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Gilda Gonzalez, CEO

Gilda Gonzales of the Unity Council Helping People Out of Poverty

If you take a moment to look around you, you may see actually see your local community. Sometimes the only images we have of those in poverty are those that we see on TV of children in other countries. Gilda Gonzales, CEO of The Unity City Council, makes it her job to keep her eyes open for those in her local community. She spends her waking hours creating innovative programs that help to alleviate and hopefully soon eliminate the poverty in her community. Learn more about Gilda, The Unity Council, and what keeps her busy (when she’s not planning and brainstorming for progress) as we feature her in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.


The Unity Council


Founded in 1964, incorporated in 1967 and received 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in 1968



Name, Title

Gilda Gonzales
Chief Executive Officer




Atwater, California

Current residence

Oakland, California


St. Mary’s of California, Bachelor of Science, Industrial Psychology;
Cal State University Hayward, Master of Public Administration

Work Experience

Chief Executive Officer, The Unity Council, 2004 – current;

Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, City of Oakland, 2001 – 2004;

Chief-of-Staff, Mayor Jerry Brown and City Manager Robert C. Bobb, City of Oakland, 1998 – 2001;

Assistant to the Budget & Finance Agency Directors, City of Oakland, 1996 – 1998.



About the non-profit

The Unity Council (officially known as the Spanish Speaking Unity Council) is a non-profit community development corporation committed to enriching the quality of life of families primarily in the Fruitvale District of Oakland. Its primary focus has been to create a healthier and safer community for families and residents by implementing and managing integrated programs addressing economic, social, and physical development. In other words, our mission is to move people out of poverty.

The Unity Council has been in existence since 1964. Over 43 years, we’ve grow into an organization of 180 employees with a $15M budget.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

Managing all aspects of the organization. Interfacing with the media and community. Raising money.

Most notable milestones

Being named The Unity Council CEO in the fall of 2004.

What’s the niche?

The Unity Council is unique from other non-profits because we answer the question of poverty with a very comprehensive approach.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Getting unrestricted funding to do other creative work beyond existing programs.

What’s in store for the future?

The Unity Council will continue to provide a comprehensive mix of programs that move individuals and families out of poverty. We will also complete Phase II of the Fruitvale Transit Village development and complete the build-out of a cultural performing arts center.

Who would you like to be contacted by?

Funders and Volunteers!

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Best way to keep a competitive edge

Creative marketing and fund development.
Keeping very close ties to community stakeholders.
Being politically savvy.

Guiding principle in life

Live and speak from my personal Truth.

Yardstick of success

The degree of impact to others.

Goal yet to be achieved

Political office.

Best practical advice

The gift of patience is patience. I’m still in active pursuit of this one.

Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

My mother – “I’m very proud of you”


A former boss who encouraged me to obtain my master’s degree and gave me assignments that I thought were beyond me.

What motivated you to get started?

Someone else believing in me and verbalizing it. It made me realize that my dreams were not far fetched.

Like best about what you do?

I feel like the work has a true purpose.

Like least about what you do?

The personnel issues that turn bad.

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Miss America

What was your first job?

Working in a fresh fruit packing shed during the peach season.

Biggest pastime outside of work

Attending to personal care issues like massage, nail, hair, and facial appointments. I also like to nap on the weekends.

Person most interested in meeting

Hillary Clinton because she will be the next President of the United States.

Leader in business most interested in meeting

Bill Gates because he has changed the way we work and communicate.

Three interesting facts about yourself

1. Born in Roswell, New Mexico.
2. Have struggled to speak fluent Spanish all my life.
3. I have never wanted to have children.

Three characteristics that describe you

1. Committed
2. Aggressive
3. Loyal

Three greatest passions

1. Having a voice and using it for the betterment of those who have not found theirs yet.
2. Being politically involved.
3. Spending time with my boyfriend and dog.

Favorite book

The Prince of Tides.

Favorite cause

The work of The Unity Council.

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Interview by Saba Nasser
Introduction by Sumaya Kazi
Edited by Sumaya Kazi

Also this week

William YangRomi BhatiaMiddle East Research and Information Project

Don’t forget!

Young & Professional Profile | News2Know

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