October 17, 2023

The Association of Fundraising Professionals CA, Desert Communities Celebrates Valley Gamechangers at National Philanthropy Day


PALM DESERT, CA – (October 17, 2023) Only a few tickets remail for 2023’s National Philanthropy Day in the Desert (NPD), presented on Friday, November 3rd at 11:30 a.m. by Emcee Patrick Evans from KESQ News Channel 3 at the beautiful Agua Caliente Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage. Tickets can be purchased at


“National Philanthropy Day honors our community’s philanthropic heroes who give so generously of their time, skills, talents and financial support,” shares Josh N. Zahid, President of the Association of Fundraising Professionals CA Desert Communities chapter (AFP). “Since 2007, we have paid tribute to 94 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.”


2023 Honorees include:


    As powerhouse volunteers, activists and philanthropists, this dynamic duo has shown steadfast support for Loma Linda University Health (LLUH) for more than 20 years. While serving on the LLUH President’s Advisory Cabinet, they helped raise millions for the academic medical center’s largest campaign, Vision 2020, The Campaign for a Whole Tomorrow. The couple championed the Loma Linda University Children’s Health – Indio Outpatient Clinic providing caring for 12,000 patients. 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. So, 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.


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 or contact James Lindquist at or call 503.459.9066.


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

Photo caption: 2023 National Philanthropy Day in the Desert Honorees (L to R): Outstanding Fundraising Professional Stephanie Minor, Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Abigail Cheley, Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer Lizette Vela, Outstanding Philanthropists Frank and Mary Ann Xavier, Outstanding Nonprofit Founder Yadira Regla-Cuevas; and Outstanding Philanthropic Corporation Dr. Timothy Jochen and Lee Erwin.

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