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Jose Landeros (left), chairperson of the Imperial Valley Wellness Foundation, introduced his organization to the Imperial County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, May 11 to explain the group's goals. Former Imperial Valley College President Dr. Victor Jaime (right) is the nonprofit's interim chief executive officer. | PHOTO ILLUSTRATION

IV Wellness Foundation Makes Presence Known

IMPERIAL COUNTY — An organization geared at bringing outside money to those in need in the Imperial Valley is making its presence known.

Jose Landeros, chairperson of the Imperial Valley Wellness Foundation, gave a presentation to the Imperial County Board of Supervisors about the new non-profit’s COVID-19 response fund and about its goal of advancing the health and wellness of vulnerable populations in the Valley.

The idea behind the wellness foundation came about in 2018 and 2019, Landeros said. The goal was to build a $25 million permanent endowment to help the community. 

“COVID hit, and it was pretty devastating in the county,” he said, adding that the immediate goal changed to help those impacted by COVID-19. 

The goal adapted as the non-profit created its COVID-19 response fund with a fundraising goal of $1 million and $851,200 raised to date, Landeros said. There have also been 250,000 masks donated, 500,000 face shields, and 25,000 containers of hand sanitizer.

In addition to the personal protective equipment, the fund has gone toward utilities/rent/mortgage/vouchers and food for those in need.

Donations have come in from groups like Alliance Healthcare Foundation, California Health Care Foundation, California Wellness, CC Foundation and Chicago Community Trust, among other groups and companies, according to a PowerPoint shown to the Imperial County Supervisors. The populations served through the funding includes children, disadvantaged students, farm workers, homeless, LGBTQ, low-income families, seniors, and veterans. 

The goal is to not tap into local resources, but rather those sources outside the community to bring those into the community.

“Our objective has always been to be a presence in our community, but not necessarily a front-facing presence,” Landeros said. “Now we’re trying to come out and let the community know we exist, and we’re a resource.”

So far, the focus has been COVID-19 assistance, said interim Chief Executive Officer Victor Jaime. Now the wellness foundation is shifting gears back toward creating the endowment.

San Diego-based Alliance Healthcare Foundation committed a matching donation of $7.5 million, contingent on the Wellness Foundation raising at least $17.5 million.  

The Wellness Foundation was created to help address a critical health funding gap in Imperial County, where the population suffers from shocking health and environmental health problems, according to the group’s website. The new foundation was created specifically to tackle the county’s health inequities.

In addition to Jaime as a staff person and Landeros as president, the current Board of Trustees includes Imperial Irrigation District Director and Court Appointed Special Advocates manager Alex Cardenas; Tim Kelley, president and chief executive officer of the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp.; Real Estate agent James Garcia; Sara Griffen, executive director of the Imperial Valley Food Bank; Yurii Camacho, a teacher in the Holtville Unified School District; Jazmyn Horton, a master’s degree candidate in social work at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus; Matthew Jaime, a clinical dietician; Stephen Jaime, a registered nurse and diabetes educator; and Antonio Romayor Jr., chief technology officer for the El Centro Elementary School District.

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