Senator Portantino Honors Senate District Women Heroes of the Pandemic

Monday, May 17 2021

For Immediate Release: May 17, 2021

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400


Senator Portantino Honors Senate District Women Heroes of the Pandemic

Glendale, California – Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Canada-Flintridge) will host the Women Heroes of the Pandemic Recognition Ceremony on May 26, 2021 to honor women throughout the 25th Senate District who have played an integral role in supporting their community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m proud to honor these exceptional women for their dedication to the health and safety of our communities,” stated Senator Portantino. “The pandemic created tremendous challenges for Californians and each of our honorees went above and beyond the call of duty to protect, serve, and heal. Whether it was through their job, volunteer efforts, or community acts of kindness, our honorees embody the kind of strength, compassion, love, and leadership that we needed to get through these difficult times.”

Each of our honorees were nominated by their peers, supervisors, community advocates, family, or friends.  The recognition ceremony will take place virtually on Wednesday, May 26 at 5:00 p.m.

25th Senate District Women Heroes of the Pandemic

Jenet Grajo-Acosta, BSN, RN, Glendale

Ms. Grajo-Acosta serves as the Director of Telemetry and Medical Surgical Units at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital. During the pandemic, she led several designated COVID-19 nursing units and served as part of a hospital-wide COVID-19 Task Force, where she participated in the development of COVID-19 clinical treatment guidelines and best practices for her units and hospital.

Peggy Schaefer, MSEP, BSN, BABS, RN, Glendale

Ms. Schaefer is the Director of Critical Care at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital. As Maternal Child Health Manager during the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked to ensure processes were in place to keep mothers and babies safe through new policies and procedures.  Due to her compassion and effective leadership, she was quickly promoted to Director of Critical Care.  

Tammy Hoeffel, BSN, RN, Glendale

Ms. Hoeffel is the Director of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital. During the pandemic, she was on the frontlines helping emergency nurses by assuring timely orientation so they can assume patient care as quickly and safely as possible. 

Juliette Nussbaum, MPH, Glendale

As an Infection Preventionist at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital, Ms. Nussbaum has contributed to the development of infection prevention-related policies, procedures, and education, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, her projects included tracking and reporting all COVID-19 cases in the hospital for internal and external agencies (both local and state); assisting with COVID-19-related staff training and education; and providing 24 hour consultation on individual COVID-19 cases and department-specific processes.

Susan J. Brown, PhD, RN, Duarte

Dr. Brown is Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer at City of Hope, a research and treatment center for cancer and diabetes. During the pandemic, she has co-led the on-the-ground COVID-19 response of the comprehensive cancer center and was an active member of the COVID-19 management team that developed and implemented safety protocols for patients, their family and staff. Dr. Brown also led the center’s incident command center during the Silverado and Blue Ridge fires in October 2020 that forced the community into a double quarantine due to unhealthy air quality levels. She made clinical accommodations for the safety of patients and employees in all 30 City of Hope locations throughout Southern California.

Fran Robertson, La Verne

Ms. Robertson is the Executive Director of Sowing Seeds for Life, a food security program that serves over 10,000 people each month in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. As families faced new economic challenges during the pandemic and the demand for emergency food services were on the rise, Sowing Seeds for Life responded by hosting a drive-thru pantry. Thanks to her leadership and dedication to the community, countless residents received pantry items and meals during this difficult time.

Jacqueline Williams, Ed.D, Pasadena

Ms. Williams is the Assistant Superintendent of the West San Gabriel Valley Special Education Local Plan Area. During the COVID-19 pandemic, her team quickly turned their attention to meeting the needs of their students, families, special education administrators and transitioned to online support services and learning – including purchasing supplemental curriculum specifically designed to support distance learning for students with disabilities.

Joyce Powell, RN, Burbank

Ms. Powell has been a registered nurse at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center for 21 years. As a nurse working on the frontlines of COVID-19 in the Emergency Department, she worked tirelessly with her colleagues to provide quality patient care. As a union leader in her hospital, she has worked hard to implement new protocols and procedures in order ensure the health and safety of her community.

Cynthia Triola, RN, Burbank

Ms. Triola has been with Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center as a registered nurse for 46 years. She served on the frontlines of COVID-19 while working in the Intensive Care Unit, where she quickly adapted to new safety protocols and cared for patients with the most critical health issues.

Ying-Ying Goh, MD, MSHS, Pasadena

As the City of Pasadena’s Director of Public Health and Health Officer, Dr. Goh is responsible for the overall planning, administration and operation of the Pasadena Public Health Department. In this dual role, Dr. Goh also provides medical supervision and direction for city health services and programs, and has the authority to declare public health emergencies and quarantines.

Talar Aintablian, Glendale

Ms. Aintablian is the Director of Operations of the Armenian Relief Society Social Services Division, an organization committed to providing low-income and vulnerable populations with comprehensive social services. During the pandemic, she has been working to assist individuals and families through case management and job search services, ensuring that they receive the social and economic assistance they need. In March, ARS Social Services partnered with LAUSD’s Beyond the Bell Program to host a COVID-19 workshop for students and families.

Jasik Jarahian, Glendale

As General Manager for the Armenian Relief Society of Western U.S.A., Ms. Jarahian oversees the financial aspects of the organization, as well as the funding of programs and coordination of assistance programs. Under her leadership, the ARS Western Region joined the COVID-19 Armenian Community Task Force and took an active role in providing resources to the community during a time of crisis. The organization facilitated the donation of thousands of masks to Glendale Adventist hospital and helped prepared care packages for the elderly and other vulnerable populations. Most recently, the ARS Western Region partnered with the LA County Department of Public Health to host a free COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

Carole Gallegos, South Pasadena

As manager of the South Pasadena Farmers Market, Ms. Gallegos worked hard to stay open as an essential business at the start of the pandemic. She overcame multiple challenges to the operation and worked with the LA County Department of Public Health guidelines to implement social distancing and other safety measures in order to remain in compliance and serve the community.

Merri Jill Finstrom, South Pasadena

Ms. Finstrom owns HUTdogs, a creative services agency, with her business partner and brother, David. Their firm helps businesses, non-profits, and community outreach professionals with marketing. During the pandemic, Ms. Finstrom offered a complimentary webinar series called The New Normal, which focused on helping businesses and non-profits adapt to operating during the COVID-19 era.

Hon. Sharon Springer, Burbank

Ms. Springer served as Mayor of Burbank during the pandemic.  Her steady confident leadership was central to Burbank's navigation of its pandemic response.  Prior to her service on the city council, she served on the Sustainable Burbank Commission and the Burbank Water and Power Board. She serves on the SCAG Energy and Environmental Committee, Los Angeles County Commission on Local Government Services, and is Chair of the Arroyo Verdugo Communities Sub-region Joint Powers Authority. Most recently, she was appointed to the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, the Economic Recovery Subcommittee, and Racial Equity & Diversity Subcommittee. 

Tara Peterson, Glendale

Ms. Peterson was appointed Executive Director of YWCA Glendale in 2016. She has played a pivotal role in revitalizing the agency’s 93-year legacy of supporting local women and girls by expanding programs. Most recently, she has worked with Black in Glendale and co-founded the Coalition for an Anti-Racist Glendale. Under Ms. Peterson’s leadership, YWCA continued providing wraparound services and resources to support families in need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The YWCA also operated a series of girls’ empowerment programs, serving students in the Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena community.

Rebecca Schmitt, Altadena

The Altadena Mask Project was founded in April 2020 when the pandemic first hit and personal protective equipment was hard to come by. Initially, the effort was small-scale, with volunteers supplying masks to a local grocery store in Altadena. Soon after, the team of community volunteers grew and began to distribute them throughout the medical community and to other frontline workers. Thanks to the efforts and leadership of Ms. Schmitt, the Altadena Mask Project thrived and ultimately had over 80 volunteers at its peak, making and distributing thousands of masks.

Jackie Tran, Monrovia

Ms. Tran is a Communications Analyst for the City of Monrovia. In a time of crisis and a global pandemic, she conveyed reliable information to communities quickly. Whether it was updating the city website or creating daily COVID-19 updates for the public, she served the community of Monrovia by providing them critical information when they needed it.

Krystina Livraga, Monrovia

As the Commercial Code Enforcement Officer for the City of Monrovia, Ms. Livraga is charged with enforcing a variety of codes relating to business operations. During the pandemic, she took on the responsibility of facilitating Temporary Outdoor Business Operations permits and collaborated with multiple agencies to get the process moving quickly.  Ms. Livraga has been attentive to the needs of local businesses during a time when small business owners have been struggling to stay open. 

Simone McFarland, Burbank

Ms. McFarland serves as the City of Burbank’s Assistant Community Development Director of Housing and Economic Development, as well as the City’s Public Information Officer. During the pandemic, she helped develop the city’s Economic Recovery Plan and created the Rental Assistance and Small Business Assistance programs utilizing federal CARES Act Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, which have assisted approximately 22 small businesses and 150 households to date.

Robin Sutherlin, Lake View Terrace

Ms. Sutherlin, a mother of three girls, used a sewing machine in her home to make reusable masks for her community. She distributed them to friends, healthcare professionals and frontline workers to them safe and healthy during the pandemic.

Mary Christensen, Sun Valley

During the pandemic, Ms. Christensen coordinated food delivery, donated by local grocery stores, and delivered it to those who were unable to leave their homes or just needed assistance. Her community service and dedication to helping those in need date back beyond the pandemic. Ms. Christensen was also a volunteer for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for over 20 years, generously supplying treats and flowers.

Debbee Malouf, San Dimas

Ms. Malouf has been a dedicated volunteer at the San Dimas Senior Center for many years. During the pandemic, she has assisted the Senior Center’s community service efforts by going shopping for the SD Cares Program food pantry. Her efforts were critical in ensuring that the essential needs of the most vulnerable community members were met.

Cheryl L Johnson, La Canada Flintridge

Ms. Johnson is a pharmacist at Flintridge Pharmacy. Due to her exceptional efforts and leadership, Flintridge Pharmacy has become a local provider for COVID-19 vaccines. During the pandemic, the pharmacy functioned as a local testing facility, too.  Ms. Johnson is dedicated to her ensuring the health and safety of her local community and continues to make a significant positive impact on the residents of the 25th Senate District.

Maggie Lee, San Marino

Ms. Lee is the President of the Chinese Club of San Marino. Under her leadership, the Chinese Club has undertaken efforts to raise funds for local schools during the pandemic. This year, they donated $200,000 to the San Marino Schools Foundation to assist with fiscal challenges. Ms. Lee has also been working with local community groups and the San Marino Police Department to raise awareness about hate crimes against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Judith Rodriguez, Claremont

Ms. Rodriguez has been a Vons Grocery store worker for 30 years and currently is the shop steward. Serving her community on the frontlines of the pandemic, she continued to work with her union brothers and sisters to provide excellent customer service to their loyal customers. On a daily basis, she came in close contact with the public and risked her health and safety because she needed to provide for her family.

Alcuyn Pitts, Upland

Ms. Pitts, a frontline worker at Vons Grocery store, is shop steward and serves on the Executive Board of the UFCW 1428. She is also a veteran of the United States Army. Ms. Pitts has been committed and dedicated to her job throughout the pandemic and played a crucial role in serving her community while risking her own health and safety.

Dr. Marcella Marlowe, San Marino

Dr. Marcella is the City Manager for the City of San Marino and has been instrumental in guiding the city through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. She previously served as the Assistant City Manager for the City of San Gabriel for six-and-a-half years. Prior to San Gabriel, Dr. Marlowe served as the Human Resources Manager for the City of Duarte, the only person to ever hold that position there.