California Heroes 2016

Dear Friends,

More than 25 local heroes celebrated California Heroes Month at my El Cajon District Office for the third year in a row. These inspiring leaders came from different walks of life with unique accomplishments. It was my privilege to bring up constituent Daisy Tate’s idea in 2014 on the Senate floor to designate every September to be “California Heroes Month” in order to recognize unsung heroes in our community.

Below, I would like to present to you some of the 2016 California Heroes, as well as a brief description of why they are so valuable to our community.

Do you know of someone who should be recognized for their positive impact in our neighborhoods? Email me at or call at 619-596-3136 to nominate your own hero.

Chuck Atkinson

Chuck served as the Commander for American Legion Post 146 for seven years. His continuous devotion to veterans led him to form the Veterans Association of North County, which is comprised of 38 veteran groups. Chuck worked with the City of Oceanside to build the Veterans Resource Center, which provides free transitional, educational and social services for veterans, current military and their families. His enthusiasm and community outreach have empowered countless volunteers to offer their time to assist with the center’s programs. Every year, Chuck organizes a memorial service for Memorial Day and Veterans Day to honor and celebrate the heroes who served our nation.

Mark & Ian Baker

This father-and-son duo have committed to providing quality auto-technician services, counsel and encouragement to the community of Ramona while working at the repair shop. Ian volunteers his time helping his dad to repair vehicles and helping the homeless in our community. Ian’s positive energy is a great asset for when he teaches people how to do simple repairs on their own vehicles. Mark is known for always willing to stop what he is doing to counsel and encourage people of all ages who come to him for help. As a pastor of a local church, he has provided support and resources to the homeless in the community through his leadership at Light of the Lamb Ministry. Together, they continue make our great town of Ramona happier and brighter.

Zane Breier

It is always encouraging to meet young leaders in our community. Zane has raised awareness about children having arthritis like him. He was the Event Team Captain for the Walk to Cure Arthritis and the Jingle Bell Run. In addition, he has helped create and spearhead the “Arthritis is a Beast-Fight Back” information booth that provides activities and learning exercises about the challenges of living with arthritis. He is actively involved with advocacy efforts and has spoken with various news media, CEOs, and leading pharmacies about advancing arthritis efforts.

Dennis-Michael Broussard

Dennis-Michael serves on various nonprofit boards and has helped organize many successful fundraisers. He volunteers for humanitarian projects abroad and continually spearheads missions around the world. Dennis-Michael traveled to Africa in the height of the Ebola crisis to deliver water filters to villages in Senegal so that people would have access to clean drinking water. He went to Nepal to deliver school equipment and teaching supplies to schools. He has also volunteered at orphanages in northern Thailand and education centers in Indonesia. In addition, Dennis-Michael works alongside the San Diego Asian community to support underprivileged populations, low-income communities, and ethnic minorities.

Harold Brown

The East County Transitional Living Center (ECTLC) is a nonprofit organization in El Cajon that was founded by Harold. This organization helps support, rehabilitate and empower individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. ECTLC serves hundreds of people every week by providing emergency housing, transitional living programs, job skills development, opportunities to earn a General Educational Development (GED), counseling, classes and social service resources.

Dennis Canfield

Dennis serves as Lakeside’s Neighborhood Watch Co-Captain and as a member of the Eucalyptus Hills Fire Safe Council. Dennis created the Lakeside Logistics Volunteer Group. He oversees the volunteers who set up rehabilitation and hydration stations, pick up medical equipment at hospitals, facilitate fire prevention programs and assist with day-to-day logistics. Dennis’ commitment to the Lakeside Fire Protection District and unyielding support to the Lakeside firefighters by assisting them to achieve their highest level of service have made our Lakeside community safer.

Philip Dana

As the Vice President and Chief of People Operations at The Honor Foundation, Philip helps Navy SEALs and the U.S. Special Operations community members by preparing them to continue to realize their maximum potential during and after their service careers. Philip is an influential veteran connector, mentor, and career coach in San Diego who has focused on helping veterans find employment and accelerating their career goals.

Roozbeh Farahanipour

Roozbeh is a respected community leader whose outstanding efforts towards the protection of human rights as the Chairman of the Marze Pro Gohar Iranian cultural resistance movement has impacted lives of many here and in Iran. He is also the Founder of the National Society of Journalists and is excellent at working alongside organizations and legislators to mobilize resources and advance international understanding. 

William Felty

William volunteers at the San Diego Veterans Coalition (SDVC), and his continuous contribution has positively impacted the 140 organizations that comprise the coalition. William initiated a student-veteran mentorship program called Veterans Empowered, Successful and Thriving (VEST) Affinity Group at the SDVC. William is a Marine Corps Veteran who provides substance abuse intervention services, addiction recovery mentorship, and addiction treatment advocacy services to the community as a certified California Alcohol and Drug Counselor.

Joe Garcia

Joe served the community of Escondido as a Community Service Commissioner assisting in matters pertaining to park use and recreation activities. Joe has also served as the Escondido Police Chaplain for 13 years. Joe was awarded the Chief’s Special Recognition Award and 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award by the Escondido Police Department for his noteworthy volunteer service to the Escondido community. He ministers at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and has become an inspirational leader for members of the community by always offering support, counsel, encouragement, and friendship.

Elizabeth Harris

As the president of the Woman’s Club of Lakeside, Elizabeth has been instrumental in raising funds for Children with Autism, Final Honor, and Meals on Wheels. In conjunction with the Woman’s Club of Lakeside and Lakeside Union School District, Elizabeth created a program called “It Is Not Okay,” which helps raise awareness about child abuse. It also promotes a safe nurturing environment for teenagers to thrive and succeed.

Tig Heaslet

Chaplain Tig is the Executive Director for America’s Children of Fallen Heroes, a nonprofit organization that provides support for children who have lost a parent serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, fire department, or law enforcement. Tig passionately mentors children of fallen heroes to help them cope with their loss and empowers them to achieve their fullest potential by providing unconditional support and future planning opportunities.

Patricia Huerta

Patricia is the Executive Director of Escondido Education COMPACT, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance and resources to at-risk youth in Escondido and north San Diego County with readiness training and linkages to employment. Her organization has partnered with the Escondido Police Department to develop enrichment and prevention strategies such as gang intervention, juvenile diversion programs and traffic safety projects.

Linda Husar

As an integrative therapy volunteer at Sharp HospiceCare, Linda provides hands-on therapy techniques, comfort massages and aromatherapy for caregivers to ease the stress of caring for loved ones and also for hospice patients to help with physical, mental and emotional health problems. One of the many awards Linda has received includes the Daily Point of Light Award which is a national award that was created by President George H.W. Bush and is given to exceptional volunteers who go above and beyond in their call to service.

David Jackson

After his service in the U.S. Army that included a tour of duty in Vietnam, David continued to serve at the Oakland Police Department until he rejoined the military in 1996.  David retired from the U.S. Army National Guard in 2009 and has been a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) since 2010.  He has served as the MOPH California Department Commander, Zone Commander, National Adjutant, Chapter Adjutant, and Chapter Commander. In addition, David has organized the MOPH Military Ball in Bakersfield for the last 7 years.  

Woody Kirkman

Woody’s pride for Ramona is second to none. As a fifth generation Ramona citizen, he has been actively involved with the Ramona community since youth. Woody currently serves as the president and chairman of the Ramona Town Hall Board of Trustees. He is also the technical director at Ramona Community Singers where he provides exceptional support to the Ramona Concert Association and Ramona Chamber of Commerce.

John Lurvey & Gwen Jones-Lurvey

John and Gwen have been involved with Wesley United Methodist Church’s Co-op Café by providing showers and food to homeless. Gwen provides logistical support, while John gives words of encouragement for the 100+ people waiting in line for food distribution. In addition, they provide care for inmates and ex-inmates by helping them reintegrate back into society.

Armand Olvera

Armand served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years and the U.S Border Patrol for 27 years. He has been a volunteer for the San Diego Police Department RSVP program for the past 7 years, where he was honored as Officer of the Year for his exemplary service. Armand is also actively involved with the Knight of Columbus.

Bill Ridenour

Bill served in the U.S. Army in 1943 and is a World War II veteran. He is the honorary Chairman of the Alpine Veterans Wall of Honor, a tribute for men and women who have served or currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Bill has contributed the names of almost 70 military veterans to the Alpine Wall of Honor. He also founded Love’s Outreach Ministries to serve patients in hospitals and care centers by providing support, prayer, and assistance.

Sean Sheppard

Sean is the Founder and CEO of Embrace, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes college students to serve and support the less fortunate members of the military and veteran communities by organizing fundraising events. The organization’s programs have helped restore homes of low-income and disabled veterans as well as Wounded Warrior Home owners.

Mingo Villa

As the youth baseball coordinator of the Emerald P.O.N.Y Baseball League, Mingo coordinates both spring and fall baseball tournaments, each 15-games long. Mingo also organizes various games at Wells Park and at El Cajon Valley High School. His teams have competed at the Little League World Series and International World Series, and two of his teams have been recognized as International Series Champions.

Ruth Weiss

Ruth is the San Diego County Coordinator and State Vice President of Education and Training for the Election Integrity Project. EIP is a nonpartisan organization that inspires volunteers through education and training to actively participate in the election process all while ensuring that it is fair and honest. She trains poll observers and volunteers to help monitor elections and vote counting.

Jim Wieboldt

Jim currently serves as the Sheriff Crime Prevention Specialist in Lemon Grove and works tirelessly alongside service clubs, schools, churches, community members and businesses to provide education and support to prevent and reduce crime and improve quality of life. Jim also administers the Sheriff's Business Watch program so that business owners can network and prevent crime.

Joan Wyllie

Nine Girls Ask is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing ovarian cancer research. Joan founded Nine Girls Ask because of personal hurdles with ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer in 2008, and the multiple misdiagnoses led her to create this organization that provides support and assistance for women and families in similar circumstances.  The organization has donated over $1,000,000 to ovarian cancer research and outreach.

Monica Zech

For over 32 years, Monica has passionately delivered speeches about fire and disaster preparedness and driving safety to many communities in Southern California. Monica’s effective and inspiring presentations have motivated safe behaviors from students, parents, and community members, saving thousands of lives in the process.