Hearing loss is our passion.
Meet the Hearing Loss Association of America, California State Association (HLAA-CA) dedicated, tireless team members. All are volunteers united by commitment to hearing loss causes.
Jeffrey Chess, HLAA-CA Treasurer
Jeffrey Chess was appointed HLAA-CA treasurer in May 2009. He is also Treasurer of the Long Beach Walk4Hearing. Jeff is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). He began his career in 1984 with the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) of the Federal government, from which he recently retired as a senior auditor after over 30 years of service. During his working career, he was recognized as DCAA’s Outstanding Employee with a Disability for Government Fiscal Year 2004 at DCAA Headquarters and also at the 24th Annual Department of Defense Disability Awards in December 2004. Jeff has been an active member of Toastmasters International (TI) for the past 30 years. He loves to golf. Jeff was born with severe hearing loss. He says without his powerful hearing aids, he can barely hear jackhammers and emergency sirens. His hearing aids help him communicate effectively with others on a daily basis, and he uses an amplifier for telephone communication. Jeff lives in Irvine, California.
Janel Edmiston, HLAA Northern California Chapter Coordinator
Janel Edmiston was appointed HLAA Northern California Chapter Coordinator in 2014. Previously, she was appointed HLAA-CA trustee for a one-year term in February 2014. Janel is also the President of the HLAA River City Chapter. Outside of HLAA, she enjoys her work with high school students. Janel began losing her hearing in her early 20s, and is now profoundly deaf and uses a cochlear implant. She is partnered with a hearing dog, Onalee, who was trained by Canine Companions for Independence. She plans to get a second cochlear implant in 2015. Janel is mother of three and wife of a Sacramento City Fire Battalion Chief. Janel lives in Elk Grove, California.
Zina Jawadi, HLAA-CA President and Trustee
Zina Jawadi has been an HLAA-CA trustee since 2013. She was elected HLAA-CA Secretary in February 2013, Vice President in February 2014, and President in February 2015. She has been HLAA-CA webmaster since July 2013 and served as HLAA-CA Facebook moderator from 2013 to 2014. Zina has interned at the UCSF Otology and Cochlear Implant Center and also at the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles. Zina is a three-time recipient of the United States President’s Volunteer Service Award, is the recipient of the 2014 HLAA Outstanding Young Adult Award, and is founder of the Disability Awareness Program at The Harker School in San Jose, California. Zina is active in hearing loss and disability causes through community service and social media. Zina has prelingual bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, and she underwent almost eight years of intensive speech therapy. She wears hearing aids. Zina attends Stanford University, Stanford, California. She lives in Silicon Valley, California.
Ram Kakkar, HLAA-CA Trustee
Ram Kakkar was elected HLAA-CA trustee in February 2014. Ram has been a member of the HLAA Long Beach/Lakewood Chapter since 2006. He served as looping chairperson in the chapter and in HLAA-CA. Ram is a retired engineer with 40 years of professional career. He is also a credentialed teacher and tax preparer, volunteering to help dropout children, seniors, and the needy. Ram has been a member with several Toastmasters clubs for more than ten years, serving in several capacities, including VP Education, VP Membership, President, and Area Governor. Ram participates in civic activities at the city level, providing hearing loss presentations and feedback to the City Council. With his Toastmasters skills, he approached local elected officials and staff of the City of Cerritos to provide looping, persisting until the city installed looping in several buildings. Ram has had progressive, bilateral severe-to-profound hearing loss for over 50 years. He wears a cochlear implant in one ear and hearing aid in the other. Ram lives in Cerritos, California.
Lynne Kinsey, HLAA-CA Secretary and Trustee
Lynne Kinsey was elected HLAA-CA trustee in February 2012 and reelected in February 2015. She was also appointed HLAA-CA Secretary in February 2015. Lynne also serves as Secretary of the HLAA Silicon Valley Chapter (HLAA-SV), where she also served in other roles, including Vice President and chair of multiple committees. Lynne has been a member of HLAA, HLAA-CA, and HLAA-SV for 22 years, since experiencing a sudden profound hearing loss. She has worn one hearing aid for 22 years and received a cochlear implant in 2014 in the other ear. Previously, Lynne worked for Lockheed in Sunnyvale as a Satellite Operations Engineer and Data Analyst. She has a B.A. in Mathematics from San Jose State University, San Jose, California. Lynne is married to Stephen D. Kinsey; they live in San Jose, California, and they have one daughter and two grandchildren.
Nanci Linke-Ellis, HLAA Southern California Chapter Coordinator
Nanci Linke-Ellis was appointed HLAA Southern California Chapter Coordinator in 2010. She was an elected HLAA-CA trustee 2007-2009. She is a hearing loss and disability consultant to movie studios, theatres, and the film industry. She is an experienced captioning advocate and a partner of Captionfish, an entertainment deaf and hard-of-hearing source. She is on the board of trustees of the World Institute on Disability, California State Rehabilitation Council, and Santa Monica Commission on Disabilities. She received multiple awards, including the World Institute on Disability 2014 Media Access Award, Disabled Resources Center 2014 Jerry Stein Independent Living Award, Federal Communications Commission Chairman’s 2011 Award for Advancement in Accessibility, TDI International’s 2007 Promotion Award, Self Help for Hard of Hearing California 2005 Media Access Award, and Oticon 2001 Focus on People Award. She holds a B.F.A. in theatre from Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. Nanci has hearing loss, uses cochlear implants, and lives in Santa Monica, California.
Jim Montgomery, HLAA-CA Trustee
Jim Montgomery has been an HLAA-CA trustee since 1997, reelected multiple times. Jim was a cofounder of HLAA-CA and has been active with HLAA-CA since its establishment in the late 1980s. He served as Deputy Northern California Chapter Coordinator from 1989 to 1992, Northern California Chapter Coordinator from 1993 to 1996, and President from 1997 to 1998 and again from 2011 to 2014. Jim was cofounder of the HLAA Diablo Valley Chapter in 1984, where he served as trustee and President multiple times. Jim served as a national convention volunteer starting from the earliest HLAA national conventions. Jim is an avid photographer and has photographed many HLAA events. He is the recipient of the Spirit of Self Help for Hard-of-Hearing People (now HLAA) 1989 Award and the HLAA Keystone Award. Jim has hearing loss and is a cochlear implant user. Jim lives in Bethel Island, California.
Gail Morrison, HLAA-CA Vice President and Trustee
Gail Morrison was elected HLAA-CA trustee in February 2012 and reelected in February 2015. She was also appointed HLAA-CA Vice President in February 2015. Over the years, Gail has served on the Board of Directors of seven different organizations, holding nearly every officer’s position including President. From 2008 to 2010, she served on a multi-million dollar corporate Board of Directors as Press and Public Relations Chairman for the Assistance League of Long Beach. She has been promoting publicity for HLAA-Long Beach/Lakewood Chapter and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) since 2008 by sending out press releases to 22 media newspapers/ online sources on a monthly or as-needed basis. In February 2011, Gail was appointed to serve on the Disabled Resources Center Board of Directors in Long Beach. Gail has hearing loss and wears hearing aids. She lives in Seal Beach, California.
Debra Rogers, HLAA-CA Trustee
Debra Rogers was elected HLAA-CA trustee in February 2015. She is currently the Advocacy Team chair. She has a Masters degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management with a minor in Nonprofit Advocacy. Debra and her husband are learning American Sign Language (ASL) together. She has a passion for giving back to the community. She is currently serving on the HLAA San Diego board, Accessibilities Committee member for a local recovery program and volunteers with Deaf Community Services. Debra has spent most of her life in California and currently lives in San Diego, California. She is married and has three grown sons. She has bilateral hearing loss and wears hearing aids.
Ann Thomas, HLAA-CA Trustee
Ann Thomas was elected to the HLAA-CA Board of Trustees in February 2015. She has been an officer of the HLAA-Diablo Valley Chapter since 2009, President since 2010, and Newsletter editor since 2009. During this time, she has worked to increase awareness about hearing loss in Contra Costa County and throughout the state by working with county and city governments, state organizations, and public venues. Ann has received multiple awards including the Hamilton Relay 2014 Better Speech and Hearing Recognition Award for the State of California, the HLAA 2011 Service Award, the HLAA 2010 Community Service Award, and the HLAA 2009 Best Chapter Newsletter Award. She is an experienced nonprofit professional and fundraiser and is a graduate of the University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, BS, Organizational Behavior. Ann has progressive bilateral hearing loss and wears hearing aids. She lives in Alamo, California.
Grace Tiessen, HLAA-CA Newsletter Editor
Grace Tiessen has been editor of the HLAA-CA state newsletter since 2001. She was an HLAA-CA trustee from 1997 to 2011, and she served as HLAA-CA Corresponding Secretary from 1997 to 1998, Vice President from 1999 to 2000, and President from 2001 to 2002. Grace was President of the HLAA San Gabriel Valley Chapter from 1985 to 1990. She has been active with HLAA and HLAA-CA for over 30 years. Grace has a B.A. in English from UC Berkeley, B.A. in psychology from California State University, and B.A. in math and computer science. Grace worked as a software engineer before retiring. Grace served as a member of the California Department of Education Advisory Task Force for the deaf and hard of hearing, a member of the Board of Directors of the HEAR Center, and a member of the City of Pasadena Commission on Accessibility and Disability. Grace received HLAA’s Keystone 2003 Award. Grace grew up with hearing loss, started wearing two hearing aids in 1970, and now uses cochlear implants. Grace lives in Pasadena.
Margaret Wallhagen, Ph.D., HLAA Trustee and Chairperson, HLAA-CA Ex Officio Trustee
Dr. Margaret Wallhagen was appointed to the HLAA Board of Trustees in June 2010 and currently serves as HLAA’s Chairperson. Dr. Wallhagen has been HLAA-CA ex officio trustee since 2011. Dr. Wallhagen is a Professor of Gerontological Nursing and a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner in the School of Nursing, University of California San Francisco (UCSF), San Francisco, California. She received her initial nursing degree from St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing in New York, her Baccalaureate and Master’s degrees from UCSF, and her doctoral degree in nursing from the University of Washington in Seattle. Since joining the faculty at UCSF in 1988, she has taught gerontological nursing at both the masters and doctoral level, and works as a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner. Dr. Wallhagen recently completed a four year longitudinal study of the experience of hearing impairment in older adults and their partners. In January 2006, Dr. Wallhagen became the Director of the UCSF/John Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence. She lives in San Francisco, California.