Board of Directors
BI’s Board of Directors brings expertise in business, education, wine, and telecommunications to the agency, as well as personal and professional understanding about developmental disabilities.
Current Officers and Members:
Donna Cates, President
Donna has lived in Occidental for over 15 years. She and her husband, Bryan, own and operate Telecommunications Designs, which sells and services business telephone systems and data cabling systems to large retail customers that have multiple locations. Their son, Geordi, has autism and is currently served by BI’s Passport to Independence program. Donna spent six years on the board of the Harmony Ark Education Foundation, where she helped raise close to half a million dollars to provide programs such as Spanish, music, garden, sports, play structures and extra-curricular activities for her son’s school.
David House, Vice President
David is a retired Lieutenant with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. He served on the Board of our local National Alliance for Mental Illness chapter and has served several years on the Planning Committee for Autism Speaks annual North Bay Walk. He is active in educating and training fellow law enforcement professionals to be sensitive to the unique needs of people with autism and other disabilities. Educating and raising awareness within the community on developmental disabilities is a passion of his. He and his wife Claudia have three children, two of which are on the autism spectrum. Their son Isa, is currently a student in BI’s Passport to Independence program.
Joerg Olson, Treasurer
The Olson family has a history of advocating for BI, beginning with Ann Joergenson, his mother. His sister Kari is a BI participant, and has been for the past 20 years. In former lives he graduated with a degree in Radio, Television, Film from CSUN, and worked in Hollywood, as well as working as an Alaskan fishing guide, and real estate appraiser. For the past 18 years he’s been in the insurance industry, with the past 10 years managing the Sherzer & Assoc. Petaluma office with wife Millie. When not working, you might find him hunting wild mushrooms in the Sierras, or diving for Abalone on the Sonoma coast.
Al Millan, Secretary
Al has both a personal and professional understanding of the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. He and his wife Cherie are the parents of a vibrant young woman, Molly, who has a disability, which has provided them with a rich experience as care providers, service coordinators and advocates. Al currently works as a facilitator for Early Start Foundations Online Training with WestEd’s Center for Prevention and Early Intervention. He is a member of the Arc of California and the Infant Development Association.
Bonnie Burrell, Past President
Bonnie is a second generation San Franciscan who became interested in BI 20 years ago when her son, Todd, became a participant. When the opportunity to serve on the board presented itself, Bonnie felt the timing was just right to give back to an organization that had offered so many opportunities for growth and development to her son and all the other people served by BI. Bonnie also serves on the board of Council on Aging, which fulfills both her passion for seniors and those with development disabilities. Retired Manager and Community Liaison for GHD Consulting Engineers, Bonnie holds a degree in Sociology and an Elementary Teaching credential from San Francisco State University.
Owen has never allowed his developmental disability to stand in the way of his ambitions. Owen has participated with BI for over 18 years and has been happily employed with Safeway for 15 years, with the assistance of BI’s Supported Employment team. Owen’s ambition and BI’s coaching and support have proven to be a winning combination. In addition to serving on BI’s Board, Owen also provides employment support to two long-time Safeway employees in Sebastopol as well as a Safeway employee at the Santa Rosa store on Calistoga Road.
Nick is the Vice President of Employee Benefits at MOC Insurance, located in San Francisco, California. He has been with MOC since 2008. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from the University of San Francisco and has over 15 years of insurance and financial service expertise. Nick has been BI’s insurance broker since July of 2015 and has been a long-standing Dinner Under the Stars Auction Committee member since mid 2016. As an auction committee member and advocate, Nick has brought many new partners, sponsors, and friends to BI. Currently residing in San Rafael, Nick also enjoys the outdoors and traveling in his spare time.
Carol is from a Northwest Suburb of Chicago and moved to California 15 years ago. She is an Assistant Medical Group Administrator and the Director of Nursing and Clinical Practice at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa. Carol received her BSN from Winona University, Minnesota, and her Masters in Nursing Leadership and Management from Sonoma State. Carol has four beautiful daughters and a very supportive husband. She loves traveling, attending concerts and is passionate about giving back to her community. Among her many accolades, Carol was one of the North Bay Business Journal’s Forty under 40 winners in 2010.
Sharon and her husband, past board President Ken Maiolini, own Risk Management Services in Cotati and have been incredibly committed supporters of Becoming Independent since the day they chose BI’s programs for their daughter Carla, who is now 36 years old. Sharon was BI’s 2008 Volunteer of the Year, and in 2011 she and Ken received the June Waite Spirit of Philanthropy Award.
Carrie was born and raised in Durban, South Africa, but has established deep roots in Healdsburg. After meeting and marrying Clay Mauritson, the owner and winemaker of Dry Creek Valley’s Mauritson Family Winery, she moved here in 2004 and learned all facets of the business. She currently oversees Direct-to-Consumer Sales and Hospitality for the enterprise. She and Clay have three children and together are co-founders of Project Zin, an annual fundraiser inspired by their personal journey with their son, Brady. The fundraiser has raised more than $1 million for the Down Syndrome Association North Bay. “I know personally that what these individuals can contribute to our community is so enriching,” she says. “Our mission is to make sure more people realize that.”
Abigail is a Real Estate Broker with Vanguard Properties who has more than 24 years of sales, marketing and negotiating expertise in the real estate, financial and technology industries. Born in Newport, RI and raised in Virginia Beach, VA, Abigail earned a full athletic Division I basketball scholarship to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA where she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration. Abigail lives in Sebastopol with her wife, Ash (a former BI Manager who grew up in Sonoma County) and their 1 year old son, Phoenix. Abigail has a deep passion for music. When she’s not selling real estate, she enjoys playing the drums and experiencing live music.
Born and raised in Colorado, Ann is the Director of Sales and Trade Development for Jackson Family Wines. She was first introduced to Becoming Independent through the Buzz Café when pitching JFW wines to sell on the SMART Train. The BI employees showed such passion and enthusiasm for the organization that she knew she wanted to be involved in other ways! She was invited to join the Dinner Under the Stars gala Auction Committee in 2018, which later expanded into fundraising for the Luau and Crab Feed, as well. She currently lives in Healdsburg, California with her dogs Yankee and Zara as well as current foster dog, Vito. A lifelong animal lover and advocate, she also lends her time to Green Dog Rescue Project in Windsor as a volunteer, foster home and previous Board President.
Bryan serves as the Vice President at Wright Contracting, a General Contractor based out of Santa Rosa since 1953. Bryan graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management at California State University, Chico. Bryan’s oldest brother Greg has Down syndrome, and has been a participant of Becoming Independent for almost 10 years. Seeing the happiness and enhancement of life BI has provided Greg and all the other BI participants over the years, is what led Bryan to join the Becoming Independent Board of Directors.