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2011 Desert Gala

Melanie Fesmire – Indio, CA
As an attorney and community activist, Melanie has been involved in the City of Indio for almost 30 years. Her leadership includes 11 years on the Indio Planning Commission, two years with the Indio Central Improvement Association and the Neighborhood Housing Services, 15 years with the Indio Chamber of Commerce. She also served three terms each as Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem, and as city council member for 13 years. In addition to her service to the city, Melanie has held many committee and board appointments in the state, including League of California Cities Policy Committee, Riverside County Airport Land Use Commission, CVAG Transportation Committee, to name a few. Melanie is an Angel on Earth, who began her community service in the early 1970’s as a Peace Corps volunteer in Venezuela, and has been dedicated to service ever since. She is an active member of Angel Light Academy, fostering partnerships to serve the youth of the Coachella Valley since 1998. She and her husband of 46 years, George Williams, are partners in a law firm which specializes in service to the under-represented, minority populations.
Scott Trujillo – Indio, CA
Scott, a native of Colorado, started his leadership at an early age. He earned excellent grades throughout his elementary and secondary school years, in addition to serving on the student council and playing in several sports. He was Student of the Year, Captain of the football and wrestling teams, and Homecoming King. His leadership continued during college where he founded the first Latino Graduation Ceremony, initiated a wrestling club, tutored first generation students, was president of his fraternity, and was co-founder of the Latin/Greek Council – and he graduated with honors! Here in the Coachella Valley, Scott’s commitment to serving others is a way of life. As Senior Neighborhood Coordinator, Scott facilitates the Community Development Block Grant program and serves as liaison to the local businesses. He continues to initiate new programs, which includes founding the Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking. Scott served as president of the Indio Sunrise Rotary and on the Board of Directors of the Indio Chamber of Commerce, and was awarded Individual of the Year for IYTF. Scott Trujillo is truly an Angel on Earth to his community.
Colleen Johnson – Torrance, CA
Colleen’s commitment to youth drives her community involvement. She is an activist, serving as PTA President and Board member for 12 years, working with the Food Bank of Southern California, and with Sunshine Kids. She received a congressional award for her work to rebuild a local playground, was Chairperson for Adventures in Art, and AYSO board member for six years. Colleen is an Angel on Earth, who began her servant leadership at a young age. While in high school, she served as Class President and Vice President for several years, earning a Rotary Club leadership award, and was selected for Girls’ State. In the future, Colleen aspires to continue community service and be an example to her children who make her strive to be a better person.
Martha & Abraham Aguilar Family – Coachella, CA
Martha and Abraham Aguilar are dedicated to service to their family, community, and church. Their four children: Linda, Jacqueline, Jonathan, and Michelle have followed their parents’ example in leadership and service. . Martha and Abraham were raised in Mexico with humble beginnings, so they strive to assist their children in accomplishing what they want out of life. They have always instilled into each of their children the importance of helping one another out and helping out the community. Each of the children are honor roll students, involved in extracurricular activities at school, and have been involved in community service throughout their entire lives. Linda, their eldest child, is completing her Freshman year at College of the Desert and has been an extraordinary example to her younger siblings. Linda encourages them to follow in her foot steps of success, but to still make their own footprints along the way. Each of these “Angels on Earth” have a special unique gift and way of giving back at school, home, and in the community. Martha and Abraham Aguilar have set a foundation of values, service, and leadership for the generations to come.
Nachhattar S. Chandi – Mecca, CA
Mr. Chandi was born and raised in India where he was educated and challenged to take on the world of business. In fact, by the age of 17 he fully managed and operated a 167-employee/450-acre producing agricultural center. Now a resident and business owner in the Coachella Valley, he provides jobs for many local residents, often where there are few other employment opportunities. His first business here was a gas station, now the ARCO AM/PM in Coachella. This station set sales records and prepared Mr. Chandi to design, open, and operate the largest ARCO AM/PM in the world. The Mecca Travel Center now houses a number of other businesses and is the largest employer in the community of Mecca, giving hope to the community. His businesses set sales records, earn awards, and continually contribute to stable economic growth. He coordinates with local high schools to give students their first lessons in work experience. Mr. Chandi is an Angel on Earth, who has successfully impacted an entire community and he has a passion to continue serving with hopes to eventually help people worldwide.
Jackie Lee Houston – Palm Springs, CA
Jackie has a long history of angelic action! She has been repeatedly honored for her tireless contributions to local charities. To honor her for her service, the mayor of Palm Springs declared June 27th, her birthday, Jackie Lee Houston Day. His proclamation stated that “her generosity has improved the quality of life for many of our less fortunate citizens; and her compassion and positive attitude have inspired others to become more involved in fund-raising activities for deserving charities.” She has been named Distinguished Woman of the Year by Northwood University and 37th Senate District Woman of the Year. She has chaired numerous fundraising galas in the valley, supporting the elderly, the arts, music, and film, local museums, and hospitals. As an owner of KPSP Channel 2, which serves the desert communities daily, she is one of two women in the nation who own a television station. As genuine and committed community supporters, Jackie and her husband Jim give countless hours, boundless energy, and generous donations to organizations that serve Valley residents. Jackie Lee Houston is an Angel on Earth, who leads by example and makes a positive difference with each generous action.
Robert Craven – Palm Desert, CA
Character and service are two words often associated with Mr. Robert Craven. Over thirty years ago, Robert and his wife Druscilla moved to the desert to establish an educational center that would provide a firm foundation in academics and character for young children. Together they developed The Learning Tree, which has been serving the Coachella Valley successfully for over thirty years. In addition to his service in education, Robert has served to bring structure and character to baseball. Throughout his son’s youth, Robert worked tirelessly with the Palm Desert Youth Sports Association by coaching, leading instructional clinics, and performing administrative duties. In his work with USA baseball as a coach and an advisor, he helped to establish a national character development program, “Championship Principles.” This “Volunteer Coach of the Year” is an Angel on Earth who is building character in our future generations.
Melinda Wallace – Indio, CA
As an elementary school principal, Ms. Wallace leads by example as she steers her school toward success. As a child, she served in Brownies and Girls Scouts, in which she learned the foundations for leadership. She continued to strive for excellence as she matured. In college, she was in the Delta Zeta Society and on the Dean’s List. When Ms. Wallace became principal at Martin Van Buren Elementary School, it was considered a difficult school to lead, but she has made it her mission to turn things around. In her time there, Ms. Wallace has helped move her students, primarily from the neighboring farm labor center, toward academic success. Under Ms. Wallace’s leadership, Van Buren Elementary has made the largest gains of any school in Riverside County and some of the largest gains in the state. The school has been honored with many awards, including being named a California Distinguished School 2009-2010. This educator is an Angel on Earth, who has raised the bar and found her students ready for the challenge!