Officers

Robert R. Piaro - View Bio
Board Chair
1400 Easton Drive, Suite 102
Bakersfield, CA 93309
E mail: bob.piaro@cavaf.org

Deborah Johnson - View Bio
President/CEO
1400 Easton Drive, Suite 102
Bakersfield, CA 93309
Telephone: (661) 695-3626
Fax: (661) 392-7269
E mail: deb.johnson@cavaf.org

Don Waak - View Bio
Vice Chair
1400 Easton Drive, Suite 102
Bakersfield, CA 93309

Smoki Francisco - View Bio
Board Treasurer
1400 Easton Drive, Suite 102
Bakersfield, CA 93309

Heather Kimmel - View Bio
Board Secretary
1400 Easton Drive, Suite 102
Bakersfield, CA 93309
Telephone: (661) 695-3626
Fax: (661) 392-7269
E-mail: heather.kimmel@cavaf.org


Robert R. Piaro

Robert (Bob) Piaro is a 100% disabled Vietnam Veteran, received the Purple Heart, Bronze Star with Combat V, Combat Action Ribbon, Vietnam Service Medal and various Republic of Vietnam citations. Since Vietnam, Bob has had to deal with the problems of a physical disability of the loss of his left leg, combat stress, chemical dependency and family problems. In 1985 he entered the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment program at the VAMC Tomah, WI. After he completed that program, his life took a new direction - helping other veterans with similar problems. In 1992, Bob began volunteering for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) in establishing homeless veteran programs in Wisconsin. He spent 3 months as a homeless veteran in the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans in Boston, MA to collect data for the Veterans Assistance Program (VAP) where he worked with no salary as interim director of the Veterans Rehabilitation Program.

Bob is a nationally recognized leader in homeless veteran advocacy. He travels around the country providing assistance to veterans programs and organizations. He is knowledgeable and persuasive in dealing with veterans issues with government agencies and organizations and has exercised his talent while being a pivotal actor in developing National, State and Local veterans programs. Bob has developed and continues to expand a professional knowledge of veterans problems and possible solutions. He has, as an individual, the ability to communicate with his fellow veterans on a sympathetic but no-nonsense level that gets results for them that has earned him a reputation as someone that can really help.

In January 1994, Bob established the Veterans Assistance Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation to operate Veterans Assistance Centers for the purpose of transitioning homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless veterans into society's mainstream by providing an environment where they could receive needed services to make that happen. At that time, the VAF wanted to establish a VAC in the Fox Valley region in Wisconsin. It has expanded to operate the following programs.

  • Veterans Assistance Center – King, WI. A 27-bed facility located on the grounds of the King Veterans Home near Waupaca, WI. Opened April 1995.
  • Veterans Assistance Center – Madison, WI. A 7 bed, transitional facility located on the grounds of Central Wisconsin Center in Madison, WI. Opened July 1996.
  • Veterans Assistance Center – Tomah, WI. The administrative operations of the Fort McCoy facility moved to the grounds of the VA Medical Center in Tomah in September 1998. VAC Tomah has 67 program beds
  • Resource and Referral Center – Bakersfield, CA. This is a day service program designed to provide assistance in conjunction with area service providers. 2001
  • PD Program - Bakersfield CA. A 32 bed transitional veterans program. 2003
  • Step Up-Bakersfield CA. A 9 Bed transitional veterans program. 2004
  • PDII Program - Bakersfield CA. 10 bed transitional veterans program. 2008

Professional Affiliations:

  • National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
  • Kern County Veterans Stand Down
  • Vietnam Veterans of America
  • American Legion
  • Disabled Veterans of America
  • AMVETS
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • Military Order of the Purple Heart


Deborah Johnson

Deborah Johnson is the President/CEO of the California Veterans Assistance Foundation. She is an honorably discharged Wisconsin Army National Guard veteran with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.

While serving in the Wisconsin National Guard, she served in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm from Aug 1990 to August 1991 where she received the Army Commendation Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal and the Liberation of Kuwait Medal. In addition, she was Troop Command Soldier of the Year for 1986 and received the Wisconsin Guard and Reserve Military Achievement Award.

Deborah started her career with homeless veterans in 1996 working at the Veterans Assistance Center at Fort McCoy, WI in 1996 as the Office Manager and was promoted to Director of Operations. In July 1999, she became Executive Director of the Veterans Assistance Foundation.

In January 2009, Deborah transferred to the California Veterans Assistance Foundation in Bakersfield and was named President in December of that year. She is involved with grant writing and administration of the transitional housing programs operated in Bakersfield.  

Professional Affiliations:

  • Judge Advocate, Past Post Commander, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1468, Bakersfield
  • Homeless Veteran Chairman, Department of California, Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • Secretary, Kern County Homeless Collaborative
  • Chair, Kern County Veterans Collaborative
  • Board Member, Kern County Network for Children
  • Board Member, Veterans Assistance Foundation
  • Co-chair, Kern County Veterans Stand Down
  • Member, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV)

 

Donald Waak

Commander, Alamo Area Vietnam Veterans, 1986-1988
President, Texas State Council, Vietnam Veterans of America, 1990-1992
President, Vietnam Veteran Foundation of Texas, 1992-1999
Member, National Board of Directors, Vietnam Veterans of America, 1993-1997
Member, Board of Directors, Veterans Assistance Foundation, 2001-2005
Volunteer, California Veterans Assistance Foundation, 2001-2005

US Army - 11B40 - Light Weapons Infantry Sergeant
■4/1969 - 10/1970 Vietnam - Assigned to 101st Airborne Division and USARV
■12/1970 - 5/1972 Berlin, Germany - Assigned to 6th Infantry Regiment

US Navy - Aviation Electricians Mate First Class (AE1)
■5/1974 - 2/1985 Assigned to various helicopter squadrons & ships worldwide

US Department of Veterans Affairs - Readjustment Counseling Service
■9/1988 - 9/1996 Counseling Tech and Program Assistant at several Texas Vet Centers

Professional Affiliations:

  • Life Member - VFW Post 1468 
  • Life Member - Vietnam Veterans of America

Currently 100% service connected due to service related injuries.


Smoki Francisco

Education University of California, Los Angeles, CA
Master of Science, Nursing; Family Nurse Practitioner, with specialization in Occupational and Environmental Medicine: June 1996
Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA
Bachelor of Science, Nursing: June 1973

Certification ANCC Certified Specialist, Family Nurse Practitioner
California Board of Registered Nursing, Legal Nurse Expert
License California R.N. and F.N.P. License 234281 / 8423

Academic California State University, Bakersfield School of Nursing Clinical Preceptor

Professional Catholic Healthcare West, Bakersfield, CAExperience Director, Employee Health and Workers' Compensation 2002 to Present
Regional Manager, Employee Health Services 1999 to 2001

Department of Veteran Affairs, VISN 22, Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
Administrator, Bakersfield Community Based Outpatient Clinic 2001 to 2002

Mercy Healthcare Bakersfield
Supervisor, Employee Health Services 1992 to 1999
Nurse Practitioner, Urgent Care 1996 to 2001
Human Resources Advisor, Nurse Recruiter 1990 to 1992

Kern Medical Center, Bakersfield, CA
Employee Health Nurse, and Facility Safety Officer 1989 to 1990

San Joaquin Community Hospital, Bakersfield, CA
Director, Surgical Services 1982 to 1989
Staff Nurse, Surgical Services 1981 to 1982
Associate Director, Nursing Services 1979 to 1981
Nurse Clinician, Oncology Service 1978 to 1979

California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, CA
Department of Psychological and Social Medicine
Clinical and Administrative Supervisor, Nursing Service 1976 to 1978
Charge Nurse, Acute Psychiatric Service 1975 to 1976

Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, CA
Charge Nurse, Acute Psychiatric Service 1974 to 1975
Charge Nurse, Oncology/Hematology Service 1973 to 1974

Academic 1994 CSUB School of Nursing Research Award
Scholarships 1995 Sara Jenks Educational Scholarship Award, Occupational Health Nursing
1995 & 1996 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Grant

Memberships:

  • American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
  • California State University School of Nursing Advisory Board, Graduate Division
  • California Central Valley Occupational Health Nurses Association
  • Kern County Nurse Practitioner/ Physician Assistant Association
  • Kern County Homeless Task Force, Clinica Sierra Vista Homeless Shelter

 

Heather Kimmel

Heather Kimmel is a Bakersfield native, who graduated from North High School, and then attended Bakersfield College. She spent 6 years as the Site Supervisor of an afterschool program for North of the River (NOR) Parks and Recreation Department. After that program lost funding she started her career with homeless veterans. Heather joined CVAF in 2009 as the Operation Assistant, was promoted to the Operations Director in February of 2010 and Executive Director in April of 2010.

Since becoming an employee of CVAF she has had the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. In the time that followed she married Steve Kimmel and expanded her family: she has two wonderful children, Aubrey and Gabriel.

It has become Heathers professional goal to offer assistance to every veterans she meets. "Even though I am not a veteran myself, I have many family members who served, allowing me to understand and uphold the motto, Veterans Helping Veterans."

Professional Affiliations:

  • Community Liaison, Kern County Veterans Collaborative
  • Co-Chair, Kern County Veterans Stand Down
  • National Coalition for Homeless Veterans