Founding Fathers, Working for Change
A vineyard worker, a Catholic priest, and two fraternity brothers; in 1967, this unlikely foursome forged a powerful bond that’s stretched across time and geography to impact more than 500,000 lives and growing.
Aurelio Hurtado was a Mexican immigrant working at a Napa winery when he attended a speech by Cesar Chavez and became so inspired that he could barely contain himself. Back at work he told anyone who would listen about changes underway to improve conditions for farmworkers.
Gerald Cox was a catholic priest serving in Oakland in 1953 when he organized the first-ever house meeting for Cesar Chavez and found himself at the forefront of a powerful movement. By the 1960s, Cox was working in Santa Rosa and forming a life-changing association of his own.
Louis Flores was born to parents who worked the Bay Area shipyards. He served in the Navy, attended Fresno State University, and became an electrical engineer and then an attorney. As success came to him, Flores kept sight of his roots. He felt strongly about social justice for Latinos and stayed close to his fraternity brother George Ortiz, who felt the same way.
George Ortiz grew up in East Los Angeles as an exceptional athlete. He attended Fresno State University on a track scholarship, earned a degree in Social Science, and took a job as social worker in Sonoma County—where he met Aurelio Hurtado and Gerald Cox and reconnected with Lou Flores.
By 1967, the four men had formed a grassroots alliance and created a non-profit social service agency, first called North Bay Human Development Corporation and later California Human Development (CHD).
The efforts of CHD’s founding fathers—Aurelio Hurtado, Gerald Cox, Louis Flores, and George Ortiz—continue today through six divisions of service, giving 25,000 people a year in 31 northern California counties a hand up in pursuit of the American Dream.
1972 I heard about a organization that helped chicanos find employment. I walked up the stairs of a office located behind another office on Mendocino ave. As I inquired with Rosa Luna, receptionist, about employment, a man came out and introduced himself to me, I’m George Ortiz. From that moment my life changed forever. I served on the Board for both Chdc and nbhdc. Helped develop parkway plaza, aytch plaza, majal plaza, farmworker program with the old warrior, John Lanosa, redwood empire industries, healdsburg day labor center, homeless services. And, always with George’s support, we did much more. Aurelio, Chris Paige, bob jordan, tony, Paul, ed kissam,scores more. My life is perfect thanks to me climbing those stairs 40+years ago. Nathan E. Acuña