By Tricia Witkower
When Cindy Melton Burreson started interacting with the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, her role was that of parent and patron. Her sons, now aged 9 and 11, were passholders when they were younger and Cindy loved to see them interact and learn in different ways than they were able to in school. Fast forward years later, and Cindy is embarking on a new and exciting role there as CEO. Said Burreson, “I wanted to be on the Board for a long time and came on in 2020. Then when the need arose for an Interim Executive Director, I offered to be in that position while working another job as well. I have now been hired on as the full-time CEO and am so excited to help create the vision for the museum and see it through.”
Cindy has lived in the desert for over 16 years and loves everything about the area: the schools, the weather, the people, and the opportunities for community involvement. Cindy comes from a sales and management background, specializing in hospitality – she worked at Tommy Bahama Restaurant in Palm Desert and at Marriott International. She thoroughly enjoyed the amazing cultures at both of those companies and they helped to develop her appreciation of a positive workplace culture. Desert dwellers may have met Cindy through one of the many committees she’s been involved in over the years. To name a few, she is the former President of the Greater Palm Springs Wedding Association, Vice President of the National Association of Catering and Events, and Board Member for Palm Desert Area Chamber of Commerce. She served on the Board and Auxiliary Board for Shelter from the Storm as well as having been a keynote speaker for them twice, and is currently a Board Member of the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce. She has volunteered a lot with local non-profits and has been awarded Businessperson of the Year for the Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce and Excellence in Service and Hospitality for the CVB.
When asked what interested her in this position with CDMOD, Burreson said, “I think that the Museum is really a blank slate right now and it’s an opportunity for us to really be thoughtful in the way we come back to our community.” Her vision is for the Museum to be revitalized and true to their mission statement of being a “community resource” when they reopen. Her creativity, positivity and business acumen will help to strengthen the foundation of the Museum and help envision and sustain its future. One question many have is when the Museum will be reopening and the answer to that, is late 2022 (no exact date, but they are mindful of keeping the community apprised as they get closer to a concrete opening date).
Although the pandemic negatively affected the Museum, it also caused Board members to realize that they needed to broaden their donor base as well as their community support. They had always relied heavily on earned revenue (membership, sales and admissions) and when the pandemic hit and they didn’t have that anymore, it was eye-opening. “We need our communities’ support now more than ever. We draw the parallel that we are sitting where the original founders were; with great vision and hope and the need to fundraise to make it a reality,” said Burreson.
CDMOD is lucky to have found someone so well-suited to the position. Cindy is a big thinker with notebooks full of ideas and plans for the Museum, including a new program to cultivate future philanthropists while being socially impactful in our community. As she tells it, “Our vision is that we reopen – reimagined- and address the needs of a broader audience of children and families, one that is reflective of our community. We intend to do this with new and creative programming and exhibits.” The Museum has updated their vision statement to look through the lens of creativity and plans to update in phases including each building, exterior exhibitry and an expansion. Says Burreson, “We are doing more than a facelift to the Museum; we are doing a thoughtful deep-dive to reopen in an exciting and meaningful way.”
To get in touch with Cindy or to donate to the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, her email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the website is cdmod.org.