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Corazon Healdsburg hires Glaydon de Freitas as nonprofit’s first full-time CEO

Glaydon de Freitas was 9 years old when his family moved 1,200 miles from Sao Paolo, Brazil, to a much smaller city at the edge of the Amazon basin, where the indigenous people grew rice and dried it on plastic sheets in the middle of the street.

His father, the new district attorney, tried to put a stop to this practice, which tended to snarl traffic. That order backfired, resulting in “kind of a revolution,” recalled de Freitas, laughing, “because they’d been doing it that way for 100 years.”

Despite that bumpy beginning, his father, also named Glaydon, quickly earned respect and renown for his compassion. After more than 20 years under a military dictatorship known for torturing and killing “subversives,” the country had a new constitution, with added emphasis on human rights. Even though he was a prosecutor, de Freitas often petitioned to have prisoners released if he thought they were being tortured.

In addition to following his father’s footsteps into the legal profession, Glaydon Jr. shares his empathy and advocacy for human dignity. Those qualities, along with his expertise as a strategic planner, and his experience as an immigrant to the United States, prepared him to lead Corazon Healdsburg. He was hired in October as its first permanent chief executive.

Corazon Healdsburg is a bilingual nonprofit offering family support programs, education, legal assistance and emergency resources, in addition to “amplifying the local Latinx voice,” according to its website.

De Freitas, who moved to Healdsburg with his wife and daughter, had spent the previous 2½ years as head of strategic planning at RAICES, a Houston-based legal services organization devoted to defending the rights of immigrants and refugees. RAICES and its lawyers have been on the front lines in the battle against the Trump administration and its family separation policies.

His skills and experiences convinced Corazon’s hiring committee that de Freitas was ready to “take the baton and run with it,” said Ariel Kelley, a co-founder of the nonprofit who’d served 18 months as its interim CEO, and was recently elected to the Healdsburg City Council.

Growing up in the state of Tocantins, de Freitas was his father’s “mini-me,” recalled the son, who attended many of Glaydon Sr.’s 500 jury trials. He went to the same law school, and even had professors who’d taught his father.

That wasn’t always a good thing, said de Freitas, who remembers being “always in his shadow.”

After founding a highly successful consulting business — he helped municipalities set up pension funds — de Freitas was unfulfilled, and decided to become a human rights advocate. He moved to Texas, earned his master’s degree in international law and legal studies at the University of Houston, then took a job providing legal services to immigrants and asylum-seekers held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention facilities in the area. After two years there, he was hired at RAICES.

De Freitas has been deeply influenced by Nabeel Hamdi, a world-renowned architect and housing specialist who has planned projects upgrading slums throughout the world. In everything he does, de Freitas said, he tries to apply Hamdi’s ideas “to the grassroots level.” His purpose, he said, is to “listen to the voices that are unheard,” and positively affect their lives.

He is taking over a thriving organization. Just started four years ago, Corazon has a $4 million annual budget and recently received grants from the Red Cross and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy totaling nearly $750,000.

He seeks, among other things, to upend the way people perceive the Latino community, and the nonprofits that serve them.

“Traditionally,” he said, “when you think of nonprofit organizations, you think of philanthropy.”

Yes, contributions play a big role for Corazon. But he’d like to help people realize that it’s not a one-way street.

“Don’t assume that because we are not in a privileged position that we do not have our strengths — that we don’t have much more to offer than to receive.

“We are not a fragile people,” he said. “We migrated here with all the bad circumstances. We came across the border despite the political environment, the immigration laws. And we made it.”

You can reach Staff Writer Austin Murphy at 707-521-5214 or austin.murphy@pressdemocrat.com or on Twitter @ausmurph88.

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