By Toni G. Atkins | Notes from Toni
San Diego is home to an array of talented, hard-working, conscientious people who are dedicated to growing our economy, improving our quality of life and helping others in need. And throughout June, I’ll have the privilege of honoring some of our residents, organizations and businesses for their contributions.
First, on June 6, I recognized ElderHelp as my choice for Nonprofit of the Year in Senate District 39. Californians are living longer, and the oldest baby boomers are now in their 70s. We need organizations dedicated to serving this “Silver Tsunami,” and San Diego’s ElderHelp is one of the best.
Led by CEO and Executive Director Deborah Martin and her talented staff, ElderHelp’s purpose is to make it easier for seniors to remain in their own homes, providing services like care management and coordination, housing assistance such as roommate matching and affordable-housing navigation, transportation to medical and non-medical appointments, caregiver support and daily check-in calls.
The organization served more than 7,000 seniors in the most recent fiscal year and enrolled 123 volunteers, a 21 percent increase over the previous year. Those volunteers logged more than 11,000 hours helping clients. Some 60 percent of new program participants were placed in affordable housing.
Next, on June 19, I will honor i.d.e.a. as my choice for the 39th District’s Small Business of the Year. Led by founders Indra Gardiner Bowers and Jon Bailey, i.d.e.a. has been a leading creative agency in San Diego for the past six years, helping clients such as Qualcomm, Splat, Harrah’s and Curio Hotels connect with the public.
But for i.d.e.a., it’s not just a business for profit. They have a strong community ethic, as well, having been named a Certified B Corporation, which requires meeting rigorous standards for social, community and environmental responsibility. For example, i.d.e.a. partnered with Father Joe’s Villages, which serves homeless San Diegans, to alter the public perception of homelessness from people being a problem to people being seen as who they are: people.
In addition to recognizing i.d.e.a in a ceremony in Sacramento, I will be honoring a number of great small businesses located throughout my district at a local event on June 21.
Finally, my pick for Veteran of the Year in the 39th District will be feted on June 20 — and that veteran is Veronica Zerrer. Retired U.S. Army Major Zerrer was active in the U.S. Navy from 1976 to 1980, serving as a cryptologic technician, and then in the Army from 1980 to 1998, as a cavalry scout, platoon leader, company commander and staff officer while assigned to the 1st Infantry and the 35th Infantry divisions.
After active duty, she served in the Reserves and embarked on a civilian career in social services and government. She has managed a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, a home-maintenance program for seniors and traffic-safety projects for the state of Kansas. She also worked as the tribal grant writer for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and was the director of development for the Orange County, California LGBT Community Center.
Having relocated to San Diego, she is the president of the board of directors for both The Neutral Corner, Inc., San Diego’s longest active transgender education organization, and TransFamily Support Services, a nonprofit devoted to supporting transgender youth and their families.
I am pleased to honor these incredible San Diegans and thank them for their considerable contributions to our communities.
— Toni G. Atkins represents the 39th District in the California Senate. Follow her on Twitter @SenToniAtkins.