Meet Our Team
Armando Contreras, Chief Executive Officer
Signaling its commitment to strengthen fundraising efforts, building internal capacity and developing new alliances, United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona (UCP) appointed longtime Valley community leader, Armando Contreras, as Chief Executive Officer. Contreras began his post on June 21, 2010 leading one of the state’s largest nonprofit health and human services organizations. He currently manages a staff of more than 330 and an operating budget of over $12.5 million. As CEO, Armando directs and coordinates all operations of the nonprofit corporation and is responsible for leading UCP’s Mission to provide comprehensive services to individuals with disabilities by way of physical and developmental support, as well as educational growth. UCP of Central Arizona serves approximately 7000 children and adults with various disabilities, including Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, Autism, learning delays, and developmental disabilities.
“It is a true honor to serve almost 3 years as CEO for United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona,” said Contreras. “It is a privilege to work with a passionate, committed, and dedicated staff that makes dreams come true for many children and adults with disabilities and their families. My goal in the coming years will be to support UCP’s core mission by leading and expanding the organization’s efforts and building and maintain enduring partnerships aimed at enhancing its future and ongoing programs and initiatives.”
Prior to joining UCP, Armando was the President and CEO of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (AZHCC) where he strengthened the internal and external capacity of the Chamber and increased its corporate support and government relationships. At AZHCC, Mr. Contreras also oversaw the operations of the federally funded Minority Business Enterprise Center (MBEC) in Phoenix, one of only 32 centers nationwide.
Armando also served as a member of former Governor Janet Napolitano’s Cabinet and as Executive Director of the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, where he managed a $24 million budget and 128 employees. The office serviced more than 50,000 licensed residential and commercial contractors and collaborated with the Governor’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General. He also served as Executive Director of the Governor’s Council on Small Business, which formulated recommendations to the Governor in the areas of marketing and outreach, access to financial capital, workforce development, and affordable healthcare for small business.
Armando has more than 20 years of public speaking experience and has presented at numerous events, including the AZ Business Magazine Health Care Leadership Awards, Phoenix Business Journal Champions of Diversity Panel, UCP’s Champions in Life Night, the AZHCC Black and White Ball Business Awards, City of Phoenix Council Chambers and, on behalf of Governor Napolitano, to corporate and chamber events, women and minority organizations, contractors member association meetings, small business conferences, VIP and special award banquets, and university conferences. He is fluent and literate in Spanish.
Armando serves on several boards and commissions: The Board of Trustees of St. Luke’s Medical Center, The Board of Trustees of the Phoenix Boys Choir, and the board of the Arizona Latino Research Enterprise (ALRE). He is a member of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix Finance Committee, a past member of former Governor Janet Napolitano and Governor Jan Brewer’s Latino Advisory Committee, and an Adjunct Faculty for the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.
Armando earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern California and holds a Master’s Degree in Theology from the University of San Francisco. He also attended Indiana University School of Philanthropy.
Elayne Shermerhorn, Chief Financial Officer
Elayne is a talented and accomplished executive who leads organizations through major change and challenge to profitable growth. A strategic problem-solver who envisions and implements smart solutions throughout all levels of the organization, she is skilled in analyzing business needs and creating innovative programs, processes and strategies that consistently lead to client loyalty and business growth.
Elayne is a certified public accountant (CPA) with more than 20 years of experience in public accounting and private industry. Elayne earned her Bachelor’s degree (Magna Cum Laude) from Temple University, Philadelphia , PA and received her MBA from the University of Phoenix. She is also a respected member of the Arizona Society of Certified Public Accountants.
As the leader of the Accounting and Finance Department, Ms. Kinney is responsible for all aspects of the organization’s financial operations, including accounts receivable and accounts payable, customer service, purchasing, vendor relations and inventory control. Elayne manages and oversees the financial processes and practices that enable UCP to operate efficiently and effectively.
Veronica De La O, Development Director
Prior to Veronica coming to UCP she was working at Phoenix Children’s Cancer Center and Blood Disorders as a Clinical Social Worker who worked with children diagnosed with Leukemia. Veronica also worked at Mercy Care Plan as their Community Relations Manager in the Quality Management Department . Veronica’s unique 9 years of experience in the field of social work and health care, combined with various positions throughout community involvement; such as fundraising and volunteerism, qualified her to work for UCP of Central Arizona as their Development Director.
This past year, Veronica served as Chair for the UCP Board of Directors and was part of the Board for 3 ½ years, where she brought to the organization resources that were untapped by UCP like assisting with coordinated grant development and with UCP’s largest public fundraising events.
“I am grateful and honored to be part of the UCP team. I have learned greatly, not only from our Board members and UCP staff, but also from the families that UCP serves. The children and families that we serve have tremendous strength and courage to “live a life without limits.” UCP is not only a tool and a great support system for the many families that are served, but is also a second home for parents, where they learn new ways to help improve the lives of their child/young adult so they grow to their fullest abilities”, says Veronica.
Because of my education and experience as a Clinical Social Worker, it is my responsibility to continue to advocate for UCP’s children and their families by providing leadership through collaborating with other non-profits and the business community; to assist with fundraising; and to provide a future vision to ensure that UCP will continue to expand services in Arizona so all children with disabilities will live a “life without limits.”
Veronica is married to Mario E. Diaz and she has two young children; Diego and Francesca. Veronica has a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at El Paso. She also attended Arizona State University and received her Master’s in Social Work. Veronica currently volunteers on Tesseract School’s Development Committee.
Adrienne Diga, Human Resources Manager
“I am very committed to the services provided by UCP of Central Arizona as well as UCP’s Mission to support individuals and families by providing services that promotes “Life without Limits”. “It has always been important to me to work in industries that directly impact people lives in a positive way and I have dedicated over eleven years in the health care field including bio-medical research, assisted living, nursing facilities and home based care-giving services.”
“I take great pride in working closely with direct care providers and acknowledging their contributions to the individuals that they assist. Direct Care Workers are invaluable to the consumer and enable them to live full independent lives.”
Adrienne has fifteen years of Human Resources Management experience and has been certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources by the Society of Human Resources Management since 2005. Her strengths include leadership in cross –functional teams, strategic planning, employee recognition and employee development. She has been described as a caring person who likes to help employees reach their full potential through mentoring and training opportunities.
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Adrienne re-located to Phoenix in 2001. She has volunteered for several organizations including being a mentor to foster children, serving as a Girl Scout leader and various events for Make a Wish Foundation and Susan G. Komen for the cure.
Sandra Bernal, Corporate Relations Manager
Sandra has been with UCP since 2008. She is an Arizona native and has also lived in Alaska and Las Vegas. Prior to working at UCP, Sandra worked with children with disabilities for the Deer Valley School District resource class. While working for UCP she has held many positions including, Human Resources, Early Intervention, and Development, giving her an extensive knowledge of the agency and our consumers. In 2011 when the Corporate Relations Department was established, she was named the Corporate Relations Manager. Sandra is a liaison to our Corporate Sponsor. She enhances and sustains partnerships while building future relationships for the organization. Since accepting the Corporate Relations Manager position she has successfully coordinated several golf tournaments, promotions, and events in conjunction with our Corporate Sponsor. She believes that working for UCP is like being part of a family with a mission to help create a life without limits for people with disabilities.
Amy White, Therapy Services and Early Intervention Manager
Amy White has been working for UCP of Central Arizona since 2004. She is an Arizona native and graduate of Arizona State University. Her original focus in college was Law but found her passion was children. While in college she started working directly with special needs. Her initial start with the Arizona Early Intervention Program began in 2002, and she then transitioned to UCP’s amazing Early Intervention Program. She has been able to be a core foundation for the Early Intervention Program and plans to move the program to the next level, of care, support, and service for all families UCP supports.
Amy is married with three beautiful children (two girls and a boy). She is extremly connected to her community through volunteer programs including Peoria Parks and Rec, City of Phoenix Street Clean-up, and other youth programs her children are involved with including volunteering at their schools. Amy participates with many of her church’s activities including teaching the infant/toddler and preschool classroom and is a leader for a group of third and fourth grade boys each week.
Dan Scott, Home and Community Based Service Manager
Dan joined the team as HCBS Manger on February 11, 2013. Dan comes to UCP after approximately 28 years of being employed by the Division of Developmental Disabilities. He has held several roles with DDD and is looking forward to helping UCP Maximize the quality of the HCBS program!
Dan’s experience with DDD has included working with the therapy community, developing volunteer and intern programs, and most recently working with DTT, DTA, and HCBS programs providing technical assistance for vendors and oversight for the Division. In addition, he has served on different committees and has extensive knowledge of DDD policies and procedures. Dan has developed many positive working relationships throughout the years in both the provider community and with the families and individuals we serve.
Dan has lived in the valley for 52 years and has seen many changes in both area’s landscape and the landscape of the disability community. Dan’s commitment has always been to provide the very best quality services to consumers and their families. This is something he is promising to continue as he begins his new career with UCP.
Terry Wideman, Day Treatment for Adults & Day Treatment and Training Director
For the past 23 years, “I have been blessed to serve adults with disabilities.” Terry started her career in Sierra Vista in a work shop setting with 6 adults recycling paper from Fort Huachuca Army Post. Terry and her husband decided to move to Mesa to raise their two boys near family.
As a result she accepted a direct care position working with adults in a DTA program. Over the years Terry acquired promotions until she accepted the DTA Director position over seeing 128 consumers in five different locations. In 2009 Terry accepted a program manager position at new DTA program in Scottsdale that offered enhanced activities in a therapeutic environment to develop individual’s skills with the use innovating technology and adaptive equipment.
Terry joined the UCP team in October 2011 to fulfill a life long dream to work with children. “UCP has given me an incredible opportunity to be the DTT/DTA Director over the children and adult programs. I am so fortunate I have the best of both worlds. I get to see children developing friendships that last until their adulthood.”
Terry has extensive knowledge working with DDD and is committed to consumers and their families to provide a quality program in a safe environment while promoting fun. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology and volunteers at Mesa Partnership.
Carol Proch, Early Learning Center Director
Carol has been with UCP’s Early Learning Center since the start of 2004. She began her career in Early Childhood Education many years ago here in Phoenix. Through Carol’s leadership, the ELC completed a self study and became a nationally accredited center and recently completed reaccreditation! Growing up and becoming a “teacher” and working with kids was always a childhood dream!
Carol is originally from Connecticut where she also received her education.
Brittani Roberts, Information and Referral Specialist
Brittani has been with UCP since 2009. She was born and raised in Phoenix Arizona, and has a background in Behavioral Health. In high school, Brittani chose two semesters of Special Education elective classes, to experience working with students her own age, which had developmental disabilities. Throughout college working and attaining her Associate’s Degree, Brittani began working at UCP in the Day Treatment and Training for Young Adults, and was also selected for a short term in the summer to run the Respite Care Program in Day Treatment and Training.
“There is nothing more rewarding than touching the lives of others, and realizing that they touch my life more than anything”, says Brittani.
After working 2 wonderful years with the young adults, Brittani decided to begin another journey to work in the Day Treatment and Training for Adults. Gaining more experience and taking skills learned from DTT, Brittani soon began to spread her love, joy, and enthusiasm to the adults with developmental disabilities. ”I am truly blessed to work with the individuals, and nothing in my heart could make me happier”. Brittani continued her dedication and compassion to the DTA program. Shortly after 6 months, Brittani received a promotion as the Information and Referral Specialist where she also manages the volunteer program. ”I am very happy and blessed, to work with an organization who not only serves individuals with developmental disabilities, but serves their families, and the community”.
Paul Cocuzza, Community Outreach/Business Development Associate
Prior to joining the UCP family as a Business Development Associate, Paul had been a Volunteer on UCP’s Development Committee since July 2011. Paul is a top-performing Sales and Business Development consultant with a passion for Philanthropy and Volunteerism. Enhancing existing relationships, while building new ones. Paul is a connector, a problem solver and an organizer, having found success in a number of diverse sale roles over his 35 year career. He has a solid reputation for knowledge and integrity, earning a role as a trusted advisor in our community.
He currently serves as Secretary/Treasurer, on the ELDERfriends® Foundation Board of Directors at the Area Agency on Aging, Region One.
When he is not spending quality time with family and friends, Paul is actively involved in volunteering and giving back to the community. “Becoming part of the UCP family fulfills my dream of making a difference, and fostering positive change in our community one day at a time“.