Wanda, what made you interested in joining the Healthcare Foundation Board?
Board member Esther Lemus invited me to participate on the nominating committee and that was the primary hook. I couldn’t say no to Esther! I also respected that in terms of representing the Latino community, the Healthcare Foundation is honestly walking their talk. The organization wants to truly reflect the community, as demonstrated by making a commitment to recruiting Latinos to help build out the Board. I thought that it was very refreshing to see words in action. Needless to say, when I was invited to consider a board position myself, I agreed. As soon as I started on the Board, I found everyone to be very respectful, compassionate, and caring. I thought, “Wow, this is like a cohesive, happy, family.”
What’s your professional background?
I’ve been a community activist for over 30 years. I started out working with the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in their community outreach arm here in Sonoma County. I worked in various departments and worked on various community needs, such as food insecurity, nutrition education, youth development, agriculture and more as they pertained to the Latinx community, children and families, and their unique associated matters. I’ve also worked in the mental health arena focusing on children and families, and health access. In 1989, I co-founded the non-profit Latino Service Providers to create and respond to the needs of the Latino community and it officially became a non-profit in 2013.
You’ve done so many varied things! What motivates you at this point in your career?
I wanted to give back to the community in ways I hadn’t before – which, in the past, was primarily direct service. Being on the Board of the Healthcare Foundation is a more strategic role that opens up the opportunity to provide a lived experience lens in my input. I have an understanding of community health needs and facilitating the exchange of resources to and from the community. Since I live in northern Sonoma County, I wanted to focus on these areas, also, because they are not traditionally reached as much as the central areas due to geographics.
How has your experience been so far as a Board Member?
Well, I’ve been on more than 30 boards in my life so I had plenty to compare to. I was so pleasantly surprised when I started on my first committee at the Healthcare Foundation to see that there was such strong leadership and cohesiveness. This is really a cutting-edge, community-minded and goal-oriented group. Everyone on the Board is going in the same direction, looking ahead and finding ways to meet the diverse needs in the community. When the group is so together like that you can do amazing, phenomenal things.
Thank you for joining us Wanda! We have so much to learn from you!