Zoot Velasco poses with his wife Monette

Monette and Zoot Velasco

The Orange County chapter of the YWCA will honor Cal State Fullerton’s Zoot Velasco, the director of the Gianneschi Center for Nonprofit Research, and his wife, Monette, with the Couple of the Year award at the 28th Annual Pour L’Amour du Chocolat Parisian gala fundraising event on Friday, Feb. 7.

Held at the Los Coyotes Country Club in Buena Park, the event will also honor leading women business leaders, including Collete Coffman, owner of Colette’s Catering, the honoree for 2020 Business Woman of the Year.

Proceeds from the event, which will include a silent auction and dinner, will benefit more than 20,000 Orange County women, children and families through such initiatives as breast cancer screenings, career development, college re-entry scholarships, technology empowerment and veterans’ benefits.

Zoot Velasco became director of the Gianneschi Center in 2018, expanding its impact and reach as an educational and networking entity for philanthropic industry professionals. In addition to the annual G3X Conference, which brings together trendsetting or impactful nonprofit leaders from across the global spectrum, the center also hosts an ongoing lecture series, coaching and consulting initiatives, and a fellowship program providing the only CEO training for nonprofit leaders in Orange County. Velasco is also the presenter of the podcast, entitled the 501 (c)3(b)(s) podcast, which provides industry updates and professional education for those in the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors.

Velasco, who started his career as a hip-hop dancer, spent nine years as CEO of the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in West Fullerton, which offers arts and culture events at a historic 1920s estate. Under Velasco’s leadership, the center had a budget of less than $500,000 and was mired in debt, but grew to $1.3 million during the recession, with the support of 45,000 patrons, under the nonprofit leader’s direction.

Monette Velasco, a Filipina American actress and alumna of Broadway’s “Miss Saigon” national tour, is noted for impacting her homeland in the aftermath of the 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan through a fundraising drive with the Rotary club, including raising $43,000 for relief aid in one week. She also works as a production editor at the RAND Corporation and sings in the choir at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, which is situated near the birthplace of the modern city of Los Angeles. Over the years, Monette also coproduced and sang at multiple benefit events at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center.