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Meet Our Staff


Heidi Boynton
Executive Director

Heidi joined Jacob’s Heart in 2020 after years of working in the nonprofit sector, building programs, fundraising and connecting the community through events and partnerships. Heidi works to build relationships within the communities we serve to support the work of Jacob’s Heart and ensure families are cared for with dignity and respect and without interruption. Heidi is a 21-year cancer survivor, and you can learn more about her by watching her TedX Santa Cruz talk here. Heidi holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership, is certified in Multidisciplinary Pediatric Palliative Care through the Shiley Institute, and completed the Stanford University Graduate School of Business’s Nonprofit Management Institute. To connect with Heidi, email her at

Mary Smith
Family Services Director


Mary joined Jacob’s Heart in 2018 as a Family Support Specialist.  Prior to Jacob’s Heart, she was a Social Worker for the Department of Children and Family Services for 20 years, working with children and families involved in the foster care system.  


Mary’s role at Jacob’s Heart is to ensure that families receive compassionate and individualized support and guidance as they face medical challenges and beyond. 


When her niece had complex medical needs, Mary saw first hand how much her support team made a difference in her family’s ability to face challenges and celebrate milestones. Mary is a graduate of San Jose State University with a Bachelor’s in Social Work.

Family Services & Programs


Maria Santillan 
Family Services Manager

Maria brings 8 years of experience working with nonprofit healthcare organizations to her role at Jacob’s Heart as a Family support Specialist. Maria was born and raised in Watsonville, and she stays committed to serving her community.She first learned about Jacob’s Heart and the cancer journey from her warrior niece. Her mission is to meet family needs and be of support to all families going through the cancer journey themselves. In her free time she enjoys family time, going for walks, hiking, and the beach. 


Esmeralda Rivera Luna
Family Support Specialist


During Esme’s last year of college, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Through her family’s journey with this illness, their social worker made a huge positive impact in their lives. This is when Esme knew that she wanted to become a Medical Social Worker, to give back to others when facing challenging times. Esme noticed how important it is to have a strong support system to be able to focus on the care of their loved one, and is now honored to provide support and meet family’s needs as a Family Support Specialist. Esme received her Bachelor’s degree in Collaborative Health and Human Services with a concentration in Social Work from California State University Monterey Bay and plans to continue her education in the Social work field.

Yasmin Garcia Ramirez
Family Support Specialist


Yasmin earned her Bachelor's degree in Child Development with an emphasis in Social and Community Settings at California State University Sacramento. As a Family Support Specialist, Yasmin works directly with the families of Jacob’s Heart. She strives to help families succeed and meet the needs of families. Yasmin is passionate in helping out her community and believes families should get as much resources and help as they can, especially when facing challenging times.

Iris Garcia Estrada
Family Support Specialist


Iris connected with Jacob’s Heart upon completing her Bachelor's degree at California State University Monterey Bay with a concentration in Social Work and Public Health. Following her mother’s passing in 2020 from breast cancer, she witnessed firsthand the need of having a strong support system in place to ensure that their loved ones receive the finest treatment possible. As a Family Support Specialist, Iris is now privileged to offer assistance and attend to the needs of families that Jacob’s Heart serves.

Kimberly Berelleza
Family Support Specialist


Kimberly's empathy and compassion has paved the way for her professional career. She attended CSUMB and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Collaborative Health & Human Services with a focus on Social Work and Public Administration. She is a dog mom to Charlie and loves a good romance book. On her off time she loves to spend time with her dog, family, and friends. Kimberly's goal is to be a reliable source for families at Jacob's Heart during a very challenging time by bringing kindness, commitment, and a positive outlook. The experience she’s gained working with children with disabilities as well as adults in need of community resources, has prepared her for her journey at Jacob’s Heart.


Brianna Jimenez
Family Programs Manager

Brianna’s journey with Jacob’s Heart began in 2023. Driven by a commitment to make a difference and bring smiles to others, she found her way to Jacob’s Heart, where the mission and values deeply resonate with her core beliefs. She believes that being a part of this incredible organization is more than a job; it is a commitment to positive change. Brianna holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Business Management from California State University, Monterey Bay. After graduating, she discovered the nonprofit sector was for her. Brianna is dedicated to playing a significant part in enhancing the lives of those Jacob’s Heart serves. 

Valeria Vazquez
Full Hearts Supervisor


Growing up, Valeria always had a passion for helping others and bringing people together. As the middle child of six siblings, unity and collaboration played a huge role in forming her values. It taught her not only patience but the knowledge and desire to want to help others in any way possible. She knows from first-hand experience that a small act of kindness can impact someone's life in a positive way, and continues to do this in her role at Jacob's Heart. Valeria helps families meet their basic needs by managing the Full Hearts Grocery Program, and Caroline's Closet

Yuritza Arciga
Transportation Supervisor

Yuritza has embraced different roles during her time at Jacob's Heart, allowing her to gain diverse perspectives and enrich her experiences. In addition to continuing to help families in need, she hopes to earn her Master's of Social Work at the California State University of Monterey Bay. Yuritza appreciates that the Transportation Program offers reliable transportation and has its own drivers who become familiar to families. By establishing a relationship with families, this program makes them feel comfortable and secure while being transported. Yuritza knows first hand what it's like to have a parent face language barriers in a medical setting. She believes bilingual services eliminate the burden families already have to deal with after receiving a devastating diagnosis. She recognizes that her role is crucial for those facing language barriers and is pleased to know that families can count on her to help them with transportation. 

Argenis Ramirez
Family Programs Coordinator

Argenis is the Family Programs Coordinator. He joined the Jacob’s Heart team in 2023. Argenis has always enjoyed helping and putting smiles on peoples faces. Everyday he is excited to come to work and see all the passion, dedication and effort the team puts in to create a positive impact on the lives of the Jacob’s Heart families. Outside of work, Argenis enjoys spending time with his son and daughter.

Behavioral Health

Alham Rodriguez, PhD LMFT
Clinical Director


Alham joined the Jacob’s Heart team in December 2023. Alham is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist that joins the team with over 12 years of experience working with children, adolescents, adults, and families in the community. Alham’s work in the community has focused on providing mental health treatment in settings such as community mental health agencies, families in the foster care system, outpatient clinics, and private practice. Alham’s personal experiences with cancer have contributed to his passion for helping to make a difference in the families that are going through similar difficult times. Alham holds a Doctorate degree in Counselor Education and Supervision and a master’s degree in Counseling with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy.

Sandy Montes, MSW
Behavioral Health Manager


Experiencing first-hand how support from the community can help someone succeed in life is what sparked Sandy's passion for giving back to her community. Sandy has had many roles within Jacob’s Heart that have strengthened her knowledge to meet the psychological needs of families. Sandy holds a Master’s of Social Work from CSUMB and promotes social justice, work with communities that are marginalized, and is gaining hours to become bicultural/bilingual therapist helping families navigate the journeys they face.

Lizette Ramos
Behavioral Health Clinician


In the heart of Watsonville, Lizette has dedicated herself to making connections and providing essential support to her community. As a bilingual Social Worker, she excels in inspiring community connection and cultivating strong relationships with diverse families. For Lizette, social work is more than just providing services; it’s about being a support system. Rooted in Lizette’s upbringing in Watsonville and an agricultural family, she has a deep understanding of the unique challenges faced by the community.

Lizette places a high priority on fostering relationships and creating an environment where families at Jacob’s Heart feel at ease seeking assistance for diverse needs, particularly in the realm of mental health support. Her commitment lies in applying the skills acquired as a bilingual social worker to offer families the necessary support in navigating challenges they may encounter.

Development and Communications

Paola Montes
Director of Development and Communications 


Paola's eagerness to learn and her great work ethic have made her a perfect addition to the Development team. Paola coordinates community events and connects with organizations and community members. She also coordinates our volunteer program and helps community members learn the impact and importance of volunteering. She is a graduate of the California State University of Monterey Bay with a Bachelor of science in psychology and plans to become a child therapist. When she’s not working or studying, she is spending her time with her daughter.

Allyssa Gil-Ojeda
Outreach Coordinator

Allyssa joined Jacob’s Heart team in 2022, after finishing up her last semester at California State University East Bay. While in school she studied Business Administration with a concentration in marketing management and worked at a nonprofit for four years as an assisted living service staff for special needs adults. Allyssa looks forward to helping grow the social media presence of Jacob’s Heart so that she can continue to help and service families who are in need. Allyssa currently lives in South Santa Clara County and spends her free time hanging out with her family, friends, and pets. In the future she looks forward to expanding her educational horizons and hopes to receive an MBA.

Alicia Diaz-Infante
Events and Volunteer Coordinator

Alicia began supporting the Jacob's Heart mission and community in 2022 as a member of the Development & Communications team. Thanks to her experience working with young people developing their voices through spoken word, Alicia has witnessed the power of storytelling to simultaneously heal one's spirit and strengthen communities. She also knows the pain of losing a loved one and the impact of grief. Alicia seeks to bring positivity and hope, and strives to engage with compassion, as she shares the story of Jacob's Heart.


Alicia is a graduate of the University of San Francisco and a native of the Central Coast.

Kathryn Vakili
Communications Coordinator

Kathryn recently graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Business Administration and an emphasis in Marketing. Her desire to create a significant impact through her work brought her to Jacob’s Heart, she became a part of the team in October 2023. Kathryn channels her creative eye and love for art into crafting engaging content for Jacob’s Heart's social media platforms. She manages the Facebook and Instagram pages as well as contributing to other communication strategies, amplifying awareness and recognition for the impactful work done at Jacob’s Heart. When she is not working she loves spending time at the beach or hiking with her dog. 


Luis Mojica
Director of Operations
Luis was connected with Jacob’s Heart through his education at CSUMB where he is in the process of getting his Bachelor's degree in Collaborative Health and Human Services. Starting as an intern, Luis quickly found his way in our organization through event planning. Luis aims to help Jacob’s Heart grow through fun and creative ways so that we are better able to serve the families in our communities. Luis holds a Bachelors in in Collaborative Health and Human Services from California State University Monterey Bay. 
Robert Caballero
Facilities Manager

Robert came to Jacob’s Heart by way of our volunteer staff. Robert is very active with the San Martin Lions Club and has been their Club President. After hearing about the need for volunteers at Jacob’s Heart to help remodel the facility, Robert was one of the first to respond to the call. Robert says he was touched by the warm and friendly staff and the way they surround families with love and support. He often delivers food to our families and knows that it enables them to concentrate on their sick child and have one less thing to worry about. Robert’s long dedicated hours at Jacob’s Heart made him a natural to be part of our team as our Facilities Manager. 

Gemma Velasquez
Billing Specialist

Gemma grew up in the Monterey County area and has a philanthropic background. She loves to see the impact her efforts make on the community and continues to look for other ways to help those in need. Gemma, in her dedicated role as Billing Specialist, aims to create a haven of warmth and love within the Jacob’s Heart Family Center. Some of her favorite activities are hiking and spending time with her daughter. 

Thalia Meza
Office Supervisor 

Thalia joined Jacobs Heart in 2021 as a driver. After seeing firsthand, the positive impact of taking families to and from appointments she instantly knew this is where she wanted to be. Being in those long car rides ignited a passion to continue to be of service to families. Thalia is continuing to help Jacobs Heart families in different ways and is excited to be a part of such a compassionate and loved filled space, where she can help support and assist the team.   

Erin Hoffman

Erin joins Jacobs Heart with more than fifteen years of bookkeeping experience. Born in San Jose, she grew up in Aromas, California where she still resides. Erin has her associates degree in accounting and is currently working towards her Bachelor's Degree. Accounting is very exciting for Erin. She loves working with numbers and feels very satisfied when numbers add up. She thinks of math and accounting as a puzzle she has to solve.

Erin’s hobbies include art and horseback riding. She has ridden horses since she was five and continues to this day. In her free time, she runs a face-painting/special effects make-up business, which she loves doing.

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