City of Palm Springs Human Rights Commission to present annual Community Service Awards

The City of Palm Springs Human Rights Commission will honor six individuals and one organization for outstanding contributions promoting and protecting human rights, social progress, better standards of life, and equality for all individuals at their annual Community Service Awards on Monday, Feb. 13.

The event will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 3200 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way.

Nominees have improved the quality of life for greater Palm Springs residents over the course of many years. They have helped unhoused individuals, senior citizens, LGBTQ+ youth and families, active-duty military and veterans, people living with HIV, communities of color, and musical performers.

This year’s honorees are the following individuals:

Bettye Cotton is recognized for promoting human rights throughout the Coachella Valley. She has reached out and positively impacted active-duty military members and veterans who have visited the local American Legion Post from across the State of California and nation. Cotton greets all visitors with kindness, grace, humor and love. She has volunteered in the position of “greeter” for nearly 20 years. She makes veterans and active-duty personnel feel at home when they are often far away from their own homes. She has provided information to those seeking help and advice on issues of homelessness, food insecurity, drug and alcohol problems and many other areas of that affect human rights.

Tori St. Johns has been involved with supporting youth and advocating for LGBTQ+ youth in the Coachella Valley for the last three decades. In 1998 she co-founded Gay Associated Youth and is currently on the Board of State Schools Desert Cities which empowers LGBTQ youth and facilitates the Rainbow Youth Summit in March, Pride Prom in May, Palm Springs Pride Youth Zone, and other LGBTQ+ leadership trainings. This will be Tori’s 26th year at Desert Sands Unified School District – Student Assistance Program helping all students. She has been involved in the formation and activities of the Gay, Straight Alliance Clubs at five high schools in DSUSD and the GSA’s in the Coachella Valley.

Dan Gore is the owner of Oscar’s Palm Springs. For the past 7 years, Gore has hosted an annual Christmas Cheer feast to brighten the spirits of those who may be apart from friends and family or are otherwise disenfranchised. The restaurant serves about 100 free breakfasts on Christmas morning to anyone in our community experiencing housing and food insecurity. The food is served by a group of more than 40 volunteers and local radio station KGAY 106.5 provides music and an emcee on site. Housing insecurity in Palm Springs has been a growing issue and according to census data, about 17% of residents live in poverty. Gore starts his Christmas morning at about 6 am walking around downtown and spreading the word that Oscar’s will be serving free breakfast.
PFLAG Palm Springs/Desert Communities was founded in Palm Springs in 1991 by George and Jacquie Spencer. The chapter was established to help others unlearn homophobia inherent in the socialization process. The couple later received their nonprofit designation in March 1994. PFLAG is the first and largest organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and their families. June 25th, 2022 marked 50 years since PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford’s historic march with her son, prominent gay activist Morty Manford, at the 1972 Christopher Street Liberation March.

Jase Nagaia sought his fitness professional certification during the pandemic because he saw the impact of COVID on communities of color who live with health disparities. Jase founded Endeavor to provide the community with a low impact fitness course taught in Demuth Park and has been teaching the group fitness class since 2021. The classes are free, removing the barrier of income to residents who now benefit from personal instruction, but might not otherwise be able to afford a membership to a traditional gym or a personal trainer. As a person of color who at times felt like an outsider in the fitness world, Jase understands the importance of representation. His mission is to create and promote a diverse fitness environment that is inclusive of everyone, regardless of age, body type, fitness level, gender identity, or ethnicity. He wants everyone to feel welcome to wellness so that they can focus on what is most important, their health.

Brett Klein has worked beside business and community leaders, volunteers and service groups for over 30 years. He is the past President of HIV + Aging Research Project – Palm Springs (HARP-PS), which is focused on HIV + Aging research studies to improve the lives of those living with and affected by the disease. Brett has served on the board of Dining Out for Life International, coordinates an annual dining fundraising event raising money for community-based organizations serving people living with or impacted by HIV. He has been involved with AIDS/Life Cycle for over 23 years as a rider and roadie volunteer. Brett is recognized as a biking advocate helping to enhance the safety of biking in Palm Springs. He has served on the Palm Springs Sustainability Commission and strongly believes in building connections as a service leader when it comes to his personal and business life.

Gary Moline is credited with forming the Palm Springs Desert Winds Freedom Band in 2021. After 25 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Gary and his husband, Larry Chew, moved to Palm Springs. They discovered that there was a Gay Men’s Chorus, but no Gay Band. They put up flyers, secured a recruitment booth at the Palm Springs Pride Festival, held organizational meetings, and began rehearsing with eight musicians. Gary’s vision paid off when the first formal concert with 25 musicians was held at the Church of St. Paul in Palm Springs. The Desert Winds Freedom Band has grown into a full-fledged symphonic concert band, jazz band, and marching band, and several small ensembles. The band participates in many community activities. The membership is as diverse as the audiences that enjoy the band perform.

Established in 1992, the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission is a six-member commission of volunteer citizens with one non-voting student representative appointed by the City Council for three-year terms. The commission’s mission is to promote and protect the diversity of our community and to improve human relations through education and community awareness.


Image Sources

  • Human Rights Are Not Optional: Pexels