Chris Castillo, of Santa Rosa’s Verity, wins Nonprofit Leadership Award

Christine Castillo of Santa Rosa-based Verity, which has a 24/7 sexual assault crisis hotline


Chris Castillo, of Santa Rosa’s Verity, has won one of North Bay Business Journal’s Nonprofit Leadership Awards.

Describe your organization

Verity is Sonoma County’s sole rape crisis, trauma and healing center providing services and support to all survivors of sexual violence, human trafficking, and other related sexual assaults to all ages and genders for 43 years.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I am a passionate individual who has always seen herself focusing on the goal of working for what is right and just in our world. I am a survivor of sexual violence and know firsthand the impact of this horrific crime on the life of the individual, my assaults occurring in my early childhood years. I am dedicated to working as best we can to provide services and supports to those who are victimized as well as their families and systems of support and to ensure that survivors know and understand that they are not to blame for this crime happening to them.

I have been married to Herb Castillo for 33 plus years, and we have a daughter, Camila. I have two stepchildren, Sierra and Miguel, and three grandchildren. Many life blessings!

What achievement are you most proud of? 

Personally the birth and witnessing of the grown and inspiration of my magnificent daughter Camila. Professionally the way we have been able to build Verity to the organization it is today and the tremendous team that provides the multitude of services for this agency. This generous award is not solely for me…it is for this tremendous team that inspires me daily to do my very best work to keep us moving forward and providing the best services we can for those we serve.

What is your biggest challenge today?

I have dreams so I guess the challenge would be to make those dreams come true. A significant dream is to have a large home in the woods, with area for a garden, a school, a true healing center where survivors of human trafficking can come and heal, reflect, and learn to know themselves and recapture and truly to recreate their lives and to begin to love themselves through all of the trauma that has been inflicted upon them.

What is the next major project either underway or on the horizon?

Well, there are many but right now we are working on accessing funding so that we can work with mothers and caregivers of children who have been victimized and to work directly with them to answer their questions, to support them in understanding they are not alone in their fear and anxiety for their children, and in creating a group in each region of the county that ultimately “knows the ropes” and supports one another to advocate for themselves and to call upon Verity as a resources and support as well.

What product or service would/or is helping you do your job more effectively?

I have a wonderful team that truly does help me to be able to do this work as well as we do it. I also am blessed with a wonderfully successful grantwriter which eliminates a great deal of pressure on me from having to write all of the time and therefore being unable to be in community and providing the victim voice to so many critical meetings where decisions are being made.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

My dream is that people will stop harming one another, but I know this is unrealistic. What I do hope is that we have sufficient funds to increase our prevention/education in our communities by hiring more staff and educating not only students, but teachers, support staff, parents, sisters, brothers — entire communities — in understanding what constitutes respectful and positive behavior and what is unacceptable and deplorable in this society and in not being afraid to use one’s voice in standing up for what is right and just.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization

Elece Hempel, CEO of Petaluma People Service Center. She is so very genuine and makes it all appear so easy…and she is passionate as am I…so helps me to feel that I am not out of whack when my passion moves agendas forward!

Current reading: “The Law of Attraction”

Most want to meet: Malala. She made me weep

Stress-relievers: Time with friends; my women’s groups; swimming; hiking; camping; time at our home in Costa Rica and time with my family

Favorite hobbies: Being with my daughter and my grandchildren and picking fruit and making cookies, pies and all of the delightful treasures that they so enjoy and don’t have access to often because they live in Ecuador!

Social media you most use: Facebook (I’m truly not such a tecchi and I more use it to see what folks are up to. We use it a great deal for our work however…but I have a wonderful Communications Coordinator who handles

Typical day at the office: This is a rape crisis center so there is no typical day! Just be ready for any and everything; don’t panic; breathe through it all

Best place to work outside of the office: Screamin Mimi’s. (Or my garden)

Words that best describe you: Passionate, fierce, fiery, dedicated, loving, memorable.

Anything you want to add?

I want to thank you for this tremendous honor. And yet I want to say that yes I lead this organization but we would not be who or where we are without the tremendous current and past staff. So while I personally accept this honor, I do it on behalf of my Team Verity as well as all who have been victimized by rape and sexual violence. They truly are my heroes. Thank you from the depths of my heart.