Marcelo Defreitas
Board President - Graphic Designer (Retired)


​Marcelo was born in Brazil and grew up on a cattle ranch in Rio Grande Do Sul. He started college in Public Relations at a local university and began work doing public relations at the largest publishing company in South America. In 1984, he moved to San Francisco to finish his degree and to learn English. Marcelo is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English. He finished his studies at the University of San Francisco and with a bachelors in fine art from The Academy of Art. In 1988, he joined Primo Angeli Inc., the noted packaging design company, as a junior designer. He stayed at Primo Angeli until 1999 having been promoted to art director. While there, he worked for several prominent clients including Nestle, Intel, and Safeway, as well as European and Latin American clients. He was also a teacher at the Academy of Art University in the graphic design department. In 1999 he moved to Sonoma. Marcelo has always loved La Luz and its philosophy.  He has been on the board since 2011 and became president in 2016.

Kimberly Blattner
Vice President - Development Committee Chair - Teacher (Retired)


Kimberly has been resident of Sonoma since 1982. Kimberly was raised in Oregon and came to California to attend Stanford University where she received a B.A. in Political Science and was the captain of the women’s varsity swimming team. She received an M.A. and elementary and secondary teaching credentials from UC Davis and taught high school from 1976-1990. She was the chair of the English Department at Sonoma Valley High School from 1988-90. She has served on the boards of Presidio Hill School, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, SFMOMA Docent Council, League of Women Voters of Sonoma County, and Enterprise for High School Students. She currently serves on the city’s Community Services and Environment Commission and the board of The Sonoma Valley Fund. As a La Luz board member, Kimberly has served as Board President and now serves as the chair Development and member of the Nominating/Governance and Noche committees. She is one of the founding members of Impact 100, an organization of women committed to making a significant impact in our community.

Salvador Picazo Chavez
Latino Leadership Committee Co-Chair - Business Owner


Salvador Picazo Chavez moved to Sonoma at age 8. He works at his family restaurant, Picazo Cafe & Deli, as he pursues other business ventures in the community. After graduating from Sonoma Valley High School in 2004, Sal received a B.A. in Economics from Sonoma State University. In 2011, when he was 26 years old, he was appointed to the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board where he served through 2018. His work in the community has included being a keynote speaker and on Mondays from 7-8 pm, you can hear Salvador on the KSVY 91.3 radio station discussing topics pertinent to the community and schools.  He is married to Kina Chavez who works at Sonoma Valley High School. Being on the La Luz board, Salvador says, is "an opportunity to find synergy between the schools and all the willing and able organizations of the community." Salvador was the inspiration for the La Luz Latino Leadership Program that helps prepare local professionals for community leadership roles.

Arleen Curry
Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair - Business Executive (Retired)


Arleen and her partner, Ann Weeks, moved to Sonoma County in 1992, living and farming a vineyard in Kenwood.  They moved to the George Ranch in Sonoma in 2006.  Since 2009, Arleen has served as Treasurer of both the George Ranch Mutual Water Co. and the George Ranch Community Association.  She was also active on the Architectural Control Committee for the two years 2006 – 2008.  Arleen was a founding member, Treasurer and board member of Impact100 Sonoma, a Women’s Giving Circle.  She has held board positions with other non-profits including the Sonoma Ecology Center and the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers.  Professionally, Arleen was a managing consultant for 30 years specializing in reorganizations, managing growth and assessing resources.  During that time she served in many functional management positions including tenures as CEO, CFO and various board positions.

Tim Freeman 
Finance Committee - Real Estate Professional


Tim Freeman is the manager of Vanguard Properties Santa Rosa office.  Vanguard sells the most residential real estate in San Francisco by dollar volume.  Previously he was the Managing Broker of Coldwell Banker’s Luxury Boutique office located on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Tim’s previous business experience includes investment banking, where he was a principal in a boutique San Francisco-based firm.  He was an accounting and finance professional with several multinational companies and began his finance career with Deloitte's San Francisco practice where he was the lead auditor of the firm's largest client.  His favorite time as a professional was spent working for The Gap, Inc., where he was part of the team which brought the Old Navy Brand to market.

Jennifer Gray Thompson
Development Committee - Business Executive


Jennifer is a life long resident of Sonoma Valley and resides in the Springs area with her family. She attended Santa Rosa Junior College and graduated from Dominican University in 2001 with degrees in English and History. After teaching for 10 years at Ursuline and Cardinal Newman High Schools, as well as Upward Bound at Napa Valley College, Jennifer went on to earn a masters degree in Public Administration from University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy. Post-graduate school, Jennifer worked for District One from 2013 to 2017, covering the Sonoma Valley, for Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.  After the devastating fires of October 2017, she accepted her current position as Executive Director of Rebuild Northbay Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping our region rebuild better, greener, safer, and faster..

Yvonne Hall
Development Committee
and Legacy Giving Committee Chair - Business Executive (Retired)


Born in New York State, Yvonne has been a resident of California for more than 50 years, the last 15 in Sonoma County.  She graduated from Santa Clara University with a B.S. degree in psychology.  Her 26-year professional career was spent with Levi Strauss & Co.  After starting with the company as a secretary, she went on to hold positions in Merchandising, Production and Product Development. Subsequently she served as President of Levi Strauss de Mexico SA de CV in Mexico City.  She was the first woman of any nationality to head a company in Mexico.  Her last position with Levi’s was V.P. of Merchandising and Product Development for the 14 segments of the Levi’s brand in the U.S.  Yvonne uses her skills and experience to support the non-profit community in Sonoma.  This has included board positions with La Luz Center, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and Pets Lifeline.   She rejoined the La Luz board in 2018 and currently serves on the Development and Strategic Planning committees. She currently resides in downtown Sonoma, reads voraciously, travels extensively and enjoys the great experience of living in the wine country.

Kathe Hodgson
Strategic Planning Committee Chair - Art Museum Administrator (Retired)


Kathe Hodgson has been a part-time resident of Sonoma Valley since 1993. Born and raised in Connecticut, Kathe received a BA in from the University of Colorado and MA from San Francisco State University, both in art history. Kathe worked in the art world most of her career and is retired from her position as Director of Exhibitions at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (the de Young Museum and Legion of Honor).  She had previously been a curator at the museums for several years and also taught art history at San Francisco State University and City College. She served on several non-profit boards in the San Francisco over the years, including ArtTable and Urban School.  After retiring, Kathe and her husband spend much of their time in Glen Ellen.  She served on the board of the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art for eight years, was president from 2006-2007 and now serves a new term on SVMA board.  She has been on the La Luz Board for many years and is currently Vice-President, Chair of Strategic Planning and on the PR Committee. Kathe is married to Fred, a retired United Airlines pilot, and they have two children and three grandsons.

Sydnie Kohara 
Development and PR Committees - Communications Consultant


Sydnie was born and raised in Louisiana, where her Japanese grandparents settled in 1928, one of the few Asian families in Central Louisiana at the time. An Emmy award-winning journalist, she received a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Louisiana State University and worked as an anchor and reporter for the next 30 years, covering news and newsmakers in the U.S., Asia and Europe with CNBC, CBS and ABC. She was part of the newsroom team awarded Peabody and Murrow Awards, two of the highest honors bestowed in U.S. broadcast journalism. Early in her career, she received a California Teachers Association John Swett award for her series on the struggle of immigrant children transitioning into the school system.

Sydnie began her lifelong interest in public service by working as a legislative aide while still in college. Governor George Deukmejian later appointed her to an executive communications position in a state department. Her non-profit experience includes volunteer work with Sonoma Valley’s Impact 100, Mentoring Alliance, Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley, Asia Society of Northern California, Commonwealth Club of California and the Junior League, where an after-school tutoring project resulted in a 30-year friendship with her former student.

As part of her current communications and consulting practice, Sydnie helps corporate leaders and legends tell their stories. She has developed and produced webinars, leadership and management programs, videos and special events for Fortune 500 companies and non-profits alike.

 

Sydnie and her husband, George, currently reside in the vibrant Agua Caliente neighborhood. She spends her free time fly fishing, enjoying her two grandchildren and running a retirement home for lazy chickens.

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Robert P. Kowal 
Development Committee - Hospital Director (Retired)


Robert has been a resident of Sonoma since 1999. Bob moved here following a 35 year career in Hospital Management as CEO of some of the largest health systems in the country. Bob and his partner Mark Sipes initially owned and operated The Inn at Cedar Mansion, a Sonoma Bed and Breakfast. In 2004 Bob took on the position as CEO of Sonoma Valley Hospital where he became intricately involved with the workings of La Luz Center. He has been a member of the La Luz Board for 6 years serving on the Development, Finance and HR committees.  In addition Bob volunteers weekly  as a front desk receptionist at the Center. Bob currently is a sales associate at Sotheby’s Homes.

Nicholas Mendelson-Ontiveros
Finance Committee and 
Latino Leadership Committee Co-Chair - Financial Advisor


​Nicholas Mendelson-Ontiveros was born and raised in Sonoma Valley and is deeply rooted to his community and home town. Nick attended Flowery Elementary School, Adele Harrison Middle School, Sonoma Valley High School, Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University.  Nick graduated cum laude from Sonoma State with a business degree and a concentration in finance. Upon graduation, he started working at Morgan Stanley. His mother, Leticia Ontiveros, inspired Nick to give back to the community that raised him, take action on what he believes in and to put others first.  He is also a frequent speaker at clubs and organizations at Sonoma State University. Nick lives an active lifestyle and in his free time he enjoys being outdoors, working out, playing guitar, cooking and reading. 

David Strand 
HR Committee Chair - Business Executive


David has spent more than 30 years providing executive leadership to some of the nation’s leading health care institutions. David is currently a Senior Advisor at Abundant Venture Partners. Prior to joining Abundant, David served as CEO of a number of early stage companies including ExperiaHealth, one of the nation’s first patient experience improvement companies, which was acquired by Vocera (VCRA) in 2011. David has also served as Chief Operating Officer of the Cleveland Clinic, the nation’s premier academic medical center; COO of Allina Health System, a leading integrated health system; and CEO of Medica, one of the nation’s largest and most reputable health plans. David began his career as outside counsel to United HealthCare, from its formation through its IPO and acquisition of its national network of HMOs. David received his B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College and his J.D. from the University of Minnesota. David currently serves on the boards of Riverside Partners, the San Francisco Symphony. He joined  La Luz board in 2018 and also serves on the development committee.

Ligia Booker
Board Member Emeritus - Founder of La Luz Center


Born in Colombia to a large philanthropic family of strong faith, Ligia came to the US first at age 17. After her mother passed away she returned home to care for 10 siblings, only to fall in love there with Don Booker, an American helicopter bush pilot, who after several job stops brought her to Sonoma. Ligia saw Sonoma through the eyes of an immigrant. In the beginning, she met with those in need at local Churches and at her home. Once the official La Luz center opened, she says, “ We were overwhelmed by the needs of the community”. 
Thirty-plus years later, Ligia feels La Luz continues to be faithful to its original mission, and she sees the organization developing into a multi-cultural center that addresses the needs of all. When asked why she is so passionate about La Luz and the other community efforts she is a part of she said; “it’s about sharing, giving, and serving. Sharing what I have because I have been so blessed!”
Among Ligia’s many honors for her contributions to our community are: the “For Those Who Care” award from KRON TV in 1989; Alcaldesa of Sonoma in 1992; “Woman of the Year” by the State of California in 1995; Woman of Color Humanitarian Award in 1998; honoree at the Red and White Ball, and the Sonoma Amistad Award both in 2010. She shares La Luz’s great pride in receiving the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2013.
Ligia and Don Booker have 7 children and 16 grandchildren. And she says, her front door is “still open to everybody. Most of those calls usually end up at La Luz or FISH, but those whose needs are more sensitive, hopeless or immediate, become my personal task -- first with prayer, then with action!"

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La Luz Center is a 501 (c) (3) Nonprofit organization
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