Linda has devoted over 30 years advocating for low-income veterans and seniors. She worked at the University of Nevada, Reno for 10 years in a Senior Outreach Program where she discovered 60 low-income veterans living in subsidized housing in dire need of dental care. Linda soon discovered that the vast majority of our veterans (90%) do not qualify for dental care at the VA because the qualifications are so restrictive. This seriously unmet need for dental care became the driving force for Adopt a Vet Dental Program (AAVD) which Linda and her husband, Wayne, founded in April 2010.
AAVD recruits dental professionals to provide critical dental care for low-income veterans in Northern and Central Nevada. To our knowledge, there is no other program like ours in the United States that harnesses the goodwill and skills of dental professionals to help low-income veterans. AAVD received the Newman’s Own and Fisher House Award in 2014 for our innovative approach to providing dental care to low-income veterans who cannot qualify for dental care at the VA or afford to see a dentist.
This program is dedicated in memory of J.C., a veteran, who could not find affordable dental care for his decayed and abscessed teeth. He died when the infection went to his heart – he was only in his 40’s.
Demetrio (Deme) Gonzalez is a retired US Navy Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman. Deme Retired from the Navy in December of 2012 after 24 years of Honorable service. While in the Navy he was stationed on the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk and the U.S.S. Essex as well as different shore commands throughout the continental United states and Japan.
Deme has been deployed multiple times to the Middle East as an individual augmentee in Embedded Teams in support of combat operations throughout different regions. While Deployed at the same time to Afghanistan, his brother was killed by an improvised explosive device. He dedicates his time in any capacity that he can assisting Veterans in memory of his brother’s sacrifice.
He has held several positions that include the Department Head of Patient Relations, Chief Main operating Room, Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Directorate for Professional Education, Chief Dental Prosthetic Laboratory, and Exam Writer for the Hospital Corpsman Rating at Naval Medical Center, Southwest in San Diego, California. As a volunteer and then volunteer coordinator for San Diego’s Veteran Stand Down since 1993 that supports thousands of Veterans every year, he brings a vast amount of knowledge and leadership to the Adopt a Vet Dental Program.
Deme holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Criminal Justice from the University of Texas and a Science Degree from Vincennes University. Deme is married to Jamie Gonzalez and has 4 boys and 2 girls, Damian, Caleb, Logan, Levi, Noelle and Ari.
Heather Borkowski is the Assistant Executive Director handling the day to day operations, the financials, and over-seeing the different programs within the Adopt a Vet Dental Organization. She helps coordinate all the important details with veterans and the AAVD team, ensuring that the programs run smoothly and efficiently and that the veterans receive the best of care.
Before joining AAVD, Heather was a contracted dental assistant for the Navy on Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in Jacksonville, North Carolina and credits her experience working within the military setting as the foundation for her continued career in the dental field. During her time serving the military men and women at Camp Lejeune, she found the need to be part of a greater cause and believes that veterans deserve great, extensive care for the service they provide to our country. Upon moving to northern Nevada in 2016 Heather took a job at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center where she was in charge of running the dental clinic. After that, she also spent some time working alongside a local oral surgeon, furthering her experience in the field.
Working with veterans holds a special place in Heather’s heart. Her grandfather was a Marine stationed at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in the 1950s, where he worked on the aircraft rescue and firefighting squad. He was very proud to be a Marine and held on to all his memories of his time in service until the day he passed in July 2013.
When Heather’s not serving our veterans, she spends time with her husband and two daughters. They spend as much time outdoors as possible, enjoying Northern Nevada.
Charlotte Worthley is the Community Dental Director for the Adopt a Vet Dental Program. She grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, where she worked in the dental field as an assistant and dental hygienist for 30 years. Charlotte moved to Sparks, NV in 2001 with her husband and 2 children. She worked at the Reno VA Dental Clinic from 2003 to 2009. This was her first experience working with veterans. While in this position she learned of the difficulty veterans experienced obtaining dental benefits. Charlotte learned of the Adopt A Vet Dental Program while working in a dental office that participated in the program. She started volunteering in August 2012 and continues to work with Adopt A Vet Dental Program assisting veterans in obtaining quality dental care.
Chelsey Miller was born and raised in San Diego, California and is the youngest child of two. Both of her grandfathers were retired US Navy Vets, so she grew up with pride of anyone who served our country. Her mother, Michelle, introduced her and her brother to volunteering at an early age. She started animal rescue when she was fourteen.
She is the proud wife of a Marine Veteran who served two tours in Iraq. Together they have three lively teenagers and relocated to Reno, Nevada twelve years ago. Chelsey has continued her passion with animals by starting a pet sitting business out of her home and to this day continues volunteering services Toys for Tots and PBS Reno.
Volunteering has presented Chelsey to new adventures. In 2019 she started the process of becoming the new Head Coordinator for Toys for Tots and this year, 2020, she started working for Adopt a Vet Dental as the Veteran Outreach and Media Coordinator. She is proud to work with all the great employees, volunteers and veterans through AAVD.
Chere Pedersen, was born in Fort Gordon, Georgia, when she was just a few months old she and her brothers relocated to Okinawa, Japan. The first of many Army bases her father was sent to. Although she loved traveling in her youth, she finally settled in Southern Nevada, and calls Boulder City home. She has lived in the Las Vegas area for over 30 years now!
Chere became a veteran advocate when her son enlisted in 2004. She began by volunteering with different military organizations. She became involved with NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. She is a certified support group facilitator and state trainee for family members. She was vice president of NAMI for the state of Nevada for two years. She was the Family Support Group facilitator for Henderson for two and a half years. She furthered her education and completed training in the following: Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) for children and for individual crisis intervention and peer support, Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, and Representatives and Deputies Training for the VAVS. With 17 years’ experience working and fundraising for local non-profit organizations, she has obtained firsthand knowledge of the local veteran community. She worked and volunteered with most military organizations in the valley, including the USO, as well as served on the veteran’s advisory board for the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery for 6 years. For the past 10 years, Chere’ has been working closely with the HUD/VASH program helping Veterans in transit by furnishing their homes. This was made possible through donations and the help of volunteers and donated furniture and household items collected throughout the valley. She is presently serving as president of American War Mothers for the state of Nevada and is a board member of WSP (Warriors Suicide Prevention) Foundation.
Growing up with a father who served for 33 years and raising a son who served as Combat Medic for 11 years, has allowed her the opportunity to understand the importance of the many needs of the military and their families. Chere has spent the last 17 years of her life primarily dedicated to serving as her family has served. Chere is excited to utilize her skills and dedication to the veterans and the causes she believes in to help bring the successes of the Northern AAVD Program to Southern Nevada.