Desert Gala Honorees

To find out more on each honoree, click on their photo to read their bio.

Sheriff Chad Bianco - 2020

Sheriff Chad Bianco - 2020

Gloria Franz - 2020

Gloria Franz - 2020

Waymond Fermon - 2020

Waymond Fermon - 2020

Dr. Edith Gonzalez-Werner - 2020

Dr. Edith Gonzalez-Werner - 2020

Blaire And Christian Jelmberg - 2020

Blaire And Christian Jelmberg - 2020

Matt Naylor - 2020

Matt Naylor - 2020

Janell Percy - 2020

Janell Percy - 2020

Dawn Rowe - 2020

Dawn Rowe - 2020

Ben Schirmer - 2020

Ben Schirmer - 2020

Will Sturgeon - 2020

Will Sturgeon - 2020

Carol Teitelbaum - 2020

Carol Teitelbaum - 2020

  • Sheriff Chad Bianco - 2020
  • Gloria Franz - 2020
  • Waymond Fermon - 2020
  • Dr. Edith Gonzalez-Werner - 2020
  • Blaire And Christian Jelmberg - 2020
  • Matt Naylor - 2020
  • Janell Percy - 2020
  • Dawn Rowe - 2020
  • Ben Schirmer - 2020
  • Will Sturgeon - 2020
  • Carol Teitelbaum - 2020
  • Sheriff Chad Bianco - 2020

    Chad Bianco was elected Sheriff, Coroner, and Public Administrator of Riverside County in the 2018 general election. He is a twenty-five-year veteran of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. As Sheriff, he serves as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of Riverside County. Sheriff Bianco commands California’s second largest Sheriff’s Department in the state, and one of the largest and most progressive law enforcement agencies in the nation, supervising more than 3,600 personnel. He began his career with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1993 in Corrections at the Robert Presley Detention Center. He spent time working patrol and narcotics in the City of Lake Elsinore. Sheriff Bianco held supervisory and management positions at the Jurupa Valley Station, Moreno Valley Police Department, the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility, and most recently the Hemet Station. Additionally, he served administrative assignments in Internal Affairs, and Corrections Administration and Planning. As the fourteenth Sheriff of Riverside County, Sheriff Bianco also serves as Sheriff-Coroner and Public Administrator. Sheriff Bianco’s interest in Law Enforcement actually began as a teenager after a “business encounter” with a State Highway Patrol Officer, which sparked his interest in Law Enforcement. The positive manner in which the Officer spoke to him and the things he said, has stayed with Sheriff Bianco to this day and influences the way he currently interacts with youth. He believes in service above self, and hopes that his priorities of God, family, and service will provide meaningful guidance and direction as the Sheriff’s Department engages in an unprecedented change of culture to positively influence and engage the community.
  • Gloria Franz - 2020

    Gloria Franz has been an active and service-minded part of the Coachella Valley for many years. She is the President of Franz Tatum Wealth Management and is a Certified Financial PlannerTM . She has been in the financial services industry since 1989 and is a native of the Coachella Valley. Her current activities include the Indio Sunrise Rotary Club (Past President) and the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce, commissioner on the Planning Commission, and past member of the Citizen’s Finance Committee for the City of Indio. Gloria also has the distinguished honor of being chosen as one of 2013’s Business Woman of the Year award recipient presented by Assemblymember V. Manual Perez, and graduate of the 2002-2003 Leadership Coachella Valley program. Since 2015, she has had the privilege of being a community member on the Editorial Board at The Desert Sun, and in 2018 was appointed to the JFK Memorial Hospital Governing Board. Gloria is a proud board trustee of the Coachella Valley History Museum, helping to preserve the history of the Coachella Valley for generations to come. Some CV History Museum highlights include the historic 1909 Indio Schoolhouse and the world’s only Date Museum. She is also a member in the GFWC Woman’s Club of Indio (Past President) and works with other volunteers and community leaders to support the arts, preserve natural resources, advance education, and encourage civic involvement. Gloria’s service over the years has made a positive impact on the communities in the Coachella Valley!
  • Waymond Fermon - 2020

    Council Member Waymond Fermon is an Indio native who has dedicated himself to helping to improve his community and supporting the young people in it. He attended the College of The Desert and matriculated from the College of the Desert’s first Public Safety Academy. Council Member Fermon went on to the California Department of Corrections, Richard McGee Correctional Training Center, where he graduated as a Correctional Officer in October 2002.He has served as a Correctional Officer and has been active in many outreach programs throughout the Coachella and Imperial Valleys. Council Member Fermon is the Vice Chairman of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG) Public Safety Committee. He is also the Chairman of the newly formed Indio Community Action Network (ICAN). ICAN will tend to the needs of African American and Latino boys and girls in Indio and the surrounding cities. A product of his community and former student-athlete, Waymond has a passion for supporting local youth sport and academic pipeline programs. He has been active in numerous outreach programs throughout the Coachella and Imperial Valleys such as school fundraisers, Career Day, guest speaking engagements, and youth interventions. He also started the Men of Vision group where he guides incarcerated men in sharing their testimonies with youth, in the hope of the youth not following their footsteps and breaking the cycle of recidivism in their communities. Waymond is known throughout the Coachella and Imperial Valleys for his activism, community service, law enforcement work and for being a role model and a friend to many.
  • Dr. Edith Gonzalez-Werner - 2020

    For over 30 years, Dr. Edith Gonzalez-Werner has been a compassionate physician, who goes above and beyond in patient care. Dr. Edith Gonzalez-Werner opened her own family medical practice in 1996, where she continues to provide medical care to families as the Family Physician and Medical Director. Dr. Edith Gonzalez-Werner has always been service oriented and focused on giving back to her community. She was inspired to launch her own Christian Radio Station that would uplift and provide a daily message of hope to all residents of the Coachella Valley and beyond. In 2018, she began filling the airwaves with continuous positive music and messages through Radio Remanente. Her desire to ensure that the radio station became sustainable ignited her next endeavor of obtaining her Certificate of Nonprofit Management. Her passion continued to grow, expanding the vision to include an English Christian radio station, launching Remnant Radio in March 2019. Dr. Gonzalez-Werner has successfully established several programs through her radio stations, including Christian Coach and Anti-Human Trafficking Mentorship. Dr. Gonzalez-Werner has a passion for preventing human trafficking, along with helping to provide services for those who have been trafficked. She recognizes the need for services for the most vulnerable populations. She always ensures that she and those around her are educated and equipped to provide the best care for everyone they engage. Her leadership inspires everyone around her to become the change they want to see, no matter the obstacles that are seemingly in the way!
  • Blaire And Christian Jelmberg - 2020

    The Street Life Project was a vision that was conceived several years ago by Christian Jelmberg. With the help of volunteers, that vision has been put into action and many lives are being transformed! For the past six years, Street Life Project has been serving on the front-line and focuses on building relationships in the streets, under bridges, and in hidden camps throughout the Coachella Valley. Serving meals, clothing, hygiene and other needed resources allows volunteers to form trusting friendships with those living in the streets, and then assist them with rehabilitation, jobs, housing, etc. to help them get back on their feet. Their goal is to create working duplicable systems with proven results. They look forward to seeing the homeless count reduce as they continue to grow. Street Life Project’s mission is to provide hope to the hopeless, and inspire life change. They want the homeless to know that they are loved and have value and no matter what hardship they are going through, life can get better, be filled with hope, and be guided by faith. They are a support system the homeless can count on, through difficult times, by providing the help they will need to transform their lives. Street Life Project’s goal is to help remove the stigma many people have toward the homeless and see past the surface while encouraging community involvement and unity. Community partnerships with businesses, government agencies, ministries and other outreaches across the country help to provide a centralized hub of information and tools to make a greater impact on homelessness. Christian and Blaire keep the project running and have dedicated their lives to service!
  • Matt Naylor - 2020

    Matt Naylor is the President of Marquee Academy of Performing Arts, a unique model of education. The mission of Marquee Academy of Performing Arts is to provide an educational environment that fosters the artistic growth of its students, resourcing the support and involvement of local, regional and national artists and patrons of the arts. Music is a constant in Matt’s day-to-day existence and has enhanced his professional and personal life immeasurably. As funding for arts education continues to be cut, the impact of this loss on our children is devastating. Music education and participation helps to develop social skills and teaches cooperation, team building and self-discipline. Matt’s love of music and for the community came together in the idea to provide a safe haven in the Coachella Valley where people could come to experience the beneficial powers of music through instruction, improvisation, and collaboration. Arts programs are critical in providing a positive element in the lives of struggling families and help to unite the community. He became even more involved in the community when he joined the Board of the Well in the Desert a few years ago. The Well in the Desert is a local non-profit organization that provides clothing, showers and a cooling center 7 days a week, plus nutritious hot meals 5 days a week. They offer emergency food assistance, weekly supplemental food distribution and a wide array of services through advocacy to those affected by poverty, including the working poor, the homeless, seniors, veterans, the handicapped and others in the western end of the Coachella Valley. Matt has been a major part of the Well’s growth and well-being. Matt does everything with passion and excitement; and the end results are proof of that!
  • Janell Percy - 2020

    Janell Percy is the Executive Director and one of the founders of Growing Coachella Valley, a not-for-profit organization that fosters support from key industries, local businesses, and residents to secure resources for the future of the Coachella Valley. Janell is extremely active in the Valley, motivating and teaching youth to become involved in agriculture. She is a member of Coachella Valley California Women for Agriculture, serves on Indio High School’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, and has an Honorary Indio Chapter FFA Degree. She is also on Coachella Valley High School’s Agriculture Advisory Committee and has an Honorary Coachella Chapter FFA Degree. She was involved with Desert Sandblasters 4-H for seventeen years, serving as co-chair and project leader. She served on the Desert Valley’s CAPCA Chapter Board of Directors. She also served on the Coachella Valley Resource Conservation District Board of Directors. Her previous work experience includes; food safety coordinator for Ocean Mist Farms, crop consultant for Foster Gardner, Agricultural Biologist for Riverside County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office. She taught Pesticide Laws and Regulations at College of the Desert and also taught Sixth Grade Agriculture at Desert Christian Academy. Janell and her husband are part owners of a vegetable farm in Coachella and she is also part of her family’s alfalfa farm in Arizona and Colorado. Janell was recently recognized at the Riverside County Ag Expo for her agricultural advocacy by Congressman Ruiz, Senator Stone, Assemblymember Garcia, Supervisor Perez, and Indio Mayor Wilson. She goes above and beyond in all her work with agriculture and youth, ensuring the next generation will have the resources and know-how to grow food!
  • Dawn Rowe - 2020

    A Southern California native, Third District Supervisor Dawn Rowe was appointed to the Board of Supervisors in December 2018. Prior to serving on the Board, Dawn was a member of the Yucca Valley Town Council from 2010 to 2014. Throughout the years, Dawn cemented her status as a leading voice within her desert community. Following the death of her husband, Marine Corps Capt. Alan Rowe, during combat operations in Iraq, Dawn became involved in land development to support her family. She was appointed to the Yucca Valley Planning Commission and worked to find creative solutions for thoughtful development in her hometown. Due to her exceptional community work within the Morongo Basin, Dawn was brought on to the staff of then-Assemblyman Paul Cook (AD-65) as a Field Representative in 2008. She transitioned to his Congressional staff in 2012 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Dawn is service minded and has been involved with many organizations. She has been involved with Knights of Heroes for over 10 years and is now on the Board of Directors. Knights of Heroes is a non-profit organization that impacts children who have lost a parent in service to our Nation. They do this by empowering them through positive adult mentorship, character development, and lasting friendships, which are forged through outdoor adventure programs. She has also been a volunteer for food ministry at her local church. She takes action to help others in any way she can and it is important for her to be an example to other people to also give back to their community.
  • Ben Schirmer - 2020

    Ben Schirmer is the Executive Director of Guide Dogs of the Desert. Since 1972, Guide Dogs of the Desert has made a difference in the lives of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Over the past 45 years, more than 1,400 client/guide dog teams from around the country have graduated from Guide Dogs of the Desert – enjoying richer, fuller, and more productive lives. Their services provide individuals with custom-trained guide dogs that deliver the gift of newfound confidence, independence, safe mobility, and infinite smiles. Attending a 28-day in-residence training on the Guide Dogs of the Desert campus, the blind individual is matched with the highest-quality guide dog that is custom trained to the individual’s personal needs and home environment—all at no cost to the client. Ben has a passion for working for agencies that directly support clients. In Florida, Ben worked for Children’s Home Society, a non-profit that focuses on services to abused, abandoned, and neglected children. Eventually moving to California, he became the Executive Director for Rainbow Services, which provides support services to victims of domestic violence. Ben had various leadership roles at the state level in this field. In 2018, he moved to the desert and started with Guide Dogs of the Desert. For Ben this combines two passions – his love of directly supporting clients with life-saving services, and his love of dogs. He is honored to have the opportunity to lead such a well-run agency that is admired and supported by this incredible community. Ben’s commitment to providing life-improving services to people goes above and beyond!
  • Will Sturgeon - 2020

    Will Sturgeon is the Executive Director of AMP-The Academy of Musical Performance. AMP is a contemporary music education program whose goal is to enrich the lives of young musicians living in the Coachella Valley by fostering productivity and social responsibility through creativity, communication and collaboration in the development and enhancement of musical performance and concert production skills. This is done through participation in a "rock band" style educational setting. AMP teaches kids how to play in a band and facilitates performances throughout the community, keeping kids engaged in positive community-based activities. AMP runs a summer camp program and year-round after-school rehearsals. Will is a songwriter who writes, plays, and records all of the instrumentation in his recordings himself, and has been releasing music since 2007. He recently won the Tachevah 2016 Battle of The Bands, hosted by the Desert Sun, with his band brightener. brightener was also chosen to play at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in 2016, a dream come true for a songwriter from the desert. He also produces local Coachella Valley artists with The Sturdio, and won Best Producer from CV Weekly in 2018. Will has been a driving force in AMP, working to create quality programs, reach out to new musicians, and develop the musical talents of Valley youth. His goal for AMP is to provide young musicians with a place to find belonging through shared musical passion and teamwork — and through that process, he hopes they find themselves as well.
  • Carol Teitelbaum - 2020

    Carol Teitelbaum, MFT, has been a licensed therapist since 1985 and is founder of Creative Change Conferences. Creative Change Conferences produces and hosts the "It Happens to Boys" conferences and the organization is dedicated to presenting top-caliber educational workshops helping to create a healing community. Creative Change Conferences has brought together some of the brightest names in mental health and recovery to explore the links between child abuse and addiction, depression, low self-esteem, relationship and intimacy challenges, sexual dysfunction and compulsion, pornography use and more. Creative Change Conferences has now presented their eighth conference and Carol is an integral part of the conference serving as the Conference Coordinator, along with being one of the notable speakers. Carol is also President of California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, Desert Chapter, She is a long time member of Prevent Child Abuse Riverside County and chairs the It Happens to Boys Project, Coordinator of the Trauma Response Team for the Desert Chapter of California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and has been a workshop leader for a range of groups from the Desert Sands School District to the National Association of Social Workers, the Betty Ford Center, NAMI, The Stan Little Conference, West Coast Symposium, Michael’s House, NTS, MFI Recovery, Desert Aids, His House, The Ranch, Sovereign Health, West Coast Symposium, Palm Springs School District, WOW conference for women. In addition, Carol also runs two free support groups for men who have been abused the first and third Tuesday of the month at her office. Carol’s work improves the lives of men and women and helps to stop the cycle of abuse.
  • Sheriff Chad Bianco - 2020
  • Gloria Franz - 2020
  • Waymond Fermon - 2020
  • Dr. Edith Gonzalez-Werner - 2020
  • Blaire And Christian Jelmberg - 2020
  • Matt Naylor - 2020
  • Janell Percy - 2020
  • Dawn Rowe - 2020
  • Ben Schirmer - 2020
  • Will Sturgeon - 2020
  • Carol Teitelbaum - 2020