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2014 Desert Gala

Save-A-Pet, Desert Hot Springs

For more than 30 years, Save-A-Pet has rescued animals in danger, and provided healing medicines, treatment, food, and shelter. They have helped to find permanent, loving homes for approximately 600 animals each year. Save-A-Pet began as a no-kill shelter and has expanded its services to include programs,such as, Senior Animals for Senior People, pairing deserving seniors with animals. They also offer veterinary care to other shelters at a reduced rate and offer financial assistance to those who qualify and cannot afford medical care for their pets.  Accepting the award on behalf of Save-A-Pet is Ann Woods, “the heart and soul” of Save-A-Pet.  As the longest serving volunteer, 10 years, she has led the effort in establishing a new veterinary hospital.  She volunteers seven days a week, assists with pet adoptions, and finds places for animals with special needs.  Save-A-Pet and its volunteers have been angels on Earth to countless animals and families throughout the Coachella Valley.

Owen and Audrey Gillick, 29 Palms

In their 62 years of marriage, Owen and Audrey have each done much to serve their communities.  However, it is the work they’ve done together that really stands out.  Owen is a retired Colonel and did many years of both overseas and stateside duty as a Marine.  He has also been heavily involved with Copper Mountain College as it has formed and grown over the years, and has worked to improve the effectiveness of non-profit and public service agencies.  Audrey also taught at Copper Mountain College and has been active in the art community, including the City of 29 Palms Public Arts Advisory Committee establishing the framework for the city’s support of the arts. She has also curated several shows at the 29 Palms Art Gallery. Together, they were founding members of the Action Council for 29 Palms, a community mural program. They were also founding members of the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council, dedicated to bringing together and enhancing the performing and visual arts in the basin. Their work has included an annual tour of artist studios throughout the basin, an effort that has brought regional attention to a thriving visual and performing arts culture. Owen and Audrey’s efforts have touched the lives of many and enriched the culture of their community for the past, present, and future generations.

Rev. Dr. Tahlib McMicheaux, Desert Hot Springs

As a pastor of the First Community Baptist Church, he has worked tirelessly to improve the way resources are delivered to those in need. While attending to the spiritual needs of his community, the Reverend has also become a bridge between neighborhoods and local government to help improve services. He has served on many community service boards, faith councils, partnerships, and health partnerships, always with the vision and hand up to help those in need. Tahlib was instrumental in getting the Palm Springs Gang Task Force started and has served with the Anderson Foundation, Rotary International, and the American Cancer Society. He has been honored with many community service awards, the Valley Leadership distinguished service award, and the Spirit of the Desert award from KESQ. As Tahlib continues his work, he hopes to unify local churches and government agencies to reform how resources are delivered to the homeless, desperate, and disenfranchised.  His commitment to serving those in need has kept him active and involved.  Rev. Dr. Tahlib has continuously gone above and beyond to meet the needs of his community and he shows no sign of slowing down.

Paul Morway, Indio

When children enter elementary school, they are fortunate if they come across a teacher as dedicated as Mr. Morway. During his 16 years of teaching, he has not only worked to provide high quality education for his students, he has served his school and community in many ways. In the classroom, he is passionate about seeing children connect to literature and to history. At school, he serves on the Intervention Committee, helping to make sure student needs are met; the School Gardens Team; the Science Committee; and the Fundraising Committee.  He is also a mentor for new teachers, providing guidance and helping them to become effective.  Paul is involved with F.I.N.D. Food Bank and the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission to promote youth awareness of those in need and to encourage the joy of giving. Paul’s fellow teachers have also noticed his leadership and dedication to improving student lives and voted him Teacher of the Year. His devotion to expanding student views and talents is commendable.

Andrea Aranda, Palm Desert

Andrea’s service as a Social Worker has provided hope for foster children and families throughout Riverside County.  As a Riverside County Social Worker, Andrea works with people to support them through difficult times and to provide services to families to ensure their health and well-being.  Andrea was instrumental in creating, Faith in Motion, which is an initiative in Riverside County connecting faith-based groups with the county’s social service agency.  Faith in Motion gives local faith-based groups the opportunity to provide support and encouragement to the families served by social services.  It also helps to connect families with the services and resources they need.  Faith in Motion works toward reducing re-entry rates of foster children, increasing placement stability for foster children, and increasing positive outcomes for foster youth by providing support for independent living, housing, employment, tutoring, and college. Through her work with Faith in Motion, Andrea was voted as Social Worker of the Year.  Andrea and her fellow volunteers help to provide foster youth with stable adults who can mentor them and help to bridge the gap between foster youth, their families, and their communities.  Andrea enjoys helping children and families by linking them to services they need and watching them grow.  Her commitment and enthusiasm are inspiring to all.

Mike Hestrin, Temecula

Over the years, much of Mike’s legal work has been centered around children.   As the Trial Team Leader for the DA’s Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit, he prosecuted those who targeted and abused children. Assisting on child abuse cases came naturally to him, as his mother was an advocate for the abused.  Mike has also trained prosecutors, paralegals, law enforcement, Riverside County Bar Association members, and social workers in ethics, trial advocacy, sex offender prosecution, homicide prosecution, and capital case litigation.  While teaching at Azusa Pacific University, he has also volunteered as a mentor to college students interested in going into a career in law.  He has worked closely with the Latino Student Organization to encourage students to consider careers in law and law enforcement.  As President and Vice-President of the Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Association, he has helped to reshape the organization into one that reaches out to the community to fundraise for college scholarships and to assist Riverside County organizations that are child-centered.  Giving back to the community in this way ensures that organizations can continue to serve children throughout Riverside County.  Mike’s dedication to helping children, and the organizations that help children, shows compassion and leadership.

Patrick Evans, Rancho Mirage

Patrick needs no introduction here in the Valley.  He has been the Chief Meteorologist for CBS Local 2 for more than a decade.  He also hosts, “Eye on the Desert,” which is a local entertainment show that showcases positive people, places, and events in and around the Coachella Valley. A strong believer in community service, Patrick serves on the Board of the Family YMCA of the Desert and the Desert Symphony, and previously served on the boards of the California Desert Chorale and the United Way of the Desert. Much of his public service involves emceeing a large number of events throughout the year here in the Coachella Valley, including serving as the Above & Beyond emcee the last 3 years. Music is a big influence in his life, particularly the music of Frank Sinatra. For that reason, Patrick also dedicates time to the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center whenever they call upon him. Earlier this year, Patrick received a Golden Palm Star for all he has done in the Coachella Valley. His heart is here in the desert and he has made an impact on organizations throughout the valley.

Lynn Moriarty, Palm Desert

As the Former Executive Director of Shelter from the Storm, Lynn helped change countless lives for the better. She spent her career advocating for victims of domestic violence and working to protect them and give them the hand they needed to move forward.  At Shelter from the Storm, she founded the Edra Blixseth Community Counseling Center, the Florence Rigdon Long Term Transitional Housing Program, and the emergency shelter-based Indian Wells Medical Clinic. Lynn has written and spoken extensively on family violence, served on domestic violence advisory boards, and child and elder abuse councils, all in an effort to improve lives and put an end to family violence. Lynn has been honored many times for her efforts, including recognition from the United States Congress, the United States Senate, Riverside County, and the National Women’s Leadership Conference. She is also a Leadership Coachella Valley Participating Faculty Member. During Lynn’s 35 years of service, she has shown time and time again that she has the heart and the will to put an end to domestic violence.

Brenda Ayon Verduzco, Coachella

Brenda’s commitment to creating and supporting positive social change is evident in the work she does wherever she is. As Brenda has worked her way through college, and law school, she has always dedicated herself to working with organizations that serve. Her community service has included the One Justice Program, a legal clinic to help immigrant youth file their Deferred Action Children Arrivals applications; the Young Lawyers Program, a mentoring program for inner-city children; and the Rotaract Club at UC Irvine. With the Rotaract Club, Brenda worked on Passion Fest to end polio, Christmas Train to deliver toys and hygiene items to children in Mexico, Kaboon and Disney Build a Playground partnership, Relay for Life, Jump Start reading program, and Paint Your Heart Out to restore homes for the elderly. When Brenda finishes law school, she hopes to build a network of sustainable service through a group or organization.  She also hopes to provide legal assistance to underserved communities, advocate through policy work, and be a part of impact litigation to help immigrant groups, youth, and women.  Her dedication to social change and her attitude that it is not how much you have, but how much you give, make Brenda an angel on Earth.