Rafu Staff Report
Glendale-based Wellness Works has named Lori Mizuno as its executive director.
She is responsible for providing strategic operational leadership to the organization and oversight of the day-to-day management, and is focused on increasing operational efficiency for better program outcomes and implementing strategic projects.
In announcing Mizuno’s appointment, the board said, “We look forward to working together toward the common goal of creating wholeness in body, mind and spirit” for veterans.
Wellness Works has been providing services in the community for more than 30 years and has served veterans and active military members and their families for the last decade. It provides holistic, alternative and emerging healing modalities to treat post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, chronic pain and military sexual trauma.
The nonprofit organization works with an array of practitioners who offer craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, meditation, art and writing therapy, emotional support animal therapy, individual and group counseling to support veterans at their most vulnerable moments and to provide a healing hand to restore a sense of wholeness and purpose to both veterans and their families.
Born in Seattle to parents that immigrated to the U.S. from Japan, Mizuno grew up in a suburb of Seattle called Shoreline. “Back then there wasn’t as much diversity as there is today,” she said. “There was a large Japanese American community in Seattle, but it was in a different part of the city. So growing up Nisei in that community, I was very aware of my cultural differences, and at times it was challenging to balance both identities of being Japanese and American.”
She received her Master of Public Administration (MPA) from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, with a focus on public and nonprofit management and an international specialization, and my Bachelor of Arts in comparative history of ideas and a minor in human rights from the University of Washington.
“I first became interested in human rights issues as an undergraduate at the University of Washington, as a part of a unique study abroad program that studied the entrenched conflicts in Northern Ireland, South Africa, and Cyprus,” Mizuno said. “My interest in nonprofits is an extension of my experiences studying abroad and becoming active in human rights issues.
“Since I graduated from graduate school over 12 years ago, I have worked in multiple nonprofits focused on HIV prevention, public health and strategic communications, and my roles have taken me across the U.S. as well as to multiple countries around the world. My work has been focused on strengthening operations, developing programs, and strategic growth.”
Regarding her connections with veterans and the military, she said, “Compared to most others at Wellness Works, I don’t have direct family ties to the military or veterans in the U.S., besides some friends that I know that served. My grandfather died in World War II as part of the Japanese fighting forces, but in some ways that gives me a different perspective on the work of Wellness Works.”
Mizuno first connected with Wellness Works as a consultant through Jericho Road Pasadena a little over a year ago. “I was struck by the heart of this organization. Each person – whether it was a staff member, board member, or volunteer – connected on a deep level to the mission and vision of Wellness Works to serve veterans, active military members and their loved ones. That dedication is felt by each person that walks through the doors of Wellness Works, and it is my hope that more people will be impacted by the work that we do.
“Wellness Works is a really unique organization that bridges ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ treatments to address mental health issues. I’m sure some of the modalities are completely unknown to those that come to Wellness Works. In general, I think what Wellness Works does is much more focused on the ‘whole’ human being, and we try to address the needs of the mind, body, and spirit.”
The president of Wellness Works’ six-member board is Cliff Ishigaki.
Born and raised in East L.A. and Boyle Heights, he is the son of Robert and Kiku Ishigaki, who met in the Jerome, Ark. camp during World War II, and brother of Cindi Ishigaki. After graduating from Wilson High School, he attended Chapman College in Orange County and graduated in 1969 with a B.A. degree.
“I learned to contribute to others by running for student body office, and as vice president of the student body I worked to help other students of color feel accepted and safe on campus,” he recalled. “We worked for diversity on a primarily Anglo campus.”
After graduation, he felt compelled to join the U.S. Marine Corps and attend Officers Candidate School in Quantico, Va. He was commissioned a second lieutenant after passing testing in the candidate program, and was assigned as a platoon leader to the 9th Marine Regiment in Vietnam. Later during his tour, he was moved to become executive officer of a company that numbered 200 Marines.
“There were periods of intense fighting as well as boredom, booby traps, etc.,” he said. “My Marines learned to accept me not as a Japanese American officer but as someone who took responsibility for their needs.
“When I returned from Vietnam, I served until 1972 and was promoted to captain. I also was suffering from PTSD but was not diagnosed until years later. There were few Japanese American Marine officers in the corps during my tours, and in some way I look back and realize I was trying to prove we are loyal Americans, again, as my uncle did in World War II in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.”
After leaving the Marines, Ishigaki enrolled in college under the GI Bill and earned two master’s degrees in counseling. “Much of my time in the Marines seemed to be counseling many of my men in the field and back in the states,” he explained.
Part of his own healing journey was to attend seminary, and this led to being ordained as an interfaith minister. “I also felt compelled to find a way to find some form of peace in the middle of conflict, so I began attending aikido classes in 1976. I still am an instructor at Orange County Aikido in Orange. I use aikido principles in veterans’ healing work even to this day.”
When Ishigaki joined Wellness Works in 1986, it was an alternative healing center. “About 10 years ago, we shifted our work to veterans and their families, and all of my past training came to the forefront. Wellness Works became known for more personalized care because of the intake program that looked at what the veteran needed to stabilize in body, emotions and mind. From that point they can move towards their families, jobs, schooling and future with a whole package of skills and emotional preparedness.
“This means Wellness Works could not serve bigger numbers but they could offer more complete services that created lasting recovery. Suicide prevention is one of the key focal points as well as being available to men and women veterans who did not receive an honorable discharge. All veterans deserve care.”
His role as board president is “to insure that we have the right staff, a realistic budget, programs that serve our men and women veterans, fundraising strategies and evaluations of all that we do so that we deliver necessary and needed services, from crisis intervention to stabilization and to living skills to those that have stood in service to our nation.”
Also serving on the board are Kelly Buck (treasurer), Camille Levee (secretary), Joseph Palesano-Rago, Phil Ambrose and William Hill.
Wellness Works is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and during evening hours by appointment only. For more information, call (818) 247-2062, email [email protected] or visit http://wellnessworks4veterans.org.