Imperial Valley Wellness Foundation Hires First Executive Director

Imperial Valley Wellness Foundation Hires First Executive Director
Roque Barros Jr., Former Director of the Ford Institute for Community Building; Deep Family Roots in Imperial Valley

The Imperial Valley Wellness Foundation (IVWF) announced it has hired Roque Barros, Jr. as its first executive director. Born and raised in Imperial Valley, Barros has had an exemplary career working to improve the lives of people in underserved communities.

“We are delighted to bring Roque Barros into our organization as its first executive director,” said local insurance executive Jose Landeros, IVWF’s chair. “Roque knows our community and brings extensive understanding from outside our community in how to address the needs of the most vulnerable.”

Barros most recently served as the director for the Ford Institute for Community Building, an arm of the Ford Family Foundation. In that role, he was responsible for the development and coordination of more than 90 local projects serving thousands of individuals across Oregon and Northern California. He managed a budget of $2.7 million and developed a community building approach that has been widely adopted throughout the rural communities in the area served by the Ford Institute.

roque barros picture

Prior to his work at the Ford Family Foundation, Barros spent 16 years at the Jacobs Family Foundation and the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in San Diego. During his tenure they developed Market Creek Plaza, a commercial and cultural center focused on the resident ownership of neighborhood change. Barros led the efforts in helping the community create the change they wanted to see in their community which included the first-ever Community Development Initial Public Offering.

“This is a great opportunity to implement the knowledge and practices I have learned over a lifetime of community service. Now I am bringing that knowledge back to Imperial Valley, where the need is great,” Barros said. “I am looking forward to the opportunities and the challenges.”

IVWF was established in 2019 and has been operating with volunteers since that time. The organization was formed following the offer of a challenge grant from the San Diego-based Alliance Healthcare Foundation. Alliance offered to provide IVWF $7.5 million if the new organization could raise $17.5 million.  With the match completed, IVWF will have a $25 million endowment in place that would provide more than $1 million to the community each year to address health and wellness issues for the most vulnerable in the region.

The search for endowment funding had just gotten underway when the pandemic struck. “We knew then that it wasn’t the right time to be seeking endowment funding,” said Landeros. “So, we shifted gears and went after Covid-19 response funding.”

That shift resulted in $850,000 raised to help nonprofits in the region serving those hardest hit by the pandemic. In addition, personal protective equipment (masks and disinfectant) valued at $1.5 million was donated to IVWF and then distributed to a wide range of nonprofits, businesses, government agencies, and associations in Imperial Valley.

Landeros said the timing was right to bring on the new executive director and shift the focus back to building the endowment. “Our goal has always been to become a new funding source and a partner with the region’s underfunded nonprofits that provide much of the social service safety net in the valley,” he said. “Roque Barros is now positioned to move us forward to meet that goal.”

“We are lucky to have attracted someone of the caliber of Roque Barros to lead our organization,” said Sara Griffen, an IVWF board member and the executive director of the Imperial Valley Food Bank.  “The community’s needs are so great; I am looking forward to working with Roque to take IVWF to the next level.”

Another board member, Timothy Kelley, who is also the CEO of the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation, concurs. “Roque is a quality executive with the experience and skills we need to best serve the community. There is so much work to be done, and we couldn’t do it all as volunteers. We have built a track record in a relatively short period of time, and we are confident Roque can build on that.”

Barros began his new position on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.


About Imperial Valley Wellness Foundation. Recognizing a need for more local funding to support promising health initiatives, a group of Imperial Valley civic leaders joined forces to create the Imperial Valley Wellness Foundation (IVWF). IVWF is a tax-exempt public charity under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code formed to advance the health and wellness of vulnerable populations in Imperial County. The San Diego-based Alliance Healthcare Foundation, nationally recognized for its innovative health and wellness initiatives, has offered a $7.5 million matching grant to endow IVWF and has provided other direct funding to support start-up operations and initial grant making. Wholly independent from Alliance Healthcare Foundation and locally governed by its own board of trustees, the new Imperial Valley Wellness Foundation is raising an additional $17.5 million through a national capital campaign to create a $25 million endowment that will fund local programs and activities in perpetuity. Visit

IVWF Board of Trustees (6/1/2021)

  • Jose Landeros, Board Chair; Vice President, David H. West Insurance
  • Alex Cardenas, Vice Chair; Executive Director, CASA Imperial County
  • Tim Kelley, Secretary; President & CEO, Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp
  • Yurii Camacho, English High School Teacher, Holtville Unified School District
  • James Garcia, Owner, Capital Real Estate
  • Sara Griffen, Executive Director, Imperial Valley Food Bank
  • Jazmyn Horton, Candidate for Masters in Social Work, San Diego State University-Imperial Valley Campus
  • Matthew Jaime, Registered Dietician
  • Stephen Jaime, Clinical Nurse Specialist of Diabetes Education, El Centro Regional Medical Center
  • Antonio Romayor, Jr. M.Ed., Chief Technology Officer, El Centro Elementary School District
  • Roque Barros, Jr., Executive Director, Imperial Valley Wellness Foundation

AHF Media contact:
Karen Winston, Communications Director, Alliance Healthcare Foundation
P 858-348-6472 E

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