Community Health Champion: Barbara Avery

One of the great pleasures of being a County Supervisor is facilitating the public appreciation of individuals who make Silicon Valley a better place for all. Barbara Avery is one of those individuals, someone who has been at the top of my “get-things-done” go-to list for as long as I’ve been in public service.

A longtime Saratoga resident embarking on a well-earned retirement, Barbara dedicated her career to the vulnerable and underserved, driven by an inclusive vision of community and deep compassion. Through her role as Director of Community Benefit at El Camino Health’s two hospitals and within the El Camino Healthcare District, she worked tirelessly and effectively to address the health and well-being of at-risk community members in the North County and West Valley.

So, it was truly my honor to recommend her for commendation by the Board of Supervisors and laud her and her accomplishments at a recent meeting, entering them into the public record with the unanimous agreement of my colleagues.

During her nearly 37 years with El Camino Health, she established the organization’s Community Benefit grants and sponsorship program, which donated more than $100 million to a wide-range of nonprofit organizations working to improve health and change lives in Silicon Valley. Barbara has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals and families through her efforts, and the Community Benefits program was recognized by the Association of California Healthcare districts as an exemplary special district program.

Often, I hear, “It’s too big a problem for me, there’s nothing I can do.” And it’s true, many issues are too big to tackle alone. But if we listen, if we understand the needs, then work with others – like El Camino Health, like Barbara Avery – and each take a piece of the problem, solutions are within reach. We can do more together.

Committed, caring, and passionate, Barbara has a natural mastery of how to get things done. Not as a solo artist, but as a true collaborator, bringing people, organizations, communities together to improve resources for low income and homeless families, access to health services, and key support to schools.

She will be greatly missed by her peers and colleagues for her warm presence and expertise in raising awareness of and addressing healthcare issues – particularly those shaped by social and economic factors. Fortunately for all of us, her contributions to the many organizations she partnered with will leave a lasting legacy, felt in our region for many years to come.

Joe Simitian
Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

This article was originally published in the Saratoga Spotlight on October 2021.





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