Ginny Foat is Palm Springs’ only female City Council member. She serves as the executive director of the Mizell Senior Center and her leadership has led to an unprecedented past couple of years at Mizell–including helping to expand their Meals on Wheels program for homebound seniors to the entire Coachella Valley. Ginny Foat also spearheaded the opening of the City’s new state-of-the-art animal shelter as well as Roy’s Desert Resource Center for the homeless in North Palm Springs. Last year, she received the prestigious ATHENA Award from the PS Chamber for her leadership in the community.
Ginny, we met through our mutual friend, Amy Blaisdell, who brought you to my attention for your outstanding contributions to the community of Palm Springs. Thanks so much for talking with me today–I’m so impressed by your dedication and hard work to so many worthy causes as well as your service to the Palm Springs City Council. Did you always want to be in public service?
No I actually never thought I would be good as an elected official. I thought I was much better working behind the scenes to get public officials to understand and support the ideas and causes I supported. I spent many years in the civil rights movement and in the women’s movement until I finally realized that if I wanted to really make a difference I needed to stand up for what I believed in by being that elected official.
Where are you from originally? What is it about Palm Springs that led you to make your home and career here?
I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in New York. Twenty-three years ago, while living in Los Angeles, my partner and I bought a vacation home in Palm Springs. We’d come down every weekend and holiday. Once you make that turn off of the 10 onto 111, you feel the weight lifted off your shoulders, and you know you’ve arrived home. In 1999, I had just finished a non-profit job I was doing in NYC (where we had intended to move). We’d sold our home in Los Angeles and then decided moving to NYC was not right for us so we decided to move to our house in Palm Springs while we looked for another house in LA. We never left. We bought a building on North Palm Canyon and I opened an antique store and my partner opened a mortgage company. We have never been sorry for that decision.
And what led you to run for the Palm Springs City Council? Please tell us a little about your experience serving on the council.
As a store owner in Uptown Palm Springs I got involved with the Uptown Business Association. Uptown in 2000 was not the chic and trendy area that it is today. We were struggling business owners trying to make a living in an area with little foot traffic. I eventually became the President of the Association. We initiated the very successful First Friday for Uptown. All of the stores stayed open until 9pm, and we served wine and snacks at each store. We were trying to get assistance from the City Downtown Manager at the time with little success. I guess just one day I got mad that we were not being heard. Friends reminded me of what I had always said about changing things and urged me to run for Council. Serving on the City Council since 2003 has been the most rewarding and in some ways the most aggravating part of my life. Rewarding in that I’ve had the opportunity to help shape the success and future path for the City that I love and have accomplished many of my goals and reasons for running. Aggravating in that, as a business woman, I’m used to making decisions and implementing them. In government that takes time and many levels of planning.
Ginny, you’ve been instrumental in bringing so many necessary changes to Palm Springs–the new state-of-the art animal shelter, Roy’s Desert Resource Center for the homeless, your work with the Mizell Senior Center and the Meals on Wheels Program, just to name a few. What would you like to see happen next?
When I first ran for office in 2003, I had four major goals: a new animal shelter, a citywide neighborhood organizational structure, a shelter for the homeless in the west valley, and revitalization of downtown. Now that the citizens of Palm Springs have passed Measure J, the sales tax increase has assisted us in a complete revitalization of our downtown area. That is currently my priority and our focus as a City Council.
Please tell us more about all the great things happening at the Mizell Senior Center–I understand you recently helped Mizell get a huge grant from Riverside County?
Mizell has for many years been the provider of Meals On Wheels to homebound seniors in Palm Springs and Cathedral City. When I started as the Executive Director, we were serving about 125 meals daily and about 40 meals in our dining room. In securing this grant from the Riverside County Office on Aging, we are now able to serve homebound seniors throughout the Coachella Valley and also to provide meals to five other congregate sites. By the end of the year, we will have cooked and delivered over 125,000 meals to low income and homebound seniors. People look at our valley and oftentimes just see the glitz and glamour. They imagine people have moved here with wealth to retire. They have no idea the abject poverty many of our seniors are experiencing, no idea that in our beautiful valley seniors are making decisions as to whether to eat or to pay for their medication; whether to eat or to turn on their cooling systems (those lucky enough to have them). The work of the dedicated staff at Mizell has made my time here one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I live by a quote that I include in almost all of my correspondence which is: “The test of a people is how it behaves to the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care of the old, the incurable and the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture.” I don’t know the author but it sums up our work at Mizell.
That quote is by Abraham Joshua Heschel–I love it as well. What fantastic work you’re doing at Mizell! Ginny,when you’re not dedicating your time to serving others, how do you spend your free time? What would a typical weekend look like for you?
What free time? In addition to my City Council duties and my Mizell responsibilities, I’m also a partner in a restaurant in Palm Springs–Encore Restaurant & Cabaret.
Wow, you’re not kidding about no free time! The restaurant looks fabulous; I look forward to checking it out. And, lastly, what is it that you most love about Palm Springs?
What is there not to like! I love the beauty of our mountains, the exhausting in-season social schedule, the passion and diversity of our residents. That’s our motto: Palm Springs–like no place else!
Wonderful, Ginny! Thanks so much for talking with me today and sharing your passion for both Palm Springs and for helping others–we appreciate all you do to make Palm Springs an even more amazing place!
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