MEET THE PRO STAFF MEMBERSCategory:
JEREMY SIMON, Communications Director
Noticing Beauty - Before finding inspiration in the nonprofit world and beginning work with PRO's Jo Rosen, (who would become my mentor in the space), I had over 20 years of experience in the IT industry and had been instrumental in the successful launch of 15 startups in the United States and Canada between 2004 and 2014. I ran my successful Southern California-based boutique software development company that I founded in 2004; aptly named Geekworks. At Geekworks, my cohort and I incubated tech startups and supported their entrepreneurial ventures into new markets. What I enjoyed most during my tenure was the exciting pace, the novel technologies, and the meaningful personal relationships with interesting stakeholders, entrepreneurs, and community leaders. At some point, my family needed my time more than I needed the breakneck pace of that work and I set my eyes on something a little different.
Starting my journey at Parkinson’s Resource Organization in 2017, I quickly fell in love with the pace, the people, the professionalism, the opportunity to grow, and help others every day. Fast forward to the present day. In my current capacity as Communications Director, some of my responsibilities include directing digital communiqué; maintaining IT infrastructure, and internal office network; facilitating fundraising and outreach efforts that involve digital resources; managing PRO's database, website, Wellness Village, Memorial Wall, Newsworthy Notes, Virtual Meetings; and coordinating team communication. I work with new technologies and I help people every day.
In reflection, perhaps starting a new career, like beginning any journey, you might not get to choose the circumstances by which you start, the obstacles you will face, or when it will end. The trip itself, however, is all yours. If you aim to operate within the constraints to create the greatest experience possible, you might be surprised by the beauty that unfolds along the way.
My goal for 2021 is to remove obstacles from the paths of those who choose to help themselves with PRO’s educational and emotional support resources, to increase the number of resources, and to reach out to everyone who will benefit from the effort.
My wish for you in 2021 is that you experience gratitude for ineffable beauty unfolding on your journey you share with those you care for, and with those caring for you, as I have been fortunate to have experienced this year.
DONNA STURGEON, Wellness Village Coordinator
Together We Can - It has been my distinct and humble privilege to be a part of the PRO team for what will be a full year next month. While the year 2020 was challenging for us all in many ways, the strength and resilience of this community continues to inspire me every day.
I have called the California desert home for nearly 30 years. When growing up in Canada, I would start the new year with a long walk outside in the silence of a winter snowfall, reflecting on the previous year and envisioning goals for the coming one. I have always considered this a time of new beginnings.
California indeed helped me carry on the tradition (absent of snow) of new beginnings with the birth of my son on New Year’s Eve many years ago. There is nothing like a newborn life to bring into clear focus what is ultimately most important.
Through the years of raising my two children, I have worked in various capacities in a few industry sectors — education, tourism and business — all positions that speak to my passion: learning. The opportunity this year to help develop and expand the professional community of resources in PRO’s Wellness Village has been a meaningful work of service.
January and this New Year invites us to leave behind that which no longer serves us, to give thanks for what we have and to take comfort in knowing that we are never alone. These are thoughts I share often with my mother - my role model who well before her Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2016 gathers strength still in these words.
May we at PRO continue to be a resource for you, for one another, walking forward one day at a time —together.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” —Mother Teresa
KARINA RODRIGUEZ, IT/Communications Assistant
I got to PRO out of sheer luck. I am honored to be featured in the first Newsworthy Notes of 2021! My name is Alejandra Karina Rodriguez, PRO’s Communications/IT Assistant. Having grown up in nearby Coachella, I was driven to pursue a career that would allow me to return home and make a difference. To achieve that, I studied both Business Administration and Global Studies.
Upon graduating, I returned to the Valley to begin my hunt for a job in the non-profit world, which I found out was EXTREMELY competitive! I was interning with another non-profit organization, Desert Best Friend’s Closet, when, at a networking function, my manager introduced me to Jo Rosen: “My dad had Parkinson’s and she got me through it all.” Nothing came of this particular meeting but hearing the impact Jo made encouraged me to continue the hunt for a job that made a difference.
Nevertheless, life threw me a curve ball soon after and I took a job with the Census Bureau (no, I did not knock on your door). The Census brought me a pleasant surprise; I spent most of my time working with local non-profits. Unfortunately, the pandemic squashed our peak operations and cancelled our events. I shifted my approach and got to work alongside organizations during their COVID-19 response— food distributions, PPE distributions, school drive-throughs, etc.
I got to PRO out of sheer luck. As my contract with the Census Bureau ended, I began looking for an opportunity to help people elsewhere. One sleepless night I came across my current job description on an employment app and spent the following hours preparing my resume. I still feel the same way I did that early morning at the food distribution all the way in Salton Sea. It was not yet 7 AM when I started using my car breaks between chasing cars as I hurried to prep my co-worker on what to say if Jo called him—half of it probably bad advice considering how little I slept. That morning we counted more people than ever at that site; I felt something good was coming.
Now, I spend my days at PRO putting together emails, auditing meetings, sprucing up social media posts, editing the website, and asking Jeremy questions (too many). Every meeting I am reminded of the amazing impact we all make in other people’s lives. We are a powerful team, and I can tell you, we’re only getting started!
I hope my story reminds you there is always a diamond in the rough and the universe will pull you in the right direction. 2020 has taught us to appreciate what we have, and that we never know when everything can change. I hope 2021 brings you and your loved one’s laughter, togetherness, and relief after such an unbelievable year.
KARLA BADILLA, Executive Assistant
a glimpse of the experiences that people in the Parkinson’s world deal with Hello everyone, I hope that you are all doing well! I am the Executive Assistant at Parkinson’s Resource Organization. I am new to the organization, but I feel as if I have already been part of the PRO family for a long time. I believe it is because you learn so much in such a short period that it feels natural to completely involve yourself in it. My work at PRO varies with many different tasks but to shorten the description, it is mostly data entry, managing phone calls, writing letters and assisting the other staff members. When you call us, I will be the one answering on the other end of the phone. I am happy to speak with all of you and assist you the best I can!
A little about myself. All my life, so far, has been focused on my education and being the best student that I could be. I graduated from the University of California San Diego in June 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. My areas of study focused on how Science, technology, and society impact each other through such interconnected systems as well as how digital environments foster practices of life. Throughout my undergrad, I worked as an Office Assistant for the UC San Diego Revelle College Residential Life and as an Operations Assistant for the UC San Diego Undergraduate Admissions Office. I always worked with people of all ages and backgrounds and acted as a resource for information. I find it so interesting to learn more about the life experiences of other people and I value helping others. Being a part of PRO further enables me to give back to the community while expanding my intersectional lens.
I would like to share the following with you. As I meet constituents every day through phone conversations, in-person, or via virtual support group meetings, I get a glimpse of the experiences that people in the Parkinson’s world deal with, and it is a mixture of heartwarming yet heartbreaking feelings. I mean this in a good way because it is so rewarding to see how much PRO impacts the daily lives of people. People that are fighting for their health, fighting for loved ones, and fighting for a voice. It is inspiring. Similarly, I feel like I relate because both of my parents have been dealing with health issues for years to which our family does not know the cure or cause. It is a tough journey for all of us and all I can say is that you are strong, and you must keep pushing through! I would like to send you all a big “imaginary” hug and best wishes for New Year to come! Thank you for supporting and being a part of PRO.