May 19, 2023

The Association of Fundraising Professionals CA, Desert Communities
Recognized Our Valley’s Most Outstanding Nominees and Honorees


The Association of Fundraising Professionals CA, Desert Communities (AFP) chapter announced the 17th Annual National Philanthropy Day in the Desert (NPD) Honorees. AFP President Josh N. Zahid and NPD Chair James Lindquist celebrated the distinguished Honorees’ love for humanity and service in an “Oscar-style” announcement. This year’s Honorees include:


    As powerhouse volunteers, activists and philanthropists, this dynamic duo has shown steadfast support for Loma Linda University Health for more than 20 years. They served on the Vision 2020 campaign committee raising over $489 million and championed the Loma Linda University Children’s Health – Indio Outpatient Clinic providing services for 12,000 patients. Their impact extends beyond financial access to healthcare, purchasing medical equipment, teddy bears, clothing, well-check visits, dental checks, books, LEGO sets, educational scholarships for the arts, and much more! The couple also supports the McCallum Theatre, Coachella Valley Symphony, Buddy Rogers Youth Symphony and Big Hearts for Little Hearts Desert Guild.

Founder of Ezekiel’s Gift of Love, Yadira’s personal story prompted her to support children with Down Syndrome. Ezekiel’s donates resources and ongoing support at birth, during hospital visits and when a family experiences a loss. These courageous children have to work 3-4 times harder to walk, talk and eat. In 2021, to honor children living with Trisomy 21, Ezekiel’s Gift of Love created a billboard on I-10 featuring seven “Achievers” posing as Avengers-inspired superheroes. Yadira’s hope is that every parent who receives a diagnosis will be congratulated on their beautiful baby instead of hearing, ‘I’m sorry.’”


As a busy business owner, Vela has also taken on a life’s mission to support and care for as many children as possible. For 30 years, Vela has donated her time and talents to 20 Valley nonprofits. As President of Big Hearts for Little Hearts Desert Guild, she has ensured medical care for thousands of local children. Her fundraising success, strategic planning, and mentorship are only surpassed by her heartfelt and infectious enthusiasm for impacting children’s lives for the better, often bringing Salvadorian food and balloons to brighten everyone’s day.


    For the past 20 years, Dr. Timothy Jochen and Executive Director Lee Erwin have been as passionate about helping their community as they are about helping people look and feel their best through the services performed by Contour Dermatology. The entire team volunteers together hosting free Community Skin Cancer Screenings with Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine, serving meals at Martha’s Village & Kitchen and participating in 5Ks benefiting Relay for Life. The company has supported more than 60 local non-profits while upholding heartfelt giving and volunteerism as core values of their practice.



Abby’s level of service far outweighs the daily promise she makes as a Girl Scout. Her community service extends to the Palm Desert Library, The Living Desert, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Children’s Discovery Museum, Palm Desert High School Community Outreach Club, Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, National Charity League and most notably with seniors experiencing memory loss at Alzheimer’s Coachella Valley (ACV). For Cheley’s Girl Scouts Gold award, she recruited volunteers and created special art projects, memory aids and custom games to support the ACV members. Social interaction is crucial for those with Alzheimer’s, who struggle with memory loss and confusion. Regular interaction with volunteers like Cheley provides a sense of companionship and support that improves their overall quality of life.


    Minor has been the driving force behind successful campaigns including Martha’s Village & Kitchen’s 2017 drive raising $5 million in 8 months! At the RAP Foundation, Stephanie reconfigured and expanded both their technical assistance and their capacity-building program, NPO Centric. The work proved exciting as she provided ethical fundraising training and taught leaders of hundreds of nonprofits how to leverage partnerships, gain sponsorships, produce strategic campaigns, cultivate relationships and create special events to exceed their revenue goals. She even forged a partnership with our AFP chapter for a “Coffee With” speaker’s series. Stephanie has been featured in multiple industry publications, has written several ebooks and has been a guest on many nonprofit podcasts.

Michael Letterlough, Jr. is an award-winning portrait, commercial, fashion photographer based in Los Angeles, Ca.


National Philanthropy Day Awards will be presented on Friday, November 3rd at 11:30 a.m. by Emcee Patrick Evans from KESQ News Channel 3 at the Agua Caliente Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage. “National Philanthropy Day honors our community’s philanthropic heroes who give so generously of their time, skills, talents and financial support,” shares Zahid. “Since 2007, we have paid tribute to 92 individuals and organizations whose fundraising passions improved the quality of life in the Coachella Valley and beyond. We are proud to be a Ten Star Chapter and a 2023 IDEA Champion where our members are committed to bringing forward the positive change necessary to build strong, vibrant and healthy communities.”


AFP thanks their exclusive media sponsors: Palm Springs Life, News Channel 3, The Desert Sun and LocaliQ. For information on sponsorship, tribute ads, tickets or becoming an AFP member, visit afpcadesert.org or contact James Lindquist at JLindquist@daphealth.org or call 503.459.9066.