June 2022

Leaders in the Field
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Two years have passed since the pandemic started, but the words “COVID-19” and its variants continue to cause anxiety and fear. Despite restrictions being lifted, psychologists are still reporting high stress levels among Americans. May was Mental Health Awareness Month, and the OC Forum presented the premiere of "Saving the Dream: Conquering Post-Pandemic Stress." Our own Lauren Brand, Executive Director of Operations at Be Well OC, joined an impressive panel of visionaries to discuss timely solutions to conquer post-COVID blues.

To watch the complete program, click  here.

Lauren participated in the 2016 Executive Learning Group, is a trained Creative Encounters by Fieldstone facilitator; is an Executive Coach in our Executive Coaching Program, and participated in the 2019 and 2020 Leadership Reading Groups

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Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County has been named one of the Best Places to Work in Orange County by the Orange County Business Journal, in addition to the three years of recognition as one of the Top Workplaces in OC by the Orange County Register

Their mission is to improve oral health of children in Orange County through collaborative programs directed at prevention, outreach and education, access to treatment, and advocacy. They believe every child deserves a healthy smile!

Ria Berger, CEO, participated in the 2015 Executive Learning Group and is a current coach in our 2022 Executive Coaching Program.

Congratulations to Neda Arab, Senior Program Director of Vital Link of Orange County for being selected as class speaker for Leadership Tomorrow OC Class of 2022!

It is no secret that business people are better prepared to lead and serve when they know the inner-workings and needs of the community. Leadership Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization,  serves the communities of Costa Mesa, Irvine, Newport Beach and Tustin, and is supported by many community-minded organizations. Its mission is to cultivate, inspire, connect and empower an effective community of leaders.

Neda was a participant in the 2021 Nonprofit Leaders Learning Group.

It is with great sadness that we share the loss of Dr. Marilyn Ditty, who passed away peacefully at the age of 81. Marilyn was an amazing woman who made an impact on countless lives. In the late 1970’s Marilyn received her master’s degree from the University of San Diego when the aging field was in its pioneering stage and then pursued post-graduate studies at the University of Southern California, School of Gerontology. She then continued her journey of education by receiving her Doctorate in Public Administration from the University of La Verne. She went on to serve on various advisory boards and as an associate professor.

Marilyn was extensively known for her distinguished work in the field of gerontology and dedicated her career to educate and advocate for older adults on the local, state, federal and international level. Most importantly, was the founder emeritus of Age Well Senior Services, Inc. and served as its CEO for over 40 years.

Marilyn participated in the 2009 Executive Learning Group and was coached in the 2010 Executive Coaching Program.

Since 1951, My Day Counts has been training people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities for success in life and work. Starting in 2019, under the leadership of Michael Galliano, CEO and President, My Day Counts began supporting participants interested in taking college courses through the Access to Higher Education Initiative. Many participants had been told throughout their entire lives that there were many life experiences in which they simply could not participate, but with this additional support, participants were excited to pursue their educational aspirations.

Fast forward to 2022, four participants, Paul, Andre, Philip, and Mark earned their high school diplomas. After much dedication, perseverance and hard work, they celebrated their accomplishments and achievements. These boys paved the way for the 14 participants who are currently preparing to be the next graduates!

Michael participated in the 2020 Executive Learning Group.

HomeAid Orange County held an annual Diaper Drive, a community-based donation drive aimed at collecting 1 million essential items (diapers, wipes, and baby food) for babies and toddlers experiencing homelessness in Orange County. Architects and home builders came together for the cause to build incredible structures out of diaper boxes!

Gina Cunningham, Executive Director of HomeAid, participated in the 2002 Nonprofit Leaders Learning Group, was coached in the 2014 Executive Coaching Program, was a participant of the 2019 and 2020 Leadership Reading Groups, was a member of the 2021 Executive Learning Group.

In realizing their vision for healthy babies, empowered mothers and strong families throughout Orange County, and in pursuing their mission to help mothers and their families have healthy babies by providing health coordination, education and access to community, MOMS Orange County is not just for mothers. A local dad turned the tragedy of his wife being killed by a drunk driver while nine months pregnant into a teaching opportunity, while helping other dads become the best they can be with the help of MOMS. 

To view the entire article, click here.

Dave Lugo, CEO, is a current participant in our 2022 Executive Learning Group.

Teen Leadership Foundation announced the addition of Courtnie Dowdy as their new Managing Director. TLF was looking for someone to help expand and execute the vision with new perspectives, leadership gifts, complementary strengths, and a big heart for teens and young adults preparing for new lives after foster care. In this new role, Courtnie oversees their foster youth programs, volunteer engagement, and community partnerships, including related staff members and lead volunteers. Her team coordination, leadership development, and project management skills will strengthen TLF’s programs and systems. 

We look forward to having Courtnie join the Network!

Pathways of Hope had big news to announce at their Supporter Appreciation and Announcement Event! In addition to a rebranding logo (shown here and set to debut in the fall), they announced the conversion of their Amerige properties to permanent affordable housing through a $2.5MM grant from the Jeff Bezos Day One Fund and partnership with HomeAid Orange County.

For more information on the upcoming project, click here

Mychael Blinde, Development Manager, is a current participant of the 2022 Nonprofit Leaders Learning Group, and Dave Gillanders, Executive Director, participated in the 2019 Executive Learning Group.

Working Wardrobes prepared Marines and Sailors for the transition to the civilian workforce. Veterans who previously navigated the transition shared their experiences as a panel, while a career coach led a workshop guiding them in transferring their military skills and identifying potential careers and employers. Employers then hosted a job fair, and volunteers set them up with a "Success Suit" and took professional headshots. 


We look forward to having their new CEO, Bonnie Pomush join next year's Executive Learning Group.

The Arts & Learning Conservatory President and CEO, Debora Wondercheck, recently attended a Costa Mesa City Council meeting in which the Conservatory was honored with a proclamation in recognition of Juneteenth by the Council. This comes in light of ALC's collaboration with Musco Center of the Arts at Chapman University to create a Juneteenth celebration: Gospel Voices of Orange County and bring historical education to the community through the arts.

The Gospel Voices of OC is a multi-generational artistic celebration of African Americans through the lens and influence of gospel music.

Debora was coached in our 2021 Executive Coaching Program.


Art & Creativity for Healing held their Palette of Colors fundraiser with over 150 attendees generating approximately $70K in gross proceeds. The ‘Hats Off to Giving’ event supports the nonprofit’s emotional healing programs through art and creative expression for those living in pain, grief, fear or stress. The evening included an expansive silent auction with many original art pieces, opportunity drawing, dinner, dancing and a hat contest. The late philanthropist and Art & Creativity for Healing supporter Ruth K. Reed was honored for her ongoing support through the Ruth & Joseph C. Reed Foundation.

Laurie Zagon-Sorrentino participated in the 2010 Executive Learning Group and was coached in the 2011 Executive Coaching Program.

Rochelle Mills, CEO of Innovative Housing Opportunities was honored to receive the Merit Design Award for its 87th & Western affordable housing plan by Westside Urban Forum. The Jury said 87th & Western "is a large, ambitious project that will transform this area along Western that is in need of investment. The exterior design, site planning and massing have a thoughtfulness that will integrate well into the busy boulevard and the adjacent single family home side streets...(it) goes a long way to have this kind of design in the neighborhood." IHO is recognized amongst high profile projects such as Sofi Stadium Ivy Station and West Edge.

Antonio Ramon, Project Manager, and Brenda Walters, Community Impact Manager, are current members in our 2022 Nonprofit Leaders Learning Groups. Rochelle participated in the 2019 Executive Learning Group and was coached in the 2020 Executive Coaching Program.

Congrats to Edith Hernandez on her new engagement as consultant for Families Together of Orange County Community Health Center. The organization provides the community with medical, behavioral, dental, wellness, & social services support. Edith will work with this team of leaders and support their program development efforts.

Edith is a current participant in the 2022 Nonprofit Leaders Learning Group.

Best wishes to Stephanie Lowrance, previously with Western Youth Services for 17 years, as she transitions to Northern Arizona University (NAU). She will be teaching full time in the Social Work Department starting in August!

Stephanie was coached in the 2021 Executive Coaching Program.

The Wooden Floor was recognized as the 2022 Nonprofit of the Year by Greater Irvine Chamber. Their team has been through so much together, especially during the pandemic, and they were thrilled to receive the recognition for their community impact, and collective efforts to keep their mission moving forward on behalf their students and families.

Dawn Reese, CEO, participated in the 2017 Nonprofit Leaders Learning Group, was coached in the 2012 Executive Coaching Program and became a coach in 2013.

Multi-Ethnic Community Collaborative of Community Agencies (MECCA) announced their new Executive Director, Yesenia Velez Ochoa. She comes to this role with many years of leadership experience from serving within MECCA, as well as from time spent at other nonprofits. As the current Vice-Chair for the Orange County Community Housing Corporation-Stepping Up, former Director of Community Development for Orange County United Way, Program Officer for the Merage Foundation for the American Dream, and Executive Director of the Oak View Renewal Partnership, she understands deeply how to help build community and the integral piece it plays when creating and investing in sustainable programs.

We look forward to Yesenia joining next year's Executive Learning Group.

Leaders in the Field is a monthly communication highlighting Fieldstone Leadership Network member organizations and their

achievements in the community.

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