Staff Report

The Alzheimer’s Association has appointed Lindsey Leonard as executive director of the California Central Coast Chapter. She succeeds interim executive director Kathryn Croskrey, who has intermittently overseen the chapter since the retirement of former executive director Rhonda Spiegel in December.

Photo contributed
Lindsey Leonard

Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s and dementia care, support and research. The Central Coast Chapter, with offices in San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara and Ventura, provides free programs including education classes, support groups and care consultations, currently offered via online webinars or conference calls.

In 2020, it is projected that 2,838 Central Coast families will be helped with the support of hundreds of volunteers. Access to free programs is crucial for the 690,000 individuals living with Alzheimer’s in California, along with their 1.624 million caregivers.

The 2020 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report projects a 21.7 percent increase in the state’s population of those living with Alzheimer’s within the next five years.

“Alzheimer’s disease has become a national health crisis,” said Leigh Cashman, immediate past board chair. “Alzheimer’s and dementia is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, the third leading cause of death in California.” 

“In the United States, 16 million individuals are projected to be living with this disease by 2050,” Cashman said. “We need a global solution as it is a grave threat to our nations and world’s health and finances.

“On our local level, an extensive search was conducted for our next executive director. It was vital that we selected a seasoned candidate familiar with the Central Coast communities, their leaders, volunteers and medical field.

“This area is very diverse and ever-changing, and we were looking for an executive director that could meet the many demands and challenges required to lead our large chapter as well as be a strong spokesperson for the cause. The organization is confident that Lindsey’s knowledge in fundraising and vast understanding of the needs of the Central Coast Region will take the organization to the next level.”

Leonard has 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector within fundraising, program development and expansion, operations management and organizational development. She has served as executive director of Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation; vice-president of development and operations for Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Clara Valley; development director for Santa Barbara Channelkeeper; and branch director for United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County.

“It is a privilege to lead, with the support of a talented and dedicated staff team, such a special organization,” Leonard said. “The Alzheimer’s Association supports a predominantly elderly population and their families. They are more vulnerable now more than ever during COVID-19.

“It is essential that our visibility is elevated during this critical time, and that our programs are deepened to support the increasing needs of our service population.”

The chapter is gearing up for its biggest annual fundraising event The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s to be held Sept. 26 in Oxnard; Oct. 3 in Santa Maria; Oct. 31 in San Luis Obispo and Westlake Village; and Nov. 7 in Santa Barbara.

The walk has been modified due to COVID-19. Rather than walkers gathering on a pre-determined route to walk together, to ensure the safety of everyone involved, participants will not physically gather as a large group. Instead, on their local walk day, participants will walk on their own (on the street, trail or track) with family or with their team while others are doing the same.

Walk participants will be given a purple T-shirt, the official color of Alzheimer’s awareness, that features sponsors of the walk. On walk day, the goal is to raise awareness about the disease and funds to support individuals with Alzheimer’s and their families.

“Until there is a cure for this devastating disease, we are asking those that feel touched by our mission to join us in support of this imperative cause,” said Katina Zaninovich, board director and chair of the Alzheimer’s Women’s Initiative.

“I am honored to lead the Alzheimer’s Women’s Initiative, a diverse group of women dedicated to championing the cause and raising funds to accelerate research and maximize quality care and support,” she said.

To sign up to join this year’s walk as a sponsor, team captain, or a participant, contact or visit