Board MembersMeet the board!
President and Co-Founder
Joseph Burton is a resilient individual who does not let unfortunate circumstances dictate the outcomes of his life. Joseph was raised in group homes and foster homes throughout his life and while in these homes he was placed on many forms of medication that resulted into him becoming obese. Joseph also has a disease known as Retinitis Pigmentosa and was told by his 20th birthday and he would become blind. Since Joseph’s 24th birthday, he has lost over 100 pounds by converting his lifestyle to an all-around wellness lifestyle. Joseph is the president, creator, and founder of the Hearts For Sight Foundation, where his goal for the organization is to provide superior nutrition, adaptive fitness, and occupational development services to the blind and visually impaired communities including those with diabetes. Joseph is an inspiration to many in the blind and visually impaired community. His energy and enthusiasm for life shows through his willingness to do whatever it takes to create opportunities for others around him.
Vice-President and Co-Founder
Racquel Decipeda recently earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services and Management from the University of Phoenix. She had been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and also has moderate bilateral hearing loss, but had never let her disability stop her from living a full, productive, and independent life. Racquel’s passion is to work with blind people like herself and other people with disabilities. Racquel is also a member of the San Fernando Valley chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California and chairperson of the Membership Building Committee, Events and Workshops Planning, Sports and Activities Committee, and Best in Tech Planning Committee. Racquel serves as secretary and member of Board of Director for the Audio Internet Reading Service of Los Angeles (AIRSLA), a nonprofit organization that records a wide variety of podcasts for people with low vision or dyslexia. Racquel is also a member of the Parents-Professional Advisory group at the Therapeutic Living centers for the Blind. Racquel’s personal mission statement is “I do not let my blindness stop me from living the life I want”, and that’s what she hopes to share and advocate to everyone and to the clients of Hearts For Sight Foundation.
Board Member, Therapeutic Chef
Patricia Garrovillo was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called ulcerative colitis in 2012. It became part of her life mission to heal by learning to make delicious, nourishing meals for herself. When she found improvements in her health, she decided to attend Bauman College: Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Berkeley, CA. She is a recent Certified Natural Chef graduate from the school. While in Northern California, she assisted Chef Lizette Marx, cookbook writer and instructor, to guide several doctors on how to create healthy meals and its connection to healing and wellness at Kaiser Permanente and Back to the Table Cooking School. She worked in Berkeley’s Three Stone Hearth, the nation’s first community-supported kitchen that turns local farm-fresh produce into nutrient-dense, freshly prepared foods for the community. She has also attained valuable experience and wisdom from Chef Trudy Schafer, holistic chef and instructor, during her visit to Marin County for the Ceres Community Project that supports individuals dealing with serious illness, like cancer, with free, delivered and nutrient-rich prepared meals made from the Chef and her assistant volunteers. As part of the nation’s No Kid Hungry campaign, Patricia has volunteered several hours with Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program, in both Northern California and Los Angeles communities, empowering families with skills to stretch their food budget and cook healthy meals. Patricia Garrovillo believes that being healthy doesn’t mean to completely give up favorite dishes on a strict diet, but to alter them with familiar and comforting flavors that are more nutritious.
Jose L. Dimas
Board Member, Chief Financial Officer
Jose L. Dimas started his real estate and banking career in 1992 where he helped dreams come true for families and individuals who thought they would never own a home. Several years later, Joe became an office branch manager for Fixed Rate Funding and was their lead trainer. His uncanny ability to motivate and inspire those around him allowed Joe to find great success within the mortgage industry. In 2013, Joe was asked to bring his charismatic energy and his motivating abilities to Marquez Products for Independent Living. He currently assists with promotions, consulting, and financial advising for Marquez Products. Since this time, Joe Dimas has continued to work with seniors and individuals within the blind and low vision communities. Joe is a proud member of the Atwater Village Lions Club Chapter where he supports the clubs mission to empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding. He serves as Chairmen of the Membership Committee. Joe Dimas’ body of knowledge and perspective has allowed Hearts for Sight Foundation to move forward in our mission. Joe currently serves as the organizations Chief Financial Officer.
Jorge Marquez has a special insight and passion for enhancing the lives of the visually challenged. He started working for the Braille Institute of America in 1986 through his summer high school program. While attending California State University, Jorge continued to work for the Braille Institute enhancing the lives for visually challenged persons. Jorge’s educational background in teaching Spanish Literature has allowed him to have many blind/ visually impaired persons gravitate towards him. He continued to service individuals at the Braille Institute of America because he says, “Even though I am fully sighted, I appreciate the Braille Institute for creating the opportunity for me to help, assist, and support blind/visually impaired people”.
In April 2012, Jorge took an early retirement from the Braille Institute and created his own business called “Marquez Products for Independent Living”. Jorge sells special products for the blind/visually impaired that enable independence and self-sufficiency. He says “he enjoys his job because he is making a difference in the lives of those who need it most. When people buy my products, I enjoy seeing them happy.” Jorge has a strong passion for life and it shows through his character to go above and beyond for the people he serves. Whether that is through traveling from San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, or Santa Barbara Counties as well as the desert cities, his passion is to help the blind is unmatched.
Dr. Bill Takeshita
Dr. Bill Takeshita is an optometrist who specializes in low vision rehabilitation. He is the chief of optometry at the Center for the Partially Sighted in Los Angeles, CA and he is the consulting director of low vision at the Braille Institute. Dr. Bill ironically lost his vision at the age of 49-years due to a retinal disorder. He states that his personal experience of losing his vision has given him very special insight that has allowed him to overcome his blindness.
Board Member, Technical Advisor
Charlie Richardson lost his sight at the age of 20 to Optic Neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve, which the cause was unknown. Though this was a tragic event for Charlie and his family, the real tragedy would have been to let it stop him from living life.
After completing a certificate program for computer programming at Baruch College in New York City, Charlie took advantage of a work experience program through the Northeastern Association of the Blind of Albany and Rockefeller College, later being hired as a regular employee. A few years later, with the encouragement of friends and family, Charlie entered the Business Enterprise Program in New York and made that a 20 year career. In the last 10 he served as Chairman of the Elected Committee of Blind Vendors working with the Commission for the Blind on administering the program. Charlie also served as Chairman of the New York State Association of Blind Vendors, Chapter president of the National Federation of the Blind Capitol District, a board member for the National Federation of the Blind of New York, a board member of the State Rehab Council for New York and Co-chair of the Executive Board for the Commission for the Blind in New York.
While living in Southern California Charlie was approached to serve as a board member for Hearts for Sight. Charlie, while at one time in his life being a self-proclaimed “Health Nut,” believes in proper nutrition and exercise is the key to combating disease and ailments that most people accept as part of getting old. Charlie also believes in giving back to the community and touching as many lives as he can directly and indirectly.
Charlie acts as a technical advisory member of the Hearts for Sight board since moving on to Florida.
Natalie Nankin, R.N., M.S.
Natalie Nankin, R.N., M.S. is a native Californian. She attended Mt. Sinai School of Nursing where she obtained an R.N. degree in 1954. Subsequently, she attended the University of Redlands and obtained a B.S. degree and a M.S. degree in Nutrition. She has practiced in several medical fields (surgery, transplant coordinator at UCLA, nutritionist in Century City specializing in diabetes and private practiced in nutrition.) Natalie has lectured and been involved with diabetes education for the Braille Institute, Audio Internet Reading Service Los Angeles (AIRSLA), Accessible World, and the Center for the Partially Sighted. She is happily married, had two children and five grandchildren and lives in Encino California.
Dr. Gerald Nankin, O.D. M.OPT.
Dr. Gerald Nankin is a Native Californian who attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he obtained his A.A. and B.S. degrees. He then attended U.C. School of Optometry, where he obtained his Master of Optometry and Doctor of Optometry degrees. Dr. Nankin has been in private practice, specializing in contact lenses, visual therapy, and low vision since 1955. Dr. Jerry found many ways to give back to his community by providing contact lenses lectures, donated his time for the Los Angeles Free Clinic, Audio Internet Reading Service Los Angeles (AIRSLA), and Center for the Partially Sighted. He is happily married with two children and five grandchildren. Dr. Nankin is newly retired and living in Encino California.
Sheila Biglang-awa is an enthusiastic outgoing person. She went to college for 2 years to work on her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She has a passion in fashion and interior designing and took Arts & Design course as a hobby. She used her people-oriented skills in Marketing, Sales, Promotions, and Advertising which allowed her to work her way up from a position of a Store Activities Representative to a Store Marketing Manager. She was given recognition after breaking the record of generating the highest sales for 2 years. After having that promotion with this achievements, she was given an opportunity to work in another company and was offered a higher position as a Marketing Director. However, Sheila’s life drastically changed after she lost her sight from a traumatic car accident. After hearing the prognosis and diagnosis, she did not let her blindness stop her from living a fulfilling life that she once had. Sheila went to the Braille Institute in L.A. to learn independent living skills that helped her adjust on how to cope with her visual loss. Sheila then studied at The California Healing Arts and became a licensed Massage Therapist. She mainly focused on alternative, preventive and holistic approach that heightened her techniques in the arts of healing energy that gave her an opened door to meet people from different walks of life. This led to a new challenge as she took over the massage business with her husband and associates. She is an active member of God’s Team Intercessory ministry. She’s also a supportive member of the National Federation of the Blind in the San Fernando Valley where she helps with coordinating seminars and activities. She is The Hearts for Sight Fundraising Chair Person. Sheila’s outlook on life is that blindness shouldn’t be a hindrance. Amidst of all her challenges with God’s grace and her faith, Sheila sees life beautifully.