Corazón Healdsburg announced on Wednesday that it has hired its first-ever permanent chief executive officer. Attorney and human rights activist Glaydon de Freitas joined the four-year-old nonprofit in the midst of a destructive fire season and a health pandemic that has exposed and worsened long-standing inequities in northern Sonoma County.
De Freitas has worked as a lawyer in both his home country of Brazil and the United States, and most recently was head of strategic planning for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) in Houston, Texas.
“The foundation of my work is human dignity, acknowledging people’s suffering but without minimizing their humanity,” said de Freitas. “And I believe that if we work strategically with local residents to identify the greatest needs and our greatest strengths, we can transform our community for the better.”
De Freitas was inspired to dedicate his life to human rights by the work of his family. All four of his grandparents were immigrants who fled the tumult of Europe during World War I and II for Brazil. As a young child de Freitas spent afternoons with his Spanish grandmother at the community center she led where impoverished residents could access milk and food, winter coats, childcare and adult education. His father became a lawyer at a later age, taking the law school entrance exam on the day de Freitas was born and then becoming a progressive district attorney, implementing transformative restorative justice programs as Brazil recovered from two decades of military rule.
“When I was six years old my father gave me a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” de Freitas said. “We would read articles from it at bedtime like other families read fairy tales. To this day I believe that its principles of freedom, equality and access to justice are applicable to any community.”
After becoming a lawyer at the age of 21 and then working in Brazil’s public social security and pension system, de Freitas left to study human rights law at the University of Houston. He was a United Nations fellow at the Oxford Consortium for Human Rights before working with the YMCA as an immigration attorney and advisor for detainees on the U.S.-Mexico border. At RAICES, de Freitas oversaw the strategic planning process as the organization grew from an annual budget of $10 million and a staff of 85 to an annual budget of $75 million and a staff of 375 after a viral social media campaign inspired by the Trump administration’s family separation policy dramatically increased donations to the organization.
De Freitas joined the Corazón Healdsburg team just as it celebrated its fourth birthday. The organization was launched in 2016 by Ari Rosen and Dawnelise Regnery Rosen with a community-wide Día de Muertos celebration and a mission to bridge stubborn social, economic and racial gaps in the Healdsburg community. Since that founding four years ago, the region has suffered multiple devastating natural disasters, and each time Corazón Healdsburg has expanded its services, growing its client list and becoming a trusted partner for those in need.
“We never expected to grow as quickly as we have,” said Regnery Rosen. “But we’re proud of the way our staff, our volunteers and our donors have stepped up with each new crisis to meet the needs of our community. We are thrilled to have Glaydon take the lead as we chart a plan for lasting impact here in northern Sonoma County.”
De Freitas is trilingual, speaking Portuguese, Spanish and English fluently. He is stepping into the new role after interim CEO Ariel Kelley stepped down earlier this month. Kelley is a cofounder of the organization and former board chair.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to work with our community as interim CEO over the past 18 months,” said Kelley. “And I’m excited to see Corazón Healdsburg hire someone with as much strategic growth and management expertise as Glaydon has.”
Corazón Healdsburg anunció el miércoles que ha contratado su primer director ejecutivo permanente. Glaydon de Freitas, abogado y defensor de derechos humanos, se incorporó a la agencia sin fines de lucro de cuatro años en medio de una temporada de incendios destructivos y una pandemia de salud que ha expuesto y empeorado las inequidades que han existido desde hace mucho tiempo en el condado de Sonoma.
De Freitas trabajó como abogado en su país nativo de Brasil y en los Estados Unidos, y recientemente fue el director de planificación estratégica para Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, RAICES (Centro de Educación y Servicios Legales para Refugiados e Inmigrantes) en Houston, Texas.