Kay Ruhstaller

Family Resource & Referral Center executive director appointed to Early Childhood Education Policy Council
Kay Ruhstaller, Executive Director of Family Resource & Referral Center has been appointed by the Rules Committee of the California State Senate to serve on the Early Childhood Education Policy Council and will represent San Joaquin County and the Central Valley.
The Early Childhood Policy Council will advise the Governor, Legislature, and Superintendent of Public Instruction on statewide early learning and care policy, including implementation and evaluation of the state’s Master Plan for Early Learning and Care and the 2019 Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education Final Report.
“For me, this is the opportunity of a lifetime in our field….to be a voice for the Valley,” said Ruhstaller. Ruhstaller has served as Executive Director for Family Resource and Referral for the past 16 years, and has been at the helm of an agency that connects thousands of San Joaquin families to valuable resources such as child care and early learning opportunities. Additionally, she has been a Commissioner for First 5 San Joaquin, Children and Families Commission since 2009 and served as the Public Policy Chair for the statewide California Child Care Resource & Referral Network for six years.
The Policy Council will provide counsel on some of the early childhood bills that include: providing subsidized preschool and childcare to more children, increasing pay for childcare providers and preschool teachers, helping teachers get more professional development and training and providing funds for building or renovating more child care and preschool classrooms. Screening more infants and toddlers to identify developmental delays, which are included in the Blue Ribbon Commission Report, will also be part of the Council’s work.

Oak Valley Jewelers celebrates silver anniversary
This October will mark the 25th anniversary of the family-owned and operated Oak Valley Jewelers in October. A business which first began in 1994 in the Kmart shopping center and has been in the SaveMart (Foothill Oaks) Shopping Plaza since July of 2000.
Some might say, Kim Contreas was born for the business. His father, Don Contreras, was the owner and operator of Don Contreras Jewelers which started in Palo Alto in the early 1970’s. He eventually opened a second location in Sonora. Upon completing high school, he attended Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica, in an eight-month program.
Contreas and his wife Lori first relocated to the Central Valley so that Lori could be closer to her parents. Living in Modesto at the time and traveling to Sonora on occasion to visit his parents took the couple through Oakdale on a regular basis. “We saw an opportunity when they built the Kmart shopping center,” Contreas said. “Providing something for Oakdale that wasn’t being provided, onsite repair service and onsite custom work that wasn’t being done anywhere in Oakdale at the time.”
As the town was beginning to grow, the husband and wife team felt there would be plenty of customers to sustain a family business.
“We embraced the community and fell in love with all aspects of it,” Contreas said. “The fundraising, donating and joining social groups and service clubs.”

Justin Llata

Visionary Home Builders of California, Inc. announces Chief Real Estate Development & Financial Officer
Visionary Home Builders of California, Inc. has announced that Chief Operating Officer, Justin Llata, will become the Chief Real Estate Development & Financial Officer.
Llata has more than fifteen years in real estate development and ten years in executive management and leadership at VHB. He is committed to community development and has been an advocate for positive affordable housing policy and policy changes throughout his career. With involvement in all aspects of the business and operations at VHB, his responsibilities include development, construction, finance, property management, and asset management.
Most recently, he was highly involved in building out the agency’s pipeline of major development projects, which includes the oversight of $350 million in past projects utilizing private and public funding to include tax credits, HUD, USDA, State and local sources. Over the course of his tenure with the organization, his leadership of acquisitions, rehabilitations, as well as the new construction of multi-family housing, has played a pivotal role in the growth and success of VHB, guiding it into a premier, nonprofit housing developer.
Currently, with $175 million dollars of projects in progress, Llata will be responsible for overseeing the financial structure and development of multi-family housing.
“We are both pleased and excited to promote Justin to this new role and add the responsibilities of Chief Real Estate Development and Financial Officer to his position,” states Carol Ornelas, CEO of Visionary Home Builders of California, Inc. “His proven track record of overseeing the success of our many projects throughout the Central Valley speaks for itself.”
Llata is a graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he studied Computer Science. Having been raised in a family first setting, where education and foundation started at the breakfast table, Llata understands the importance of healthy housing and aims to better the world by improving the lives of many via clean, safe, affordable housing. He enjoys spending his free time outdoors with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.

Kurpa S. Sharma

Hospice of San Joaquin introduces new medical director
Hospice of San Joaquin is pleased to announce our new Medical Director, Kurpa S. Sharma MD HMDC. Dr. Sharma brings several years of experience in the health care industry, with Board Certification in Hospice, Palliative Medicine in 2010, as well as Internal Medicine in 2006 and 2016 through the American Board of Internal Medicine. She is currently the Associate Medical Director for Optimal Hospice and Medical Director of the Stanislaus County Chapter of the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Coalition. Dr. Sharma completed her internship and residency at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, and began her early career as a hospitalist at Kaiser in Hayward, California. Shortly after, Dr. Sharma found her calling working in the impatient palliative care program at Kaiser in Modesto, where she fostered patients’ improvement of life by aligning their goals with quality care. Soon after her eldest daughter was born, Dr. Sharma joined Sutter Gould and started working in the Advanced Illness Management program. She worked as the Associate Medical Director for Community Hospice Inc., where she honed in her experience before assuming role as Associate Medical Director at Optimal Hospice.
“Medical advances over the last several decades have made the chapter of dying and death a sterile, cold, lonely one that at times is punctuated by suffering. I am honored and humbled to be part of a great organization that is working to change that into a chapter full of love, life and comfort for the person and their families.” says Dr. Sharma.
Dr. Sharma has a passion for teaching and she enjoys speaking to various audiences about Palliative Care and Advanced Care Planning. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, reading, browsing Pinterest, and spending time with her husband and three beautiful children.
Family Resource & Referral Center Chosen as a 2019 Nonprofit of the Year
Family Resource & Referral Center was chosen as a 2019 California Nonprofit of the Year by Assembly Member Susan Eggman.
Kay Ruhstaller, Executive Director from Family Resource and Referral Center traveled to the State Capitol this summer to join with one hundred other nonprofit leaders and was honored by their state senators and assembly members during a celebration luncheon as part of California Nonprofits Day on June 5th. With close to 4,000 nonprofit organizations and institutions in operation in San Joaquin County, this is quite an honor for the agency and its 150 employees.
“Staff and volunteers at Family Resource and Referral Center transform the lives of children and families every day, and we are deeply humbled to be recognized by Assembly Member Eggman as a Nonprofit of the Year,” said Gillian Murphy, president of the FRRC Board of Directors.

David Dudley

California Table Grape Commission hires Marketing Director of Category Management
David Dudley is the new marketing director of category management for the California Table Grape Commission. Dudley’s responsibilities include expanding the retail demand for California table grapes in the U.S. and Canada through enhanced category management.
“We are very excited to welcome David to the team,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the commission. “David’s nearly 10 years of experience in produce management and his experience in the retail sector will be key to the development of future retail programs.”
Dudley joins the commission after more than five years at Save Mart, most recently as a senior produce category manager. Dudley also worked for Markon Cooperative as a product manager. According to Nave, Dudley will primarily focus on developing a strategic marketing plan to drive California table grape sales. Dudley will be part of a four-member retail team and will manage numerous retail accounts.
Dudley is a California native, born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley. He is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, with a bachelor of science degree in agribusiness with a concentration in marketing.

Michael L. Gianelli

Community Hospice announces new Board Member
Community Hospice, the oldest and largest nonprofit hospice provider serving the Central Valley since 1979, is pleased to announce a new board member.
Joining the Community Hospice Board of Directors is Mr. Michael L. Gianelli. “I am pleased to welcome Michael to our Community Hospice Board and family,” said C. DeSha McLeod, Community Hospice President/CEO. “Michael brings to Community Hospice a wealth of experience in law practice and a vast understanding of our community. We look forward to working together to provide compassionate and quality care, education and support to our community friends and families.”
Gianelli has more than forty years of law practice and is senior counsel at Gianelli Nielsen whose practice areas include estate planning, trusts, complex litigation, litigation and appeals, business and commercial law and mediation. Michael is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law with the California Board of Legal Specialization and has workshop training in mediation.
The Community Hospice Board of Directors is comprised of community volunteers who provide strategic oversight and governance to the organization’s mission to provide compassionate care, education and support to terminally ill patients and their families, regardless of ability to pay.