AHF in the Community – May Recap

From Nancy Sasaki, Executive Director – At Alliance Healthcare Foundation, we are committed to advancing the health and wellness of the communities we serve. Our collaborative efforts to overcome challenges and the recognition of organizations within the region for the month of May are highlighted in this post.

May 3: As a part of our work on homelessness, I serve on the Imperial County Continuum of Care Board.  Today, Dolores Diaz, Executive Director, Regional Task Force on the Homeless (San Diego) joined us to talk about the work we need to do to establish a coordinated entry system (CES). We have a long way to go but there is a lot of energy in Imperial County to get this done by 2018!

iEngageU discussion on Managed Care Medi-Cal

May 4: Following the Funders Together to End Homelessness meeting, I joined the group already in progress to hear about the work SAY San Diego did with Moves the Needle. Thanks for the invitation from Joe Buerhle, VP of Organizational Planning, I learned about the process that combines Lean and Design Thinking to create solutions that can be quickly tested and adjusted. Their ability to test their theories before implementation can lead to rapid development of a project that can have better outcomes.

Meanwhile, Michele was in Imperial for a long awaited iEngageU discussion on Managed Care Medi-Cal with Kathleen Lang, DPA, Vice President of Operations, Imperial County, California Health & Wellness and Steve Soto, Associate Vice President, San Diego/Sacramento/Imperial Counties of Molina Healthcare. With double the crowd expected (almost 50 providers and community leaders!) there is a high need to understand more about managed care and the two health plans for Imperial county Medi-Cal recipients. A follow up discussion is being planned for October!

Our Innovation Initiative grant closed today, and we received 18 requests totaling over $18 million in requested funds. The Program Committee will select up to five finalists later this month to move forward to PitchFest in July!

May 5: The day after the SAY San Diego presentation I met with Heather Hiscox and Amelia Klawon with Moves the Needle to learn more about their work and their plans in San Diego County.

That evening I joined others at the USD Innovation Challenge Awards ceremony. Dr. James T. Harris, President USD and Dr. Amit Kakkad, Director, Center for Peace and Commerce hosted the ceremony. Student finalists from area colleges and universities provided quick fire presentations of their projects. The topics presented ranged from recycling to building community. Congratulations to the many award winners!

May 6: This month was filled with opportunities to be in Imperial County! Today I, along with members of the Imperial County Continuum of Care Board and members of the veterans committee, met with County Executive Ralph Cordova and Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter, Imperial County Public Information Officer. We are excited about the opportunity to work together as we build a plan to address homelessness in Imperial County.

May 10: I started my morning by joining hundreds of others at the Convention Center to hear how the United Way of San Diego is “Changing the Odds”. Congratulations to CEO, Rabbi Laurie Coskey for an outstanding event highlighting the scholarships for young people and the work ahead! I also had a chance to sit with Kathlyn Mead, CEO, The San Diego Foundation, Beth Sirull, CEO, Jewish Community Foundation and Michael Hopkins, CEO, Jewish Family Service and John Ohanian, CEO, 2-1-1 San Diego.

May 11: Today we held a press conference in El Centro to announce the findings of the 2017 Point in Time Count. This was the first time we had such a great cadre of volunteers – 200 trained and over 170 participating – to conduct a more widespread count in January. In addition, several volunteers were set up to conduct a count of the area known as Slab City! Because of this incredible turnout the new homeless count in Imperial County is 1,071. Thanks to my fellow IVCCC board members for participating in the press conference: Chair, Les Smith, (Chair, El Centro Chamber of Commerce), Assistant District Attorney, Deborah Owen, and Secretary, Peggy Price (Director of Department of Social Services). You can read more about the results in the report here.

May 12: Today we took the AHF board of trustees to Imperial County for meetings and a tour. We started at the Department of Public Health and want to thank Helina Hoyt, RN BS Program Coordinator SDSU and Christina Olson, Health Program Coordinator as well as Dr. Aldophe Edwards, CEO, El Centro Regional Medical Center and Larry Lewis, CEO, Pioneer Memorial Healthcare District. From there we went to Calexico Neighborhood House where Ricardo Ortega, Executive Director greeted us and his staff provided our lunch! We also heard from Les Smith, Chair, IVCCC Board and Chair of El Centro Chamber of Commerce. We tried a new way of hearing from our grantees – speed dating! Each of the grantees met with 2-3 of our board members to talk about issues their organizations were facing. They shared for 3 minutes before moving on to the next group, until everyone had a chance to meet and talk.

Many thanks to: Alex Cardenas, Exec. Dir., Court Appointed Special Advocates; Sara Griffen, Exec. Dir. Imperial Valley Food Bank; Luis Olmedo, Exec. Dir., Comite Civico del Valle; Ricardo Ortega, Exec. Dir. Calexico Neighborhood House; Helen Palomino, CEO, Cancer Resource Center of the Desert; Orlando Johnson, Community Liaison, 2-1-1 Imperial County; and Misty Lee, Exec. Dir. Boys & Girls Club. On our way to Alford Distributing, we stopped at the site for the new Imperial Valley Food Bank where Sara Griffen, Exec. Dir. updated us on their progress and showed us the design of the new facility! At Alford Distributing, we heard from Luis Olmedo, Comite Civico; Jose Lopez, Exec. Dir., Campesinos Unidos, Beatriz Garcia, Interim Directing Attorney, and Lupe Quintero Exec. Dir., California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.

Following a short board meeting we headed back to San Diego enriched with information and a better understanding of the challenges faced in Imperial County.

AHF board of trustees bus tour to Imperial County


May 13: One more trip to Imperial County this week – for the IV Community Foundation gala. Hosted by Bobby Brock, Executive Director, a lovely “Evening on the Green” was enjoyed by over 250 guests. The entertainment provided by renowned jazz musician, Arturo Sandoval, was amazing! It was great to be able to support my colleague in his efforts to provide grants throughout Imperial County!

Press conference at EJE Academies Charter School with Bastyr University

May 15: What a great way to start my day with a press conference at EJE Academies Charter School with Bastyr University! With their Mission Support grant, Bastyr University has doubled the capacity of the clinic at EJE Academies. The clinic provides healthy nutrition education and primary care services with a focus on natural medicine for low income families. Coverage of the press conference can be found here. Presenting at the press conference were: Senator Joel Anderson, Mac Powell, President Bastyr University, Eva Pacheco, Executive Director, EJE Academies and myself.

May 16: Finally, we have a report that shows what a tremendous impact education on financial sustainability can have! Today, International Rescue Committee released their report “Financial Capability for New Americans”. I dropped in on their report release event with Erica Bouris, Technical Advisor, Economic Empowerment Programs, IRC who hosted the panel. The panel speakers were: Jason Jarvinen, Program Officer, LISC; Kasra Movahedi, Technical Advisor, Economic Empowerment, IRC, and Stephen Maduli-Williams, Program Manager, Community Development, City of San Diego Economic Development Department. The key findings show how much more people are gaining economically after participating in 4 or more sessions and even greater gains after 6 or more sessions. You can read the report here.

In the morning Michele met with Tara Milbrand and Meredith Kennedy from the American Academy of Pediatrics CA-3 and Dr. Marsha Spitzer, Family Health Centers of San Diego at their Barrio Logan office. Together they discussed the programs supported by the AAP and some of the challenges faced at the health center.  Michele learned that FHCSD is quite proud of the ability to have many screening and referral services in house to provide continuity of care and help to ensure care for children that show signs of development delay.

That evening I joined many others in our community to celebrate the UPAC Leadership Awards at their annual dinner. Congratulations to Margaret Penrose-Iwanaga, CEO, UPAC and her staff for a wonderful event!

May 17: Today I got to start with catching up with Scott LaGrand, Chief Development Officer, at The National Campaign. I first met Scott through the Clinton Health Matters Initiative and have followed his journey to The National Campaign. Whether or not there is an opportunity to work together is yet to be seen, but learning about effective work throughout the country is something I endeavor to do in order to help bring best practices to  San Diego & Imperial Counties!

Later in the afternoon I joined in, by phone, to the discussion with the Youth Homeless Demonstration Program providers. Although San Diego was not awarded the HUD grant, there is a continued interest in building a collaborative effort to address youth homelessness in San Diego County. Thanks to Walter Phillips, CEO, and Steven Jella, Associate Executive Director at San Diego Youth Services for leading this continued effort.

May 18: Although AHF has not dedicated funding to border health issues, it is a good for us to keep up on the topic. This morning Michele attended the Border Health Consortium of the Californias quarterly meeting. Dr. Karen Smith, Director and Public Health Officer for the State of California, Department of Public Health and Marcela Celorio, Consul General for the Consulate of Mexico addressed the “Impact of Recent Socio-Economic & Political Changes on Health in the California-Baja California Border Region”.  Additionally, they launched a new website for their efforts!

May 19: Through a LinkedIn connection, Michele & I met with Jon Kohrs to talk about innovative ways to conduct our Innovation Initiative. It was fascinating to learn about other methods and to see the ways they were similar and to learn about how they are different. One aspect they have added is community input on the project to provide feedback on the feasibility of utilization by the community. A very interesting addition!

May 20: Always an amazing evening with ridiculously delicious food, Michele attended the Olivewood Gardens Learning Center, Seedling Soiree. This year they featured two of their “kitchenista” graduates that have started their own healthy restaurants and catering companies! Patty Corona started Cocina ArteSanaL, a healthy Mexican food catering company. Website to come, but you can reach Patty at (619) 471-4529. Hilary Mejía started De PassionFruit, a healthy frutería, in National City, located at 1515 Highland Avenue, check out Also, De PassionFruit is having their official ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, June 20th at 11am.

May 23: At lunch I had a chance to catch up with Marina Baroff a former colleague at the Community Information Exchange and 2-1-1 San Diego.

That evening Michele & I attended the Malin Burnham Awards ceremony hosted by Chris Yanov, CEO and Founder, Reality Changers. We both commented on how amazing it was to hear the stories of the students and how they, in spite of the world around them, work to bring up their GPA and build their dream towards college. One student rides his skateboard to the Reality Changer office passing 7 liquor stores and 5 adult stores in a 5 block stretch! Another decided to join his mother in the United States with just $2 in his pocket. And still another is living in a motel with his mother, younger brother and dog and dreams of being able to provide a real home for the family. I think with every story we had tears in our eyes for the youth and their potential realization of their dreams!

May 24: The week continued with more powerful, and heartbreaking, stories as Michele and I got to sit in on focus groups coordinated by George Manolo-Claire, Executive Director of California Food Policy Advocates and Anahid Braake, Executive Director of San Diego Hunger Coalition. The focus groups were conducted to get an understanding of how summer meals are currently being accessed by undocumented immigrants and their families. The outcomes of the groups are intended to provide safe routes for summer meals.

May 25: Did you know Supervisor Gaspar was really passionate about helping the homeless get the help and housing that they need? Boy, did I find out this morning over coffee! Joining me was Ray Ellis and Amy Denhart, Director of Funders Together to End Homelessness. Supervisor’s Gaspar’s Chief of Staff, Dustin Steiner and Christi Knight, Senior Policy Advisor also joined the conversation. Through personal family experience and efforts in Encinitas as mayor, Supervisor Gaspar is eager to see effective change in our system.

iEngageU program rock climbing with Outdoor Outreach

That afternoon, as a part of our iEngageU program, AHF hosted staff in our office to a rock climbing event! Many thanks to staff and leaders from Outdoor Outreach for taking us on this fun adventure! Those who participated: me, Michele Silverthorn, Annie Guo (both AHF & San Diego Grantmakers), Justin Schaberg, Megan Thomas, Melissa Leon, and Amy Denhart from San Diego Grantmakers climbed the walls with ease (mostly)! Also thanks to Bryan Fisher for cheering us on and documenting our success.

May 31: This morning Michele met up with a past board member from her work at Foundation for Change  Anthony White, Director, Grants Management at Family Health Centers of San Diego.  They caught up on current work and discussed more in depth concerns around refugee health and system access. Always great to catch up with Anthony and try to solve the world’s problems!

It has been a while since I visited the Community Resource Center in Encinitas so it was great to meet new staff and learn about what’s happening. Many thanks to CEO, Isabel St. Germain Singh, Development Director, Peggy Pico, and Chief Program Officer, Rebecca Palmer. Some of the standout services are the Therapeutic Children’s Center and the food distribution center that allows recipients to shop for the foods they want and need.

And the day was completed with an event supporting Kitchens for Good (K4G) hosted by Ruth Westreich and Ann Jaffe. Not only does K4G provide low cost meals for seniors but they are incredibly successful training those who are hard to hire through their culinary job training program. 90% are successfully graduated and hired in restaurants around the county with the opportunity to move up in their own hands! Thanks to all the graduates who shared their stories with us. Also, thanks to the leadership – Jennifer, Chuck and Aviva for their grand idea coming to fruition and still growing!

Kitchens for Good Graduation Event

Have questions or comments about AHF in the community?

Contact Executive Director Nancy Sasaki or Program Officer Michele Silverthorn to learn more about AHF in the community and how we work to advance health and wellness.

Upcoming Events on the AHF Community Calendar

  • July 12, 19, 26 and August 2, 9, 16, 9:30am – 11:30am: Nonprofit Finance Fundamentals: Tools to Promote Financial Adaptability | RSVP – for grantees only
  • July 26, 1pm – 3pm – Reality Changers – College Apps Academy Launch

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