Weekend transgender employment event aims to break barriers and build community

‘Empower and Employ’ goes beyond job fair to provide vital resources, support, and raise awareness for inclusive employment practices within the transgender community.

Organizers of Saturday’s Trans Pride “Empower and Employ” event, set to take place at Frances Stevens Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., are hoping for more than just a gathering. They hope to provide a lifeline for the transgender community – a community celebration that goes beyond the confines of a typical job fair, embodying the spirit of inclusion and opportunity. 

Renae Punzalan, outreach director of the Transgender Health and Wellness Center, which is orchestrating the event, shares a vision that transcends the commercialization often seen in large-scale Pride events. 

“Because Pride Day has become so corporate and commercial, we wanted to make this about employment opportunities, connecting folks to vital resources, and spread awareness about the disparity of trans life that is happening all over the country,” Punzalan said, highlighting the event’s focus on tangible support and awareness.

The stakes for employment within the transgender community are particularly high. It’s not just about finding a good fit; it’s about discovering spaces that are genuinely inclusive, where healthcare needs are met, and a sense of community is palpable. Last year’s event saw participation from big names like Amazon as well as the city of Palm Springs, signaling a shift towards more inclusive employment practices.


Creating safe spaces: Palm Springs facility offers refuge, support for LGBTQ+ teens facing bullying and other challenges

  • Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Ron deHarte (center) is flanked Renae Punzalan (left), director of outreach for the Transgender Health & Wellness Center, and Thomi Clinton (right), CEO of the Center. (Photo: Skylar Kardon)

  • The Marsha P. Johnson Youth Drop-in Center, officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Sunday, aims to help combat mental and physical health risks for youth age 13 to 18.

For gay teens, life at school can be a living hell. Sara Yoshida knows this first-hand.

After being outed at her school, the 14-year-old endured bullying and threats to her safety. “The boys told me if I went out with them, they could change me,” she said. “One boy said if I didn’t go out with him, he would kill my whole family.”

School officials eventually intervened, prohibiting the boy from contacting Sara for the remainder of the year. But the scars remain for Sara, who currently serves as president of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance.

Gay and lesbian teens like Sara often face increased anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder. Following her ordeal, Sara began carrying a stuffed fox for comfort.


Saving the Pink Elephant: Nonprofit Preservation Mirage Works to Restore an Important Part of Rancho Mirage’s History

The pink elephant sign was installed in Rancho Mirage in 1966. Credit: Gregg Felsen

Seeing “pink elephants” is a euphemism for drunken hallucinations—but people driving down Highway 111 through Rancho Mirage have been seeing a pink elephant for decades, without having touched a drop.

The pachyderm in question is the iconic sign for the Elephant Car Wash, at 71490 Highway 111, which for 60 years has been a tourist-photo magnet. However, the sign—originally designed by Beatrice Haverfield, known as the “Queen of Neon”—has been starting to show its age, and is now the subject of a restoration effort.

“The color is fading. It’s peeling off; there are holes in it; the facade is not watertight,” said Nathan Jacroux, treasurer of the nonprofit group Preservation Mirage. “It will be restored to its original bright pink color, which we tracked down, and neon tubing. We need to raise approximately $40,000.”


Culinary Cool: The First Palm Springs Food and Wine Festival Is Packed With Foodie Star Power

Andrew Warner, corporate chef at Tommy Bahama.

The first Palm Springs Food and Wine Festival, taking place Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 11 and 12, will bring lovers of fine food and wine together with more than a dozen celebrated chefs, bites from numerous local restaurants, and tastings by 50 of California’s outstanding wineries.

“Palm Springs has the hip, trendy and bohemian chef-owned restaurants that will be highlighted in this event,” said Jeff Hocker, the executive producer of the festival. “We’ll be introducing some amazing foods from chef-owned restaurants, such as the Pink Cabana, SO.PA, the Colony Club, Workshop and others in the valley. Also, we’re bringing in some of the coolest musicians that will perform in very chill areas while sipping fine boutique wines and eating samples of unique and inspired cuisine.”

Celebrity chefs scheduled to participate include Susan Feniger, Martin Yan, Top Chef alum Joe Sasto and Brown Sugar Kitchen’s Tanya Holland, among others.


Helping the Poorest: The Galilee Center Plans to Double in Size to Meet the Ever-Growing Need for Services in the Eastern Coachella Valley

The Galilee Center gave backpacks containing school supplies to more than 880 children in late August, thanks to financial assistance from the Bighorn Golf Club, the Cultivating Inland Empire Latino Opportunity Fund and private donations.

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my followers to go on to Galilee, and they will see me there.” —Matthew 28:10

Thirteen years ago, those words prompted Gloria Gomez to start the Galilee Center in Mecca.

She had just quit her job and was, in her own words, “scared, diabetic, unemployed, no income, and getting older.” She said she asked herself, “Where is Galilee?”—and soon knew she had to help the “poorest of the poor.”


Home Away From Home:
The Inland Empire Ronald McDonald House Honors 10 Locals as ‘A Few Good Men and Women’

The family of Thermal resident Valerie Espinoza has stayed at the Ronald McDonald House multiple times. “My grandmother always said, ‘You’ve got to keep going. You can succeed; you’re still young and have a lot of energy. Be strong and have faith,’” Valerie said.

The Inland Empire Ronald McDonald House will present its annual “A Few Good Men and Women Awards” to 10 philanthropic locals at a gala on Friday, Sept. 29, at the Agua Caliente Casino Spa Resort in Rancho Mirage.

Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, more than 50 miles away from the Coachella Valley, is the closest place for many critically ill local children to get treatment. The Ronald McDonald House, within walking distance of the hospital, provides support, meals, a place to stay and more for the families of patients. It’s one of 377 Ronald McDonald House programs operating in 45 countries and regions around the world.


Behind Closed Doors? The Drag-Queen ‘Culture Wars’ Come to a La Quinta Neighborhood—and Bring up Questions About Transparency

This April 10 event invite was rescinded two days later after Trilogy residents voiced unspecified “concerns.”

On April 10, the Trilogy at La Quinta homeowners’ association announced a bingo evening, scheduled for May 18, to be hosted by local drag queen Rusty Waters.

Two days later, the HOA took it back.

In the April 12 message to residents, the Trilogy at La Quinta Maintenance Association board said unspecified “concerns” had been “voiced by some members of our community regarding Mr. Waters,” causing the event to be “modified.”


Reciprocal Rescue:
The Coachella Valley Horse Rescue Helps Horses—and Those Horses Help People in Need

Sean Harrington, the veteran mentor program director, and a horse show each other some love.

Even when someone is at rock bottom, there may still be hope.

Daryn LaVoie came back from Iraq suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I was haunted by what I saw and fell into a depression and started drinking,” he said. “Then when my father died, it got much worse.”

He realized he missed the camaraderie he had in the military. “Veterans need to find other people like them (who know) what they’ve been through,” he said. “I really missed the kinship I had with my fellow soldiers.”

One night after drinking too much, he went to bed with a loaded .38 handgun—which went off. The bullet passed through his temple, hitting his optic nerves; surgeons had to remove both eyes. Four months in an induced coma were followed by two years of rehabilitation at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

The camaraderie was still missing—but LaVoie found it at the Coachella Valley Horse Rescue, a nonprofit that rescues horses which have been abused or neglected, or were destined for slaughter.


Advocates Needed:
The Roost Lounge Is Offering Drag and Comedy Events to Benefit Voices for Children

Comedian and Palm Springs resident Jason Stuart is one of the performers at the Comedy Night Dinner Show and Live Auction. “I love doing benefits with people in the audience who are there to support another human,” he says.

The Roost Foundation is celebrating Easter Sunday with two special events—both of which will benefit Voices for Children.

At 10 a.m., Sunday, April 9, the Roost Lounge will host the Easter Bonnet Brunch, with a drag show starring Deja Skye; an Easter bonnet contest and parade; and an Easter-basket auction. Then at 5 p.m., the Roost will be the site of the Comedy Night Dinner Show and Live Auction, featuring comedians Laurie Kilmartin, Jason Stuart, Mina Hartong and Nicky Paris.

Voices for Children is a nonprofit organization that provides volunteer court appointed special advocates (CASAs) to children in foster care in San Diego and Riverside counties. Comedian, actor and Palm Springs resident Jason Stuart said he’s thrilled to be taking part in the Comedy Night Dinner Show.


Coffee and Community: Yes Please Café and Dessert Shop Is Quickly Winning Fans in Old Town La Quinta

In the mornings, the aroma of fresh roasted coffee hangs over Old Town La Quinta—thanks to the Yes Please café and dessert shop, which is a labor of love for its owner, Gina Mallano.

She opened the café in Old Town La Quinta in the summer of 2022. Outside, there are tables, heaters and umbrellas, with views of the Santa Rosa Mountains; inside, there are small tables, neatly placed.


Make a Feline Friend: After Numerous Delays, the Frisky Business Cat Café Is Finally Open in Palm Springs

Claire Rogers (left) with Sanatra the cat and Melody, the woman who adopted him. Credit: Sonny Von Cleveland

Feeling stressed? Fancy a coffee or scone while a cat curls up on your lap? Then the Frisky Business Palm Springs Cat Café is the purr-fect place for you.

The first cat café in the Coachella Valley opened in December, allowing customers to read, catch up on some work or simply relax—while enjoying the company of friendly felines.

In the “cat lounge,” you can chill out on colorful comfy couches, or use tables and chairs in the company of cats roaming freely—walking, playing, making friends or sleeping. But mind your feet, because there are cats on the floor, along with cat toys, cat beds, scratching posts and more.


DeAnn Lubell lost her beloved rescue terrier, Amy, to a coyote attack in Yucca Valley three years ago.

From tragedy comes purpose: Benefit concert aims to address valley vet shortage

A non-profit dedicated to educating the public about the danger pets face from predators is getting help from some local icons to solve a daunting issue.

The sudden loss of a beloved animal companion three years ago spurred one desert resident into action, hoping to spare others from the grief she experienced. Now she’s getting help from a Coachella Valley icon.

DeAnn Lubell lost her beloved rescue terrier, Amy, to a coyote attack in Yucca Valley three years ago. She says the experience had a lasting impact.

“I went outside with my two dogs and left just for a couple of minutes to go inside to get a cup of tea,” she says. “When I came back, I saw three coyotes tearing Amy up. It was the most traumatic thing I ever experienced in my life.”


Japan Installs Caution Signal for Sex Traffic

Japan has revised its criminal law to stipulate human trafficking as a crime and punish those involved. Activists, however, remain alarmed by foreign-staffed sex parlors that have made the country a haven for traffickers.

TOKYO (WOMENSENEWS)–There are about 10,000 parlors in Japan that offer sex to patrons.

Many advertise that they have foreign women by using such names as Filipina Pub, Russian Bar or Thai Delight. The patrons pay $60 to $100 for drinks and then an additional $150 to $300 to take women out of the bar to have sex with them.

Most of these women come to Japan on falsified passports or with entertainer or short-term visas, says Hidenori Sakanaka, who until a year ago was the director of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau. They are told that they have to pay off fake debts and their passports often are taken away upon arrival in Japan. The women are beaten and controlled by threats to family members in their home countries.

“Most women are moved from place to place and are too scared to complain,” Sakanaka says.

Sakanaka, who now directs the Japan Aid Association for North Korean Returnees, is credited with pushing through revisions to the law to combat trafficking while in his former post. Passed by the National Diet last month, it has helped abate international concerns about a country that has long been criticized for a too-tolerant an approach to trafficking.

On Saturday, the National Police Agency said police had uncovered 29 cases of human trafficking of foreign women from January to the end of June, up by five from the same period last year.


Pet-Care Crisis: A Shortage of Workers, an Increase in Adoptions and Systemic Problems Have Led to Long Waits for Appointments at Local Animal Hospitals

Ann Woods is the founder and president of Kittyland, a nonprofit shelter and sanctuary for cats in Desert Hot Springs. She regularly receives phone calls from distraught owners seeking veterinary attention for their beloved pets—including a recent call from one person who said she could not get a vet appointment for her cat until July.

“The cat could be dead by then,” Woods said.

Through her work with Kittyland, Woods has seen firsthand how the pandemic has placed unprecedented strain on the veterinary industry, with the Coachella Valley having too few vets and staffers for the number of pets needing help.