older brother and younger sister. Eventually, her mom purchased the mini-mart where she worked full-time, and where Velasquez also worked after school and on weekends. That came in handy when she was transferred back to her old stomping grounds, subbing for the Coachella clinic’s MA, Carmen Ruiz, who now pulls double duty as the clinic manager at both Palm Springs Family Health and Desert Hot Springs Specialty Care. Both are former Borrego Health centers now under DAP Health’s auspices.

 

As Velasquez learned more about federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), she asked her mom to refer mini-mart customers to their clinic, emphasizing their zero-discrimination policy, discounted medications, and sliding scale fees. When Ruiz returned from maternity leave, she discovered that, due to Velasquez’s expert outreach, Coachella had gone from treating six patients a day to routinely more than 30.

 

“I had worked with the company for a couple of years, and it was very different working with Corina,” Ruiz emphasizes. “Very different than working with anyone else. We would just look at each other and I’d say, ‘Did you see what’s going on in the lobby?’ And she’d say, ‘Yeah, I got it.’” Ruiz is referring to drop-in patients and the workload ahead. “Corina knew exactly what I was talking about. She was always going the extra mile, and I was the same way. We made a really good team.”

 

Velasquez agrees. “Carmen and I had this amazing working relationship where we could communicate without even talking. Just boom, boom! It was awesome.”

 

A Born Leader

When Borrego Health graduated from paper to electronic health records (EHR), it chose to conduct training at the small Coachella facility. Trainers came in but didn’t bring step-by-step learning tools.

 

“I created screenshots at the nurses’ station so I could remember, because I knew the instructors weren’t going to be there forever,” Velasquez recalls. Shortly thereafter, she happily accepted a promotion to become the trainer of the new system — for all Borrego Health MAs.

 

Velasquez also began learning about quality and compliance. Soon she was auditing charts, helping with audit tools, and in 2011, was asked to manage a brand-new clinic. She would be stocking, staffing, and problem-solving.

 

She did so well that it was requested that she find her replacement, and do it all over again. Wet, lather, rinse, repeat. Every clinic, from soup to nuts.

 

At the same time, changes were going on at the upper levels of the organization. The VP of operations was promoted to COO, the regional director of operations became VP, and Velasquez applied to be — and was appointed — regional director in 2012, where she stayed until her 2015 promotion to VP of patient access.

 

Entering the C-Suite

Her rise to the C suite came in 2021. With Borrego Health then serving more than 120,500 patients (roughly 463,000 annual visits) throughout Riverside and San Diego counties, being chief operating officer was a big job. It’s an even bigger job now that she serves in that capacity at DAP Health. It’s a role that was previously absent at the organization — one created just for her.

 

“Corina is simply a force to be reckoned with,” says DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “Her journey is such an inspiring one. She’s a doer whose presence is nonetheless so warm and welcoming. I’m tremendously excited to have her keep doing what she does best for us now that we are one, integrated health care agency.”

 

Here’s an anecdote from her early years, which shows why Velasquez has been so successful: She was working with a provider who had a reputation for being “a little too direct” (as she gently puts it), when he snapped at her in front of a patient.

 

“I went into his office when we were done, shut the door, and said, ‘Let that be the last time that happens. I’m here to work with you. So, let’s make this a good day.’ He just looked at me, then smiled and said, ‘We’re gonna do just fine.’ After that, it was a really good relationship. At the end of the day, everybody wants the same thing. Sometimes, they just need a different map on how to get there.”

 

Now 39, Velasquez can look back and offer advice to other young adults, no matter their situation. “Even when you don’t believe in yourself, be curious enough to ask the questions because that can open so many doors to things that you never thought you’d even be in the right vicinity of.”

 

Before DAP Health’s acquisition of Borrego Health, when things were up in the air, Ruiz one day felt inspired to call Velasquez to say, “I just want to thank you. I know what you’ve done, and what you’re capable of doing. We don’t know exactly what you do for us behind the scenes, but things happen because of you. Good things.”

 

As it turns out, Velasquez has core values — strength, truth, justice, optimism—that she shares with Wonder Woman. Like Velasquez, Wonder Woman has profound healing, telepathy, and supernatural leadership powers. Isn’t it interesting that Wonder Woman and Velasquez have never been seen in the same place at the same time. Make of that what you will.

Meet DAP Health CEO David Brinkman

Once Upon a Time in Iowa: A Profile of DAP Health CEO David Brinkman

In a new, ongoing series, writer Kay Kudukis profiles the executive and senior leaders who have found their mission match at DAP Health.

 

“I’m from Iowa, we don’t know what cool is.” ~ Ashton Kutcher

 

DAP Health CEO David Brinkman is a fifth-generation Iowan who actually is cool, Ashton.

His father was an endocrinologist. Mom was not only a nurse but executive director of a women’s health organization. Involved in the women’s rights movement her entire career, she also served on a committee approving FDA medical devices.

Sundays, she took the three kids to church while Dad visited the forgotten in local nursing homes. That was his church, and he never missed a Sunday. Both parents gave of themselves tirelessly, instilling those values in their brood.

Thirteen-year-old Brinkman didn’t exactly know he was gay, but he was a fashionista — side note: he’s still got it — with a pension for dying his hair colors not found in nature. Dad surmised his son might not survive tiny-town high school. ‘Out’ didn’t exist in Mason City, but surprisingly it did at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Episcopal Boarding School in Faribault, Minnesota, where Brinkman was sent to receive his secondary education. With only eight students to a classroom, you couldn’t hide in the back. Brinkman had a best friend named Megan, whose father was gay and out.

There was also the gay boy across the hall, who’d pester him with “You’re gay, Brinkman. Admit it!” Brinkman never did. Maybe that was confusion, but it was definitely influenced by the sounds of the beatings the other boys gave the gay one. That he never did anything to help that kindred spirit agonized Brinkman for years, until he finally tracked his former classmate down. There was grace and understanding on the other end of the line: “I would have done the same thing.”

 

The Birth of an Activist

The Lewis & Clark College campus in Oregon was a beehive of activism. Brinkman led the student LGBTQ organization for his four years, majoring in sociology and anthropology, minoring in gender studies. He came out to his parents, then promptly had his first panic attack. He felt lost. It was the early nineties. His community was dying. He was afraid for them. And for himself. Sophomore year, he fought for his rights in response to a statewide ballot initiative to outlaw homosexuality. “Run to the front line, son,” his parents suggested. “Do not back away. When whatever happens, happens — you want to be there.”

So, he did, applying at the Cascade AIDS Project for the only job available: condom fairy. Late nights spent at bathhouses distributing condoms and literature had its moments, but didn’t pay the bills. Two other hourly jobs — running a support group at Harry’s Mother, a homeless youth organization, and running another for LGBT kids at the Urban League of Portland, weren’t much help. And sleep? What was that?

Brinkman wanted to stay on the front line at Cascade AIDS, so he took a 40-hour-a-week salaried position: case manager. Every week, two or three clients died. His psyche couldn’t handle this reality, and when he wasn’t working, he was depressed.

He eventually stopped caring about himself altogether. His friend, an undergrad in psychology, recognized the once tireless activist’s darkness. “You can’t do this anymore, David,” she said. “It’s affecting your health. You have to leave.”

Brinkman informed his boss, Susan Stoltenberg, who gave him not a lifeline but, as it turned out, his life’s work. “You’re smart, dedicated, and charming AF,” she said. “You’d be great at fundraising.” She taught him the ropes, took him to benefits at wealthy gay men’s homes, and together they watched the donations come pouring in.

 

Finding His Groove Leading Nonprofits

The next step was to lead the charge, so Brinkman got his MBA at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School in Los Angeles, with an emphasis in ethical business management. He was now armed and ready.

He spent four years as executive director at My Friend’s Place, a nonprofit for homeless kids in L.A., but when the executive director position opened up at what was then known as Desert AIDS Project in Palm Springs, it was as if everything Brinkman had done in his life up until that point had led him to this. Except he almost didn’t get the gig.

It was at his fifth “audition” dinner with the board of directors that a member questioned their responsibility to write personal checks to DAP. Brinkman stated in no uncertain terms that he believed members of the community would only make contributions to the nonprofit if they firmly understood the board was similarly invested — that each of its members had skin in the game. “If you don’t believe in that,” Brinkman told the group, “then I’m not the executive director for you.”

Every board member voted Brinkman in. Except for that skinless square peg, who resigned. That was 17 years ago.

 

Three Marvelous Humans

Through DAP Health, Brinkman has met many a marvelous human, but three get a shout-out here. The first, Marvin Sholl, proclaimed himself Brinkman’s “West Coast dad,” and 12 years ago, over dinner, said, “David! Ruthie and I love you. But we need to tell you…” Long pause for dramatic effect. “There’s another man in our lives.”

Brinkman waited for a punchline that never came. “This man is your husband,” Sholl continued. “You have yet to meet, but for two years, Ruthie and I have been preparing.”

The next evening, Dr. Will Grimm walked into Barry Manilow’s Gift of Love concert at the McCallum Theatre for his blind date with Brinkman, and fairy dust appeared anywhere the good doctor was. It danced from his fingertips, and when he spoke, it came out of his mouth like cartoon music from a saxophone. The men married in 2019. So, there you have Marvelous Human Shout-Out Number Two.

Number Three is a Ugandan physician working for UNAIDS in Rwanda four years ago, when Brinkman was part of a DAP delegation presenting at an international AIDS conference in Kigali. The man goes by Musah Lumumba because to say his real name would be catastrophic for him and for those he loves.

He and Brinkman spoke this past Ramadan, while Lumumba was in the streets serving the hungry. He said something that skyrocketed across the Atlantic ocean and two continents, piercing Brinkman’s core existence. “David,” he said, “the reason you and I are alive today is to address the issues our communities are facing today.”

That, Brinkman says, is the why of it all. “It’s why DAP was founded,” he says. “It’s why Borrego Health was acquired. And it’s why I came into work today.”

Your move, Kutcher!

Dr. Joseph Cerjan Named Permanent Princi …

Dr. Joseph Cerjan Named Permanent Principal Provider at DAP Health's Borrego Medical Clinic  

The bilingual physician, eager to serve patients in Borrego Springs and the surrounding areas, fills a long-vacant role, bringing a sense of permanence and stability.

Words by Daniel Vaillancourt

 

Dr. Joseph Cerjan — a physician with more than 30 years of experience in a variety of settings, who is fluent in both English and Spanish — has been hired to fulfill the long-vacant role of permanent principal medical provider at DAP Health’s Borrego Medical Clinic.

In that capacity, he will oversee disciplines such as family medicine, pediatrics, women’s health (including OB-GYN), behavioral health, and sexual wellness at the center, located at 4343 Yaqui Pass Road in Borrego Springs, California.

“The people in and around Borrego Springs have long needed and deserved a permanent medical provider whom they can grow to trust, admire, and appreciate,” says DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “Thanks to his deep well of professional expertise and his wide array of real-life experiences, I believe Dr. Cerjan is the perfect physician to help eradicate barriers to care while broadening programs and services. All of us at DAP Health — and every member of the communities we serve in Borrego Springs — are fortunate to have found him.”

It is with great enthusiasm that Dr. Cerjan looks forward to serving at Borrego Medical Clinic. “I don’t really see myself as a seed that’s being planted,” he says. “I’m a tree that’s being grafted. It has to be pruned, branch out, and hopefully produce the fruit — the benefits to everyone — that we’re hoping for. We’re establishing continuity of care for the area’s patients. Expanding some services. It’s going to be a fun challenge. Personally, this might be the seventh or eighth inning for me, but it might be the best part of my game.”

 

About Dr. Joseph Cerjan

Dr. Joseph Cerjan (sir-JAHN) is a seasoned physician with a distinguished career spanning more than three decades. Born in Youngstown, Ohio, he has dedicated his life to providing exemplary medical care and service to communities across the United States and beyond.

He began his academic journey at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where he pursued a B.A. in biochemistry. During his undergraduate years, he received prestigious honors, including membership in Bucket and Dipper, the freshmen men’s honorary, and Romophos, the sophomore men’s honorary.

Eager to expand his horizons, Dr. Cerjan pursued his medical education at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico, graduating with distinction in 1981. Following medical school, he completed several postgraduate years, including internship, social service, and externship, further honing his skills and knowledge.

Dr. Cerjan continued his training with a residency at University Hospital, University of Cincinnati, where he served as chief resident in his final year. Board-certified by the American Academy of Family Physicians since 1989, the good doctor has maintained an active and unwavering commitment to excellence in patient care.

Throughout his illustrious career, Dr. Cerjan has held various positions in prestigious medical institutions, including the Share Reese Stealy Medical Group in San Diego, and the Yuma Regional Medical Center in Yuma, Arizona, where he served in the department of emergency medicine for an impressive 26 years.

In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Cerjan has demonstrated a passion for serving underserved populations, including periods as the house physician at the Fresno County Jail and as a physician at California’s Chuckwalla Valley State Prison.

Fluent in both English and Spanish, Dr. Cerjan is dedicated to breaking down language barriers to ensure the highest quality of care for all patients. His commitment to medicine is underscored by his active licensure in Arizona and California, as well as his current ACLS certification. With a wealth of experience and a compassionate approach to patient care, he continues to make a profound impact on the field of medicine, enriching the lives of those he serves.

Dining Out For Life Greater Palm Springs …

Annual Philanthropic Foodie Event Happens Thursday, April 25

 

DAP Health participates in the one-day North American gastronomic fundraiser for the 19th year.

 

 

Dining Out For Life® — the annual, North American foodie fundraising event that has collected more than nearly 100 million dollars for community-based organizations that serve people living with or impacted by HIV since its inception in 1991 — will take place in Palm Springs and across the Coachella Valley on Thursday, April 25, 2024.

Every year since 2005, Greater Palm Springs has participated in the all-day/all-night affair on behalf of DAP Health. And on each of those occasions, locals, snowbirds, and tourists have swelled with pride and come out in droves to raise much-needed funds while enjoying the generosity of participating local restaurants, bars, cafés, and bakeries that donate anywhere from 30 to 110% of their entire day’s and/or evening’s receipts — not just the profits — to the legendary effort.

Thanks to the generous support of participating restaurants, volunteers, and community members, Greater Palm Springs perennially places in the top three successful markets in the country. In 2023, 72 desert establishments participated to raise more than $270,000 — more than San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, and other large urban centers.

With more than 12,000 local supporters expected to dine out for life at breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner, and/or late night this year, the 2024 goal is for Dining Out For Life Greater Palm Springs to grab the number one spot.

Eager participants are urged to visit daphealth.org/dofl, make reservations well in advance, and prepare to satisfy their hunger and thirst as many times as possible on April 25 to beat the North American record right here in our own back yard. If their favorite eatery hasn’t yet made its participation public, diners should speak up and urge the powers that be to sign up ASAP.

For the second year in a row, on the night before — from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. — DAP Health will host a Bar Crawl on Arenas Road in Palm Springs that will serve as the official kickoff of DOFLGPS 2024. Drag performer Jackett Knightley, the event’s special ambassador, will “Pied Piper” patrons from bar to bar, where DAP Health volunteers will provide proof of participation by punching each revealer’s Bar Crawl bingo card.  

DOFL National’s website states that each year “more than 50 local HIV service organizations partner with 2,400+ participating restaurants, 4,100+ volunteers, and 300,000+ diners to raise over $4.5 million for people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States and Canada. The best part? All funds raised through a city’s Dining Out For Life event stay in that city to provide help and hope to people living with or impacted by HIV/AIDS.”

“Because we were founded 40 years ago as a response to the AIDS crisis, Dining Out For Life has always been of supreme importance to DAP Health’s staff and patients,” says CEO David Brinkman. “Since our recent tremendous expansion has allowed us to increase our award-winning HIV/AIDS care from three to five of our 25 clinics, this annual event is more important to us than ever.”

To register as a Dining Out For Life in-restaurant volunteer ambassador on April 25 — or to sign on as a participating establishment, please contact Bruce Benning at [email protected] or 760.320.7854.

Participating Restaurants at Press Time

1501 Uptown Gastropub

Aspen Mills Bakery & Café

Barracks Bar

Bongo Johnny’s

Carousel Bakery

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen Palm Desert

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen Palm Springs

Chicken Ranch

Clandestino

Copley’s on Palm Canyon

Cork & Fork

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge

El Mirasol at Los Arboles

El Mirasol Cocina Mexicana

El Patio Palm Springs

Elmer’s

FARM

Gelato Granucci

Grand Central

Heirloom Craft Kitchen

Impala Bar & Grill Nightclub

Johannes

Johnny Costa’s Ristorante

Kaiser Grille

Le Donne Cucina Italiana

Lulu California Bistro

Palm Greens Café

Purple Room

Spencer’s Restaurant at the Mountain

Tac/Quila

The Front Porch

Toucan’s

Townie Bagels

Trio Restaurant

Willie’s Modern Fare

Zin American Bistro

Dining Out For Life Greater Palm Springs 2024 Sponsors at Press Time

Steve Tobin, Johnny Krupa, and The Grace Helen Spearman Charitable Foundation

Media Sponsors

Alpha Media

KESQ ABC News Channel 3

KGAY 106.5 & 92.1, GayDesertGuide.LGBT and 103.1 MeTVfm

NBC Palm Springs

The Chase 2024 $2.3 Million Raised at 30 …

$2.3 Million Raised at 30th Annual The Chase Celebrating DAP Health’s 40th Anniversary

Icon Barry Manilow serenades 2024’s nine joint Community Legacy Award honorees with a custom-made performance.

Words by Daniel Vaillancourt

 

Music and passion were clearly the fashion — and oh, what fashion! — at the 30th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, presented by Desert Care Network, which celebrated not only DAP Health’s 40th anniversary but the nine joint recipients of the 2024 Community Legacy Award.

The affair began on the chilly evening of Saturday, March 30 at the Palm Springs Convention Center with warm-hearted philanthropists in a festive mood making their entrance on the Blue Carpet, all of them dressed to thrill. That’s where Chief of Brand Marketing Steven Henke interviewed guests for live segments on NBC Palm Springs’ evening news.

The extravaganza ended a few hours later with legendary hitmaker (and beloved Palm Springs resident) Barry Manilow smiling, taking a bow, and clasping his hands in thanks — not just for the bountiful standing ovation, but for the $2.3 million raised during the course of the night.”

Zing Went the Strings

After perusing (and bidding on) the silent auction items displayed during the generous cocktail hour where uniformed servers passed hors-d’oeuvres and D.J. Bob Scatch spun tunes, more than 1,300 guests were ushered into the ballroom, where, from centerstage, violinist Jennifer “Spags” Spignola provided a vivid accompaniment to their grand entrance and journey to their table. The venue was truly resplendent, with a revolving rainbow of colors continually shining down from above.

Attendees snapped to attention when the program was kickstarted with two introductory videos. The first was a lightning-fast compilation of star-studded images from the 29 previous galas. The second gave an overview of DAP Health’s vast array of programs and services that co-starred Palm Springs Councilmember Grace Elena Garner and her mother, Juanita. Garner’s late uncle, Justin Escobar, was a person living with HIV who was cared for at DAP Health, and Garner’s stepchild recently became one of the organization’s pediatric patients.

Following the clips, DAP Health Board Member and Gala Chair Kevin Bass officially welcomed the crowd. “DAP Health has been at the forefront of translating the lessons learned from the AIDS crisis into comprehensive, equitable health care that upholds the dignity of every individual regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, or health status,” he said. “Our commitment remains unwavering. In fact, we have expanded our HIV services to five locations, with plans to add more. Reflecting on our shared history fills me with immense pride, yet it is our unified vision for the future that truly fuels my optimism. Tonight, let us dare to dream of a tomorrow where comprehensive health care is a birthright for all, brimming with hope, resilience, and boundless opportunities.”

Bon Appétit and Lend Us Your Ears!

Dinner was then served, with attendees ensuring they left time to mingle and network. Soon, the speeches resumed, with DAP Health CEO David Brinkman taking the stage. “If Steve Chase were here tonight, he’d already have rearranged the layout, zhuzhed the flowers, hung art in our new clinics, and probably found himself uncharacteristically speechless by you, by your commitment and passion for improving the health and advancing the human rights of our 100,000 patients. Your presence honors what Steve envisioned: courage to step up, determination to lift up the powerless, and resolve to eradicate discrimination,” he said. “Today, we stand ready to provide the highest standard of care and advance the human rights of the people growing our food, single moms working two jobs, the angels who care for our growing aging population — all critical members of our community who need the care of DAP Health’s orthopedists, gynecologists, neurologists, and acupuncturists. 

“Not to mention people who are trans, who are facing a national epidemic of violence against them, who need the loving and judgement-free care of our physicians, psychologists, and gender-affirming care specialists. The trans community needs every one of us to have their backs right now. I am confident, as we continue to leverage our 25 clinics, that with the support of elected officials, our amazing board, staff, and volunteers, and you, we will achieve equity in health care and equality for all.”

Going Once, Going Twice...

Longtime “The Chase” auctioneer Dale Johannes then appeared, raising $107,000 from such varied packages as a post-show meet & greet with Manilow, travel extravaganzas, and a power system from sponsor Hot Purple Solar.

In one of the most inspiring moments of the evening, DAP Health Chief Operating Officer Corina Velasquez, who began her career in health care more than 20 years ago, and who served in a similar role at Borrego Health, made an entrance with four fellow DAP Health employees.

Together, they represented more than 120 years of service to the organization. In addition to speaking about growing up in the Eastern Coachella Valley as the middle child of a single mom of three who worked two jobs until she purchased the mini market where she moonlighted, Velasquez said, “My colleagues and I show up every day with our health care hero uniforms on — whether they be scrubs, business casual, or hard hats. We may all come from different backgrounds, but trust me when I say more connects than divides us. Health care is a calling, and our commitment to DAP Health’s mission is united and unshakeable. We are here. For one another. And for our patients.”

The group then introduced a poignant video featuring patient LaWanda Manigo, who credits the organization with not only saving her life, but making it infinitely better.

 

Michele Finney and Desert Care Network’s Commitment

When Johannes returned, with surprise celebrity guest (and past The Chase host) Michael Urie in tow, the audience was primed to give. And give they did, raising $783,000 during the “Fund the Need” portion of the evening. It was with this electric excitement in the air that Desert Care Network CEO Michele Finney addressed the room to remind attendees of her organization’s longstanding commitment to DAP Health.

“We have stood beside DAP for four decades. Our collective efforts to meet the health care needs of our communities began in 1984, during the HIV/AIDS crisis. Desert AIDS Project emerged and Desert Regional provided a dedicated floor for AIDS care,” she said, adding that during the last four decades DCN’s gifts to DAP have totaled nearly $8 million. “We made this investment because we see the need in our emergency rooms every day. We see patients with conditions that could have been treated earlier — or even prevented or avoided — if they had better access to primary care and supportive services. It is for that reason and many more that we recently announced our new gift to DAP Health. We are collaborating by supporting DAP Health’s newest affordable housing project — Vista Sunrise 2 — with a $2.5 million-dollar commitment.” Consider the crowd wowed.

Let Him Entertain You

As promised, the speeches were brief and few. Bass returned to introduce his best friend Manilow, who spent the next 75 minutes regaling a surprising number of Fanilows in attendance with such massive hits as “I Write the Songs,” “Mandy,” “Could This Be Magic,” and his encore, “Copacabana,” which he performed with Modern Men: Coachella Valley Men’s Chorus as backup.

In one of the most ingenious twists of the night, between songs, Manilow spoke briefly about each of the nine joint 2024 Community Legacy Award honorees — major donor Mark Adams, entertainer and patient Keisha D., Board Member Dr. Frank Figueroa, Board Chair Patrick Jordan, 100 Women major donor group co-founder Dr. Terri Ketover, Steve Chase business partner Michael Kiner, Partners For Life major donor group founder Andy Linsky, volunteer psychotherapist Tori St. Johns, and project director of Get Tested Coachella Valley HIV prevention campaign Susan Unger — introducing their separate tribute reels, exiting, and returning from the wings in a different sparkly dinner jacket every time.

The Feedback 

The word on the street following the extravaganza was that this was one of the best Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards in recent memory — thanks in large part to producer Debbie Chapman returning to bring back her expert guidance and creativity. Revelers were thankful for having attended.

“We certainly have never raised such a large amount of money at The Chase on behalf of our mission,” says Brinkman. “I left that ballroom with a big smile on my face and my heart full of love and appreciation for the members of our community who believe in our lifesaving work and who choose to support it with all their might. Together, we’ve already started building the next 40 years. Watch us fly!”

NBC Palm Springs will broadcast an edited one-hour special of “The Chase” on Sunday, April 14 at 9:00 a.m. (right after “Meet the Press”).

Thank You with a Capital TY!

The Chase 2024 was made possible through the generous support of presenting sponsor Desert Care Network alongside all sponsors listed below.

Brad and Lynne Toles of Savoury’s Palm Springs, and their kitchen and front-of-house staff, provided the delicious food, beverages, and service.

The Chase 2024 was Proudly Sponsored by:

Supporting Sponsors

Steven Anders

Daniel & Carolyn Caldwell

City of Rancho Mirage

Anthony Colantino & Craig Grantham

Bruce W. Finch & Keith Reimann

Eve E. Fromberg-Edelstein, Esq.

Gilead

Heather James Fine Art

Inland Empire Community Foundation

Interactive Design Corporation

Alan Kaminsky

Drs. Terri & Bart Ketover

Frank Kurland

Living Out

Marsh McLennan Agency

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Selene Palm Springs/Dream Hotel & Residence

The Stonewall Group

Trina Turk

Western Wind Foundation

David Zippel and Michael Johnston

 

Benefactor Sponsors

Coachella Valley Health Personnel

Contour Dermatology

Diageo

Heffernan Insurance Brokers

Labcorp

Perry S. McKay

Vaso Bello Celebrations

Patron Sponsors

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

Inland Empire Health Plan

Low Income Investment Fund

Cary Lowe and Allen Ames

Palm Springs Disposal Services

Personal Stories Project

Henry Schein

Southern Pacific Construction

The UPS Store Palm Springs

 

Media Sponsors

Alpha Media

CV Independent

Desert Charities News

Gay Desert Guide

GED Magazine

KESQ

Palm Springs Life

Performing Arts Live

The Hollywood Times

The Joey English Radio

The Rage Monthly Magazine

The Standard Magazine

High-Flying Volunteer

                         Star DAP Health volunteer Jim Gonzales and fashion icon Donna Karan.

High-Flying Volunteer

Jim Gonzales has been all over the globe, but there’s no place like DAP Health.

Words by Kent Black

It might be said that Jim Gonzales is used to the thin air of high altitudes. The Raton, New Mexico native (elev. 6680 feet) worked for Frontier and United Airlines as a flight attendant for 37 years, jetting all over the world to favorite destinations such as Barcelona and Sydney. “I much preferred flying to being in an office,” he says from his lovely home near the Parker Palm Springs. “You get on the airplane, do your job, be nice, and then go home.”

When Gonzales retired in 2015, he and his late husband moved to the desert. Having volunteered for his union for the Colorado AIDS Project, he reached out to DAP Health to see what he could do to help. The nonprofit obliged. His first assignment was to help work the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, overseeing the silent auction. “I was really nervous as heck about it,” he admits, “but we ended up doing really well.”

Since then, his volunteer portfolio has grown to include duties commensurate with his welcoming and personable disposition. Each January, he donates his time at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

At DAP Health, he helps with fundraising for the organization’s Partners For Life major donor program, its annual Health Equity Walk, and the client Thanksgiving feast. He’s also one of the rotating volunteers who guides the monthly Impact Hour, where guests are led on a behind-the-scenes tour of the DAP Health campus and introduced to its programs and services. “It’s really impressive. Especially when we show them the 61-unit apartment building going up,” he says. “And there’s always a client present to talk about their journey and how they got there.”

Since making Palm Springs his home, Gonzales says, “I have been afforded the opportunity to work with and meet many giving and wonderful people who are also committed to the mission of DAP Health. Helping everyone who has a need … what could be better?”

And, of course, he’s always available for The Chase. Last year, he had the honor of escorting fashion designer and philanthropist Donna Karan when she was honored with DAP Health’s Equity Award. As a seasoned awards escort, what fashion icon does he hope to guide along the red carpet in the future? Perhaps Norma Kamali? “Oh, no,” he says. “I’m hoping for Tom Ford.”

To learn more about how to become a volunteer at DAP Health—at Revivals thrift stores, at special events, or on campus—please click here.