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The Jackie Hoffner Heart & Hope Award

Jackie Hoffner inspired everyone she met. She was a force for strategic good, a person with a huge heart who valued and advocated kindness on behalf of individuals, families, communities, and animals. She was a creative force, a writer, a storyteller, and a lover of the arts. She also was a founding member of True West Film Center. When Jackie died in 2017, the True West Film Center Board gathered and activated to create an award in her memory. We set out to have the award celebrate her by embracing those who stimulate hope and optimism for a better future.

In honor of Jackie’s generosity of spirit and the True West Film Center mission of bringing diverse films, artists, educational and cultural enrichment programming to our community, we created the Jackie Hoffner Heart & Hope Award. Three years later, the Hoffner Heart & Hope Award is going strong.

Woman with long blonde hair and Golden Gate Bridge behind her

We welcome nominations for anyone who has shared their expertise with True West Film Center, participated in or purchased a ticket to one of our events, or partnered with the organization to deliver or amplify our work. The award will be given to an individual or group whose work or contributions in film, video storytelling, or the media arts reflect these key attributes:

  • Heart – A willingness to give of themselves and the ability to inspire others.
  • Passion – A profound and unrelenting commitment to the project.
  • Social or Community Impact – An explicit intention to drive positive change.
  • Optimism – The belief that their work will contribute to a stimulating and sustainable future/create lasting value.


Nominations for the 2023 Jackie Hoffner Heart & Hope Award are now closed. Thank you to everyone who submitted a nomination!

The awardee will be honored at “The Hollywood of Tomorrow,” an event funding the Educational Programs of True West Film Center at Little Saint on Monday, November 13, 2023.


True West Film Center Executive Director Kathryn Hecht, community members Jenness Brewer, Renay Weissberger Fanelli, and Matt Villano.

Award Selection – Eligibility & Process

Nominations are open to all members of the True West Film Center community, including but not limited to filmmakers, writers, educators, volunteers and community partners. Nominations must be submitted via the online Nomination Form. The community is encouraged to nominate unsung heroes whose contributions may go largely unrecognized.

The timeframe for the work/contribution occurred must be within the past year. Nominations open in August.

Selection Criteria


The extent to which the Nominee’s work or contribution demonstrates:

  • A willingness to give of themselves and the ability to inspire others.
  • A celebration of our community’s diverse populations and needs.
  • A tendency to go above and beyond the call of duty.

The extent to which the Nominee’s work or contribution demonstrates:

  • A profound and unrelenting commitment to the project.
  • A hunger for learning and finding new ways forward.
  • A motivation for his/her fellows to follow their own hopes and dreams.
Social or Community Impact

The extent to which the Nominee’s work or contribution demonstrates:

  • An explicit intention to drive positive change.
  • A focus on inclusion and the dismantling of bigotry and prejudice.
  • The ability to influence communities in proactive and constructive ways.

The extent to which the Nominee’s work or contribution demonstrates:

  • The belief that their work will contribute to a stimulating and sustainable future/create lasting value.
  • An unwavering positive outlook to weather adversity and challenges.
  • An assertion as to the goodness of people and the desire to seek that out.
Nikko Kimzin (left) accepts the Jackie Hoffner award from Wendy Connor, Kathryn Hecht and Mike Traina

2023 Recipient

Nikko Kimzin of Sonoma, CA.

As Founder and Lead Consultant with Kimzin Creative, Nikko (far left in the picture) works with local governments, schools/districts, and arts & culture organizations to create equitable access to culturally relevant arts processes and programming.

From 2018-2021, he served as the Director of Education and Community Engagement at Transcendence Theater Company. He produced all education and community programming for 11,000 youth and adults annually, focusing on equitable arts access for underserved communities. He has created Corporate Professional Development programs for Google, Sotheby’s, and other Bay Area Executive Teams. Contributor to Sonoma County Arts Education Framework. Keynote speaker at CA Migrant Education, Stanford University, Emory University, UCSC, and more.

After years as a performer in New York and around the world, Nikko realized a pattern in the roles for which he was being considered: a young Latino man with a gun in a gang with a thick accent. Desperate for complex storytelling, he was faced with a choice: “Do I wait for the industry to change?” or “Do I learn new skills to help change the industry.” The latter was his start in a world of storytelling that seeks to honor and celebrate the cultural wealth of diverse communities. “And now,” says Nikko, “I get the JOY of continuing to collaborate with passionate, talented artists in creating a more inclusive and just world for all of us.”

For his commitment as a change-maker and a trailblazer, forging new paths while working to create equity in existing systems, and most especially for listening and leading with his heart, Nikko Kimzin is the 2023 Jackie Hoffner Heart & Hope Award Winner.

Wendy Connor wins the 2023 Jackie Hoffner Heart & Hope Award

2022 Recipient

Wendy Conner of Cloverdale, CA.

For more than 25 years, Wendy Conner (left in the picture) has served as a high school educator in Sonoma County, teaching Language Arts, History, and ESL. Her dedication to students transforms lives every day. In addition to her commitment of helping students achieve every positive academic outcome, she has integrated community programs to provide a critical real-world application for her students’ education. She championed Listening For Change, a program that teaches active listening and oral history skills. These skills were then proactively applied to community interviews sourced, researched, and conducted by her students.

Wendy also worked extensively with the Full Circle Cinema program via True West Film Center to integrate media arts skills training into her English classes. An early adopter of this program, she coached True West Film Center staff and her students to connect her curriculum with the outside skills teaching. Based on the reviews from her students, the True West Film Center program has developed into a standards-based platform widely sought by other educators throughout Sonoma and Lake Counties.

During the pandemic shutdown, Wendy actively made space for students to turn on their cameras while distance learning. She normalized many challenging home situations with empathy and encouraged her students to prioritize their education no matter the circumstances. For these and many, many other reasons brought forth by her nominators, Wendy is 2022 Jackie Hoffner Heart & Hope Award recipient.

Susan Verde and partner Ubidube Whitaker

2020 Recipient

Susan Verde of Cloverdale, CA.

Susan Verde (left in the picture) has led the True West Film Center screening team as a volunteer for five years. She has contributed hundreds of hours as a volunteer, and she has helped shape the entire screening team program into a fluid, fully operational system designed to support staff decisions.

Susan’s volunteer efforts significantly elevated the film society, and her lived experience deeply influenced True West Film Center policy and programming. Her steadfast involvement with the organization helped usher in a resolve to adapt events for equitable access and to ensure that True West Film Center programming becomes more inclusive. She has been tireless in her advocacy efforts for the disabled community and contributes her voice regularly within True West Film Center when given the opportunity to use film as a platform.

Susan’s heart is wide open for those who have experienced injustice. She is passionate about equity and views film as a medium to build bridges and conduct life-changing conversations. Her love of film exceeds all else, and she is devoted to sharing the power of film so that all may learn and grow from it.

Claire O’Neill, AVFS Board Chair; Lizbeth Perez, and Executive Director Kathryn Hecht

2019 Recipient

Lizbeth Perez of Healdsburg, CA.

Lizbeth (centered in the picture) was born in Mexico City and has resided in Healdsburg since 2001. She currently serves as Programs Manager for Corazón Healdsburg. Lizbeth is passionate about her community and has experience working in Mexico as a Social Worker and Adult Educator. She has first-hand experience with the challenges of being an immigrant including language barriers, lack of understanding of community systems and requirements, cultural differences, struggling for affordable housing and feeling isolated in her search for better opportunities in life. In 2008 when her first son started kindergarten at Healdsburg Elementary School, Lizbeth became involved with the English Learners Advisory Committee (ELAC). She has helped other parents develop leadership skills to make their voice heard so that Healdsburg Schools meet the needs of all of our children. Lizbeth is also a part-time student at SRJC, studying to become an accountant.

Barry Hoffner (Jackie’s husband), Malinalli López, and Executive Director Kathryn Hecht

2018 Recipient

Malinalli López of Windsor, CA.

Malinalli (centered in the picture) is a filmmaker, professor of Chicano Latino Studies and American Multicultural Studies at Sonoma State University, and an active Board member of the Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County. She teaches filmmaking workshops to underserved youth. She founded XQL media, a company dedicated to creating films that feature themes that explore critical social issues. She is currently working on at least two documentaries: one exploring the lives of Latinx immigrants, and the other on the impacts on developmentally disabled residents from the closure of the Sonoma Developmental Center.

Based on her demonstration of Heart, Passion, Social or Community Impact, and Optimism, Mali is deeply deserving of this inaugural award.

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