George L. Ortiz is a co-founder of the California Human Development Corp. in Santa Rosa, which creates job training, housing, recovery and other services for farmworkers, day laborers and people with disabilities.
According to its website, the organization serves 25,000 people in 31 counties.
Ortiz, a college-educated Mexican-American who served in the U.S. Army in Germany in 1957 and 1958, first starting working as a social worker doing outreach to farmworkers in Sonoma County. Ortiz soon became a bridge between county social services and the growing Latino Spanish-speaking community.
Working with farmworkers and other impoverished Latinos, Ortiz began conducting citizenship and English classes. With the help of Rafael Morales and Catholic priest Jerry Cox, Ortiz helped found Latinos Unidos of Sonoma County, a nonprofit group that granted college scholarships, advocated for poor working families and served other needs in the immigrant community.
This was the start of modern Latino civil society in Sonoma County, he told the Press Democrat in a 2015 story.
When Ortiz first came to Sonoma County, he viewed himself as “Mexican or Mexican-American.” But after Cox paid Ortiz’s travel and attendance fees to attend a Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) convention in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, Ortiz said he discovered himself. “I came back full of gas, man,” he said.
“Actually, what I really call myself is an American of Mexican descent,” Ortiz said
Ortiz, of GLO Consulting, helped found the organization and was its CEO from 1967 to 2004. His community activities include past chairman of the Western Alliance of Farmworker Advocates Inc.; chairman and executive board member of Latinos Unidos del Condad de Sonoma in Santa Rosa; and an advisory member of Consejo Latino de Kaiser at Kaiser Permanente.