Karissa Moreno of the Northern California Center for Well-Being wins a North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award
Education: Masters of Arts, Social Sciences, University of Chicago; Bachelors of Arts, Cultural Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara
Number of staff: 20 (of which 80% are bilingual English/Spanish and 65% are Latinx bilingual/bicultural)
Describe your organization: The Northern California Center for Well-Being (Center) is the North Bay’s premier health education and wellness center. We are committed to addressing the social determinants of health that cause health disparities in Sonoma County; to that end, the center applies a complementary strategy of upstream prevention and health education with an eye towards both the prevention of chronic disease as well as the better management of effects of chronic disease in vulnerable communities.
We provide evidence-based classes that help curb the effects of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, and we engage with our local community at a grass-roots level to promote whole-person wellness through education, mobilization, and advocacy.
The specific emphasis of our work is to reach populations at greatest risk for health disparities, including low-income, minority, and rural populations – and as an “Access for All” organization we offer our programs and services to all individuals, regardless of ability to pay.
All of our services are offered in English and Spanish, and programs include:
Medical Nutrition Therapy
Cardiac Rehabilitation Services
Community Health Worker training, network, and workforce pipeline
Community-based engagement, education, and empowerment programs
Youth Health and Leadership Programs (iDo26.2 & Project TRUE)
Policy Advocacy (i.e.: tobacco retail licenses)
Our mission is to promote the well-being of the whole person by empowering people with the knowledge, skills, and spirit to take responsibility for personal, family, and community health. Through thoughtful leadership and innovative partnerships we can transform community health and achieve a more equitable, healthier community for all.
The center serves all of Sonoma County and adjacent areas, and provides health education programs and services to over 25,000 individuals annually.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Moreno was born in San Francisco and was raised in Marin and Sonoma counties.
She grew up in a multi-generational household where her grandparents, uncles, and cousins lived with her and her family at various times over the years – and she always took comfort in the sounds, smells, and feels of a busy household.
Moreno has three younger siblings whom she lovingly refers to as her “kids” because of their significant age gap (12 – 15 years) – Victorya, Anthony, and Erik. Moreno was a competitive swimmer from age 6, and as a child she had a deep love for exploring the outdoors – climbing trees, hiking, and playing in the creek behind her home.
Her passion for movement continued as an adult, and for years she taught free Zumba classes to Santa Rosa Community Health patients at the Lombardi campus. Moreno’s desire to challenge structural/cultural/racial/gender barriers and to better understand the human condition led her to travel across the globe – working and studying in Europe, North Africa, India, Central America, and South America.
Moreno proudly identifies as queer, and she has always championed equity and inclusion for all – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, country of origin, documentation status, disability, language, and/or age.
Advocating for equity and social justice has always been at the forefront of who she is and what she does. Moreno is also an avid reader, a writer, a painter, and a lover of all animals. Moreno lives with her partner, a professor of literature and social justice at UCLA, and her two adorable cats in downtown Santa Rosa.
What is your role in the organization?
As executive director, Moreno is responsible for all strategic and fiscal oversight of the organization. She manages all aspects of nonprofit administration – including strategic planning, financial management, forecasts, program development, marketing and public relations, fund development, grant writing, grant reporting, quality assurance, compliance, human resources, organizational growth and mission fulfilment, and in the non-COVID environment – distribution of dark chocolate to all employees on “chocolate Fridays” – a beloved Friday tradition that Moreno has advanced at several organizations that she has worked at.
Additionally, Moreno is the lead instructor for the Center’s Community Health Worker training program.