Meet SAAF Staff
This is a page featuring profiles of some of SAAF’s Staff Members. Please enjoy getting to know the people who help to provide programs and services for those we serve.
Nichole Papanikolas is one of SAAF’s amazing Case Managers, a position she’s held since November 2015. Nichole has a long history of service work – prior to joining SAAF, she worked as a behavioral health assistant at CODAC and volunteered with the Pima County Attorney’s Victim Services Division.
As a Case Manager, Nichole’s main goal is making sure her clients have everything they need to succeed. This includes – but is definitely not limited to – enrolling clients in SAAF’s housing program, helping them find an HIV clinic, conducting reassessments for the Ryan White Program (a care program for people living with HIV/AIDS), connecting clients to community resources, and advocating on their behalf.
SAAF’s multifaceted approach to supporting clients and the community is one of the things Nichole loves most about working here. “My favorite part of working at SAAF is everything we have to offer, from housing to food for life. We offer a bit of everything and that is amazing to me.”
One of the biggest challenges Nichole faces is making sure she has all the information she needs in order to effectively help her clients. She hopes to learn as much as she can about SAAF’s services and the community’s services to successfully assist her clients in getting the best care available.
When she’s not at work, Nichole enjoys her time by hanging out with family and friends, listening to music, cooking, going to the movies and traveling. She also enjoys the company of her cuddly fur baby, Kiki, who doubles as an alarm clock in the mornings. She loves Tucson’s fabulous weather, and her favorite secret spot is anywhere on top of Mt. Lemmon.
Anthony “Tony” Bruno
Anthony “Tony” Bruno has been SAAF’s Grants Coordinator since 2015. Tony’s position involves researching potential funding opportunities, coordinating funding needs with managers, and working with the Director of Programs, Program Managers, and staff to complete and submit grant applications. When grants are awarded, Tony works with staff members to report and evaluate programs based on grant deliverables. His success is demonstrated through his amazingly in-depth understanding of SAAF’s programming, his relationship building and collaborative feats, and his superhuman ability to multitask – he works on an average of 6-8 grants at any given time!
When asked about his favorite parts of working for SAAF, Tony said he liked working with like-minded, intelligent staff who are making a difference in the lives of our participants. He finds that deadlines, whether real or self-impressed, are his biggest challenges. Tony hopes he can use his talents to diversify SAAF’s bottom line through grants, contracts, word of mouth, or additional partnerships
Tony has extensive experience in grant coordination. Prior to joining SAAF, he served as the Government Grant Resource Manager for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona (for over 20 years!), where he was instrumental in starting a summer meals program and negotiating with the Tohono O’odham nation to expand the Child Nutrition Initiative to their community. He has also worked for the City of Irvine, served on the Sahuarita School Board, founded a mobile 4H-Club to reach children in rural areas, and freelanced as a grant writer. Tony has been recognized numerous times for his incredible achievements: he was the recipient of the Parent Aid 2007 “Teddy Award” for Community Leadership and has been nominated for awards by the Arizona Rural Human Services Network and the Community Food Bank. You wouldn’t expect that his background is actually in Animal Husbandry – in addition to his grant writing, Tony is the owner and operator of Back Acres Farm, which has been in existence since 1976.
When he’s not at SAAF, Tony enjoys cooking, horseback riding, hiking in the Santa Rita Mountains (he found a secret hiding spot with a natural spring!) and country swing dancing. Tony is a published photographer with a passion for travel. At the farm he’s able to put his green thumb to good use, and always has a DIY project on the horizon. A native of Amado, Tony has three children and a broad range of pets, from chickens to pigs and everything in between!
Youth Life Project Program Manager
Jai Smith is SAAF’s Youth Life Project Program Manager, a project aimed at preventing intimate partner violence and sexual violence with young people ages 13-24. The Youth Life Project is made up of four components to help succeed in this endeavor: classes that are taught to youth in several high schools around Tucson; capacity building trainings for service providers who work with youth; coalition work with key stakeholders in the Tucson community to increase sexual violence prevention messaging; and outreach and training to local alcohol serving establishments with the Arizona Safer Bars Alliance.
The Youth Life Project is SAAF’s first effort at work that is this strongly intersectional and comprehensive surrounding Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence. Jai hopes that this program is able to thrive, and that collaborations with the state of AZ will help ensure that this stellar program provides youth with the necessary tools to build healthy relationships and advocate for their needs. He also hopes that SAAF continues to grow in a direction that looks at the various factors that may cause behavioral risk for HIV, and that those factors, much like in the program he’s currently running, are brought to the forefront.
Since she began working for SAAF in 2011, Jai has had a diverse career. Before taking on her current role, Jai worked as a Health Education Specialist in the Eon Youth Lounge; in the Arizona Life Links for Youth (ALLY) program focusing on suicide prevention; and in the Reaching Adolescents Prevention Project (RAPP) program focusing on substance abuse prevention and healthy communication. Her relationship with SAAF goes even farther back – she began volunteering at SAAF at age 13, and walked in her first AIDSWalk in 2001! Before joining SAAF professionally, Jai worked at the University of Arizona as a student leader focusing on sexual health education and LGBTQ equity and leadership.
Jai enjoys working directly with people – teaching someone new skills or talking about the importance of taking ownership of one’s actions can be transformative. He finds being present to help youth learn how to best reduce their risk and make informed decisions to be incredibly rewarding. Moving to a management position has meant that he’s out of the classroom doing behind the scenes work more frequently. While it’s challenging to not be working directly with youth, Jai still enjoys what he’s doing and knows that he is making a difference.
When she’s not doing amazing work at SAAF, Jai can be found on her bike, long-distance cycling – she just successfully completed the 2016 AIDS LifeCycle! A native Tucsonan, you might spot her at El Tiradito Shrine, one of her favorite locations. Jai loves to perform, and is a singer with the Reveille Men’s Chorus. She’s supported by a most caring, supportive, and often times, patient partner, Sasha. She is the proud pet co-parent of Indy, their dog, and Camila and Charles Phillip Arthur George, their two guinea pigs.
*Jai uses masculine and feminine pronouns, as reflected in this profile.
Housing Case Manager
Kevin Jackson is one of SAAF’s fabulous Housing Case Managers. SAAF uses a ‘Housing First’ model that operates on the foundation that people deserve housing as a means of providing for basic needs. Once they have stable housing, people are then able to use energy that would have otherwise been used to survive on the streets or in unstable housing situations towards improving their health and wellness. Through SAAF’s housing programs, we are able to offer housing in apartment homes at SAAF-owned properties, and provide ‘scattered site’ placement throughout Tucson with Section 8 “Look-alike” housing subsidies that we manage both in-house and through partnerships with the City of Tucson.
As a Housing Case Manager, Kevin provides support, advocacy, and linkage to SAAF and community services for people living with HIV/AIDS who are also engaged in our housing programs. Kevin’s favorite part of working at SAAF without a doubt is all the people and this beautiful community we serve. “Between my work in HIV education and prevention – and now in direct service to people living-with, the dignity, resiliency, and strength of the folks we serve continues to provide tremendous inspiration. SAAF’s revised mission and vision statements which encompass community wellness really speak to me on a deeply personal, intellectual, and spiritual level.”
For Kevin, balancing his time, focus, and energy in order to provide the best quality of care available for SAAF’s clients is one of the biggest challenges of his work. Providing thorough advocacy and support for clients who are having challenges within other systems of care requires both consistency and balance. As many of SAAF’s clients have been traumatized by their HIV/AIDS diagnosis and by the stigma around the virus, helping them understand that HIV/AIDS is now a manageable condition continues to be a challenge. Thankfully, through SAAF’s partnerships with El Rio Special Immunology Associates and the Petersen Clinics at Banner/UA Medical Center, we’re making progress daily.
Kevin has been a Housing Case Manager since 2014. Prior to joining SAAF, he worked at Wingspan for 4 ½ years in the Eon LGBTQ&A Youth Program, a program that is now managed by SAAF. Kevin also spent over 14 years serving runaway, homeless, and street-dependent youth as a Program Manager at Our Family Services.
A proud native Tucsonan and a queer, Bear-identified, self-proclaimed sensualist, Kevin loves to camp, hike, cook, read, listen to music (live and recorded), and do fun, social things with his fellow gay/bi/pan friends in the Bears of the Old Pueblo. The child of two amazing scientists, Kevin has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a scientific mindset that always seeks to understand and celebrate the discovery of the world around him. He has a knack for crafting spectacular cocktails, knows how to sew, has worked in ceramics and jewelry, and spent a good chunk of his childhood in engine wells, tearing down and building back up V6’s and V8’s.
Kevin shares his home with Steve, his husband of 21 years, and Qytti Chiricahua and Sadie Sierra, his two adorably sweet and spunky Chihuahuas. While he has no kids, in his 20+ years of social service to the Tucson community, he has helped ‘raise’ thousands of our most vulnerable youth and is very proud to have been there for them.
When asked if there was anything else he’d like to share, Kevin added: “I feel that the work I’ve done throughout my career has been guided by both the wisdom I gathered through experiences as well being open to the opportunity to grow and give back to my hometown. I feel very blessed to be part of this wondrous family at SAAF.”
SAAF feels blessed to have him too!
Associate Director of LGBTQ Initiatives
Adam Ragan is SAAF’s first Associate Director of LGBTQ Initiatives, a position he’s held since May 2016. In this newly created position, Adam works both within SAAF to advocate for the LGTBQ community in Southern Arizona, and within the community to identify and target opportunities for the LGBTQ community that advance the cause of equality. If you think that sounds broad, it’s because it is! Adam’s objective is to help SAAF achieve its mission of transformative action within Southern Arizona’s LGBTQ community, and he imagines his role will evolve based on the community’s needs.
Thus far, one of Adam’s favorite parts about working at SAAF is the people. “We have a deep bench of amazing talent, and I am amazed each day I get to work with such brilliant folks who are dedicated to our mission.”
One of the biggest challenges of Adam’s position is navigating the best way to honor the past work of Wingspan and the amazing things it did, while also looking to the future and discovering what new and great things can we do. In sum, how do we as an LGBTQ community honor our past while embracing the potential of the future? Adam hopes that he and his position can serve the LGBTQ community faithfully, and will continue to earn the community’s trust by consistently providing solid and fiscally-sound LGBTQ programs, and by spearheading LGBTQ initiatives in Southern Arizona.
Even outside of his work at SAAF, Adam is extremely active within the Tucson community. He currently serves on the City of Tucson’s GLBT Commission as the Mayor’s appointee, and is the co-chair of the Arizona César E. Chávez Holiday Coalition, which works to honor the legacy of Chávez and Dolores Huerta. Adam also volunteers for several groups, including teaching English as a second language and advocating for social justice issues.
When he’s not working or volunteering, Adam enjoys reading (mostly historical/biographical), baking (he has an incredible sweet tooth), and hanging out with Judah, his Golden Retriever. He loves shoe shopping and has a particular affinity for boots. A Tucson resident for the past three years, Adam loves the area we live in and tries to incorporate as much of Tucson in his life as he can. His favorite spot is the top of Tumamoc – the view can’t be beat and it’s always a good place to run into friends. He loves trying out new restaurants, keeping current on local, national, and international politics, and quoting the entire movie Steel Magnolias, word for word.
Lead Housing Services Administrator
Linda Hampton is SAAF’s Lead Housing Services Administrator. She first joined SAAF in 2009 as the Accounting Associate, and in 2011 changed positions to become a Contract Specialist for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP). In 2012 Linda began her position as the Housing Services Administrator, and was promoted to Lead Housing Services Administrator in 2015.
With the help of the Housing Services Administrator, Linda maintains over 300 client files and helps to locate housing for a majority of those needing housing. This includes working with over 40 apartment complexes throughout Pima County, developing and maintaining relationships with their management, and negotiating to find the best fit for each client. SAAF also owns seven properties, which Linda helps manage with our Property Manager, that allow us to house an additional 83 individuals/families. In addition to working with the City of Tucson and some additional agencies, Linda works closely with all our Case Managers, Housing Case Managers, and Care Services staff to provide the support needed.
Linda’s biggest challenge is running out of time each day to help so many. Her favorite part of her job is being able to say that she is a part of an awesome team who strives to help many homeless get off the streets. “It makes me feel good to see that our organization continues to grow and we have made an impact in our community.”
Linda hopes to continue at SAAF working towards making sure funding is used appropriately and helping to get as many individuals/families off the streets and housed permanently. “I want to help to create a sense of relief for those who come here for assistance.”
Linda has been married to 41 years to her husband, who has always supported her in her work. They have grown boys and four grandchildren. They live together with their two Chihuahuas, two cats, and their European sheep dog – who magically all get along well with one another.
When Linda is not doing incredible work at SAAF, she enjoys camping, fishing, and spending time with her family (especially her grandchildren). Linda has a musical background – she learned to play the guitar when her family lived in Spain – so her family get-togethers are always filled with sing-a-longs and music-playing.
When asked if there was anything else she wanted to add, Linda said: “I am truly blessed to be a part of SAAF and look forward to many more years here.”
Joshua Richardson is SAAF’s Office Manager, and one of the newest shining stars to join our team. The Office Manager position is part Jack-of-all-trades and part superhero; in his role Joshua oversees the day-to-day office functions of the agency, manages all front office operations (including reception and facility maintenance), and supervises the reception volunteers. Because his job is so multifaceted, Joshua is frequently the go-to guy when staff members have a question.
Joshua’s favorite part his position is working with a great group of people and being able to impact the community through the work we do as an organization. Thus far, his greatest challenge at SAAF is not having enough time in the day and not having a full-time receptionist (we’re always looking for great volunteers!). He hopes that SAAF will continue to grow and remain a successful organization for the community.
Prior to joining SAAF, Joshua’s work experience has included bartending, working at Citi Mortgage (in mortgage collection, quality assurance, and management), and lifeguarding at a Walk Disney World resort. If his face looks familiar, it might be because he recently jumped into the Jell-O pit as a wrestler at SAAF’s 2016 Jell-O Wrestling Extravaganza!
In his free time, Joshua enjoys being with friends and family, cooking, knitting (he’s self-taught), and going to festivals, prides, and other events. He’s just begun dipping his toes in the pool of drag show management, and is looking forward to getting more shows under his belt! Joshua has recently taken up hiking and has fallen in love with exploring new trails in Tucson’s many mountain ranges. He also enjoys spending time with Penny, a Chinese Sharpae who has stolen his heart.
Michael Webb is a Prevention Specialist for SAAF’s Youth Life Project, a multi-faceted sexual violence prevention program for youth ages 13-24. The project offers life skills education addressing dating and sexual violence, capacity building trainings for service providers, and community mobilization of local resources to address systemic sexual violence prevention.
One of Michael’s primary roles is teaching the Safe Dates Curriculum to middle school and high school aged youth, which aims to educate on ways to build healthy relationships and understand and advocate against dating and sexual abuse. Michael loves working at SAAF because of its unique work environment, which evolves naturally because of our work as a multi-service organization. “I find that SAAF is a hub of support for folks who continue to go unrepresented, and who continue to face stigma in our community. It seems that most of the people that work here have a personal stake in doing the work we do, because of either our own lived experiences or of the people we care deeply about, and this is what makes SAAF such a great place to work.”
While he loves his position, working with youth on such important topics can be difficult. Michael’s biggest challenge is finding balance between his own personal self-care and the passion that he tries to bring to work every day – it can be a hard task finding ways to not carry the day home with him. Michael hopes that SAAF continues to grow in positive and meaningful ways, which would necessitate that we continue fostering the talent we already have as we grow. In his position with the Youth Life Project, his personal goal is to reach and impact as many youth as possible with the life skills SAAF offers.
Working as a Prevention Specialist is Michael’s second position at SAAF: in 2014 he joined SAAF as the Volunteer Coordinator, where he met some of the most compassionate and caring people from our community, on top of working with SAAF’s incredible Development team. Prior to working at SAAF, Michael studied Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona.
Outside of work, Michael leads a second life as a multifaceted brass musician (he plays the tuba, trombone, French horn, and trumpet). He can frequently be found hiking, storm chasing (he loves Tucson’s wild and wacky monsoon season), and spending time with friends. He also enjoys hanging out with Kaya, a dog he rescued in 2008 and who never ceases to bring him joy.
If his face looks familiar, it might be because you caught a performance of the Reveille Men’s Chorus (he’s a tenor), or because you were one of the 20,000 people who watched him take 1st place in an Individuals and Ensembles Color Guard competition at the Georgia Dome. You also might remember his spectacular performance as Donald Trump wrestling Hillary Clinton at the 2016 Jell-O Wrestling Extravaganza!
Senior Accounting Associate
Patrick Campion has been the Senior Accounting Associate at SAAF for the past two years, and is an indispensable member of SAAF’s three-person Finance Department. Patrick has a long history as a numbers rockstar; prior to joining SAAF, he worked in accounting for about a dozen years, primarily in a governmental capacity.
In his current role, Patrick monitors the money coming in and going out of SAAF’s accounts. By tracking funds, Patrick is able to make sure that any money given to us for a particular purpose is only spent for that purpose, and to help programs and departments within SAAF to do the same. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – the Finance department also writes close to 1,000 checks per month, prepares reports detailing the grant spending, processes payroll, pays taxes, facilitates audits, and reconciles bank accounts. According to Patrick, “the biggest challenge in Finance, as with most jobs in the non-profit world, is trying to get more things done in less time.”
Patrick’s favorite part of working at SAAF is knowing the impact we have on people’s lives. “When I go home at the end of the day, I know that my work not only provides the necessities of life for some of our clients, but has also made the lives we save worth living. I earn more in self-satisfaction than I do in my paycheck.” Patrick hopes that one day, a cure for HIV/AIDS will be discovered and organizations like SAAF will no longer be necessary. Until then, he hopes SAAF can grow enough to help all those afflicted by HIV and AIDS lead successful and fulfilling lives.
Patrick is a second-generation Tucsonan. One of his favorite local spots is the riparian area at Fort Lowell Park, where he held his wedding ceremony. An automotive fanatic, Patrick was a semi-professional drag racer for several years. He’s also professionally modified vehicles to increase their speed capacity. When he’s not working at SAAF, Patrick enjoys eating out, baseball games, movies, and vacation trips with his 7 year old granddaughter, who has him wrapped around her little finger.
Senior Health Education Specialist
Moureen Drury is the Senior Health Education Specialist for SAAF’s Youth Empowerment and LGBTQ Leadership (YELL) and HIV Youth Peer Education (HYPE) programs, both of which serve youth between the ages of 13 – 24.
In her current position, Moureen teaches youth life skills through workshops and classes in schools and leads outreach in the community. She likes working at SAAF because of its action-oriented and client-centered focus. “I believe in our mission and I think our programs and services really support people in ways that are meaningful. I am a big fan of SAAF’s harm reduction philosophy, especially around risks associated with HIV/AIDS, but not limited to that. SAAF is so much more than an AIDS Service Organization. It is an organization that serves our community at large.”
Moureen cites a lack of time as one of the biggest obstacles in her job. “There isn’t enough time in the day to do all of the amazing things our department would like to do! We are always looking to do more and I am so grateful for our future-focused ideas.”
During her career at SAAF, Moureen has worked as the Events & Marketing Coordinator, and in two additional youth prevention programs, Project ALLY (Arizona’s Life Links for Youth) and Voz. Project ALLY is a suicide prevention program that supports youth at risk for suicide. Voz is a substance abuse prevention program. Moureen’s current position allows her to work for a second time with HYPE, a sexual health, life skills, and leadership program. Prior to joining SAAF, Moureen worked for two years at Wingspan as the Development Operations Coordinator.
When asked about something few people may know about her, Moureen says, “I played the clarinet for years and loved every minute of it! I haven’t picked it up in a while and wonder if I would still have the skill but I enjoyed learning alternate fingerings, high scales, and complex techniques! In high school, I was in concert band, jazz band, and marching band and I have some pictures to prove it.”
When she is not at work, Moureen relaxes by sitting on the porch with a good book and reading when it rains. “It’s one of my most peaceful activities. When it’s not monsoon season in Tucson, I love to scrapbook! Organizing pictures and showcasing memories is the best.”
Peer Counseling Coordinator
John Jackson is the Peer Counseling Coordinator, a position he’s held since 2015. However, John has been a familiar face at SAAF for a long time: he began working at SAAF as a Peer Counseling Associate in 2013, and prior to becoming a SAAF employee, he was a volunteer Peer Counselor for 9 years.
As the Peer Counseling Coordinator, John balances both administrative work and direct client care. On the administrative side, he manages four peer counselors, recruits and trains new peer counselors, and plans and leads team meetings. On the client care side, he handles an active case load of 30-40 low-need clients, which includes handling intake enrollment for services for new clients and conducting outreach to clients whose health prevents them from coming in.
John thinks one of the best parts of working for this organization is that there are constant opportunities to try out new things – such as the SAAF Haven support group, a new weekly support group that John co-facilitates.
One of the challenges John faces in his job is being as resourceful as possible. “Someone comes in off the street who was recently released from prison or someone is very close to running out of medications. Many people move to the Tucson area from all around the country because they have heard that HIV care here is top-notch. A great many of those folks arrive with little or no resources and find themselves in highly stressful situations. This is the nature of the work we do here.”
Before working at SAAF, John was in the travel business for 25 years – first as a travel agent and then doing airline work for Continental Airlines and American Airlines. He spent 21 of those years working for American at a large reservation center out by the airport. Fortunately for SAAF, John was able to plan his work schedule so that he had days off during the week for volunteering. “The 9 years that I volunteered were like a part-time job.”
John and his partner of 10 years, Bill, have a 6 year old grandson they get to spend a lot of time with. Their other baby is their 11 year old Jack Russell terrier, Beau. Bill and John live in a lovely 1917 adobe house in the Dunbar Springs neighborhood which requires lots of attention. Fortunately, Bill is retired and can keep it all together!
Claire Swinford is SAAF’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) Associate. Before working for SAAF, Claire was a longtime volunteer, helping out with fundraising events and as part of the Syringe Access Program (SAP) volunteer team.
ADAP is an amazing program, but like all things insurance-related, it can sound a little dry in explanation. SAAF’s program pays insurance premiums, co-pays, and deductibles for HIV+ clients who meet financial and treatment eligibility requirements. A super cool aspect of the program is that Claire’s entire client base consists of people who, prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), were effectively uninsurable: they were denied coverage, priced out of coverage, or, at best, had to deal with multi-year ‘pre-existing condition waivers.’ These clients now have comprehensive medical insurance, including coverage for HIV related care. Thanks to Claire and ADAP, SAAF’s clients are receiving the medical treatment they need, when they need it, from their choice of providers, and they don’t have to worry about premiums and out-of-pocket costs bankrupting them.
When asked about the challenges in her position, she cites the Affordable Care Act as a sort-of double-edged sword. “The learning curve (with the ACA) is huge, and all of us – clients, medical case managers, state employees, providers, insurance companies, everyone here at SAAF, and in fact, the federal government itself – are trying to learn the specifics as we go along. Implementation is still very evolutionary; there are still upcoming issues, issues mandated by the law itself. It is constantly improving, but we still deal with a lot of growing pains, and a lot of issues nobody thought about.”
Challenges aside, Claire thinks SAAF is an amazing place to work. “The people here are wonderful, the volunteers are amazing, and the work we do is phenomenal. To me, the reason for all of that, and the real reason I love it here, is that we are truly empowered.”
When she is not at work, Claire and her partner, Jill, enjoy spending time with their dog, Abby, a shelter rescue pet. Claire also writes and has appeared in multiple queer/alternative media outlets. She is a storyteller who enjoys performance and you may even catch her at an upcoming Female Story Tellers (FST) event.
Director of Human Resources
Rich Clark is the Director of Human Resources for SAAF, a position he’s held since 2002. Before working for SAAF, Rich volunteered at SAAF’s weekly drop-in program, Walk In Wednesday.
In his position, Rich provides all aspects of human resources services, from talent management to employee relations, benefits, staff development, monitoring of policies and procedures, and compliance with employment law. He also oversees SAAF’s Facilities Manager, who is responsible for all aspects of the maintenance of the SAAF offices and the reception area, as well as the MIS Associate, who is responsible for SAAF’s computer needs.
Rich loves working for SAAF because he feels culture that has been created, nurtured, and supported at SAAF is unlike any other. “When we say (and many of us do!) that ‘we are a family’, we really mean that – not so cliché as is often the case when using that expression. Staff members genuinely care for each other; not only by helping someone that may be in another program or department different from their own, but concerned about each other as people, with lives outside of SAAF. I always feel supported, not only by my supervisor, but my peers and co-workers as well. We all bring our unique background, skills, and perspective to the table, which always help to see the best way to approach any given situation. Everyone here is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure our clients receive the services and support they need.”
Rich is originally from Buffalo, New York, where he lived until moving to Tucson in 1998. His diverse work history includes spending four years at a seminary studying to become a Franciscan priest and a training to be a gymnast. Sadly, Rich’s Olympic career was hampered early on when he fell off the high bar and broke his tailbone!
Rich relaxes by reading mystery novels, playing tennis, and hanging out with his partner, Jerry, and their tropical fish that live in a 29 gallon freshwater aquarium. Rich also enjoys jamming to the Carpenters – and jamming in general! You can check out his website (www.jamminwithricky.com) where he sells his incredibly delicious homemade jams.
Associate Director of Care and Support Services
Vera’s first time working at SAAF was as the Peer Counseling Coordinator, a position she held from 2006 to 2008. In 2008 she moved to Atlanta with her husband, Craig, and took a management position with the company that provided comprehensive assistance and training to the Tech Support and Sales Department for Model Master, a CAD/CAM software design and Machinery Company primarily servicing the jewelry industry.
Vera returned to SAAF in January 2009 and resumed her role of Peer Counseling Coordinator. In September 2009, SAAF was awarded a grant to start a new Program called Project Action/HPRP. Vera transitioned into the role of Resource Specialist for Project Action that October. In 2012, Project Action ended and the position of Peer Counseling became available once more. Vera applied and assumed the role of Peer Counseling Coordinator for the third time. In March 2014, she was promoted to the Manager of Case Management Services.
In November 2015, Vera became the Associate Director of Care and Support Services, a roll she continues to hold. In her current position, Vera supervises the traditional case management services, Peer Counseling Services and Support Services Department.
Vera’s involvement with SAAF began even before she was hired – she volunteered as a Peer Counselor for about two years. “When I was introduced to SAAF and came for a tour, I immediately fell in love with the agency. I decided to go to the trainings to get to know the organization better and found a place to serve others.
I had never worked with a non-profit or in a social service environment before SAAF. After I started volunteering as a Peer Counselor, I became aware of how unique SAAF is. People here are very dedicated to the work they do here and also to the mission. I am very proud to be a part of this big family that works for the well-being of our HIV/AIDS community.”
When she’s not at SAAF. Vera loves to spend time rock hunting with her husband and her two grandchildren, Isabela and Frankie. She also loves sewing, making beaded jewelry, and spending time with her daughter, her son-in-law, and her mother-in-law. Every Sunday you can find Vera enjoying a big all-day lunch or dinner with her entire family.
London Arango is a Case Manager at SAAF, a position he has held since April 2013. His position allows him to support SAAF clients in many ways, including by advocating on their behalf, connecting them with services in the community, and helping them apply for health insurance, to name a few. Clients can utilize London’s services as an advocate if and when they feel they are not able to articulate certain concerns – for example, when discussing health concerns with their doctor or navigating problems with their landlord, family, or spouse. “My position allows me to be a sounding board for my clients when they may feel ambivalent about different situations that arise in their lives. Clients may not have a phone or the internet to look these resources up for themselves and that’s when I can assist them.”
London’s relationship with SAAF has been both personal and professional. “I love working for SAAF, first and foremost, because I’ve been a client myself. I’ve been in the position where I’ve needed advocacy. I’ve utilized SAAF services at a time when I was not able to provide for myself. I was so grateful and thankful that these services were in existence and didn’t take it for granted. I knew that when I was able to become self-sufficient again I would resign from being a client so that others in need could have the opportunity to take advantage of all the good work that SAAF does.”
Before coming to SAAF, London worked as a Detention Officer with the Juvenile Court and is passionate about helping youth. “I absolutely loved working with the young people that were from high-risk communities, low- income communities, and youth that have to raise themselves for lack of guidance at home. I try my best to leave them with encouraging words that will inspire them to continue their journeys.”
When he’s not at SAAF, London enjoys listening to music, singing, or reading a good book. He loves singing, dancing, and acting – he took acting classes when he lived in Oakland, and has dabbled in African dance as well. When asked what other things he enjoys, London added, “I love to laugh and make others laugh, too. Laughter can cure so much.”
Case Management Coordinator
Maritza has had a diverse career since she began working at SAAF as a Bilingual Receptionist in January 2000. In her 16+ years at SAAF, she has been a Client Services Outreach Specialist, Case Manager, Senior Housing Case Manager, Housing Case Manager Coordinator, and Case Management Coordinator, the position she currently holds. As the Case Management Coordinator, Maritza oversees all of SAAF’s Case Managers, in addition to carrying her own case load of clients.
There was a brief break in her career when Maritza left SAAF – in October 2003, Maritza left SAAF to work as a Continuity Care Coordinator at El Rio Special Immunology Associates, a close collaborator with SAAF. Fortunately for SAAF, she didn’t stay away for too long, and returned to her role as Case Manager two months later. According to Maritza, “Even though I enjoyed my position at El Rio, it was not the same. SAAF is like a home away from home – when you’re here, you know you are in the right place. Though it can be difficult at times, SAAF feels safe and comfortable. When I wasn’t at SAAF, I was truly home sick.”
Maritza is incredibly passionate about housing justice. Her favorite part about working at SAAF is being able to provide a client with a place to live. She loved knowing she is helping clients; that she is able to make an impact and see the results. ““I love the clients and being able to help them; my job is very rewarding even though at times it can be difficult and stressful. Settling someone into housing – there is nothing like it.”
One of the challenges Maritza faces at SAAF is empowering clients when they feel isolated by the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. Maritza hopes that she will be able to help make more progress with breaking down stigma in all forms. She wishes that people could be seen for who they are – not just a label.
When she’s not doing amazing work at SAAF, Maritza enjoys spending time with her three incredible kids (all SAAF volunteers) her wonderful partner Monique (another amazing SAAF staff member), and their adorable Yorkie named Khloe. She loves roller coasters and Tucson sunsets, is terrified of volcanos, and refuses to swim in the ocean. She is also obsessed with horror movies, and has a notarized contract requiring her partner to watch them with her.
Director of Development
Ethan began his career at SAAF in June 2002, when he began working as the Volunteer Coordinator, a position he held until early 2004. In 2004 and 2005, he held the positions of Development Associate (6 months) and Events Coordinator (10 months).
Ethan left SAAF in June 2005 for a position as Assistant Director of Development with the Arizona Opera. Since SAAF was his first true fundraising job, Ethan explained that he wanted to see what other sorts of development programs there were outside of SAAF. During the course of 5 1/2 years, he held development positions at the Arizona Opera, the University of Arizona – College of Engineering, and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.
In November 2010, Ethan returned to SAAF as the Director of Development, a position he continues to hold. “I have always loved SAAF (even before working here, I was a volunteer), and missed the mission and wonderful people. It had always been in the back of my mind that I would return someday.”
Ethan loves that SAAF is very unique, even in the non-profit community. “Never before have I worked with such a dedicated group whose focus is so mission-based. SAAF is just an uplifting place to be and I consider my co-workers not just friends, but family, as cliché and corny as that may sound.”