By Denise Ortuno Neil

Helping those in need in the Coachella Valley through health and human care needs has been the focus of United Way of the Desert for over 70 years. This year, the organization will hold their 24th Annual VIP Fundraising Gala to coincide with the opening of the newly remodeled and highly anticipated Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage.

The United Way of the Desert is 501c3 organization that helps residents in need in the Coachella Valley and in the Morongo Basin by supporting many different programs, “We focus on programming that really help families in our area stabilize their income, educate their children as well as providing access to healthcare and encouraging healthy lifestyles,” explains United Way of the Desert Executive Director, Kristal Granados. The UWD gives programming support to 19 different local non-profit partners in the Coachella Valley that help families in need. UWD partners such as FIND Food Bank, CASA, Desert Cancer Foundation, Martha’s Village and Kitchen are among the many non-profits that receive assistance through UWD.

The annual gala is their biggest fundraising event of the year. This year’s event is titled “Build a Pathway out of Poverty”. The gala will take place at the freshly renovated Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage. The regal hotel opened its doors initially in the late 80’s. Perched high up on a 650 ft. bluff above Rancho Mirage in the Santa Rosa Mountains, it was one of the most beautiful hotels in the Coachella Valley, with décor harkening back to aristocratic England with dark wood paneling in the lounge dutifully appointed with painting of fox hunts and other purposeful antique visuals. They would even offer high tea on occasion, with traditional fare of cucumber sandwiches and other appropriate accompaniments. The hotel did change hands as time progressed and was closed in 2006. Soon after its closure, new ownership was in place and the hotel was on point to become the Ritz Carlton once again, unfortunately those plans fell victim to the financial crisis of 2008.


But the hotel was destined to come back to its former home and with new investment and after much renovation; it is finally ready to open its doors on May 15, 2014. The modern styled hotel will boast 244 guest rooms with 16 suites, new styled restaurants and a full scale spa, and most likely, not one Fox Hunt painting, although they will be missed.

The UWD gala will serve as the kickoff event for the hotel as it takes place on Friday, May 16th. The elegant event will be hosted by Honorary Chair Richard Kite and will begin with cocktails on the Terrace at 5:30pm and then sit-down dinner with cuisine by top Ritz Carlton Chefs. Dinner is then proceeded by a “Best of the Valley” gift raffle and a “Fund a Pathway” live auction. Entertainment will be provided by the eclectic musical ensemble Hot Purple Energy. Tickets to the event are $250 per person, with table sponsorship seating 10 available for $2500 which includes sponsorship mention in the events program. Other tier sponsorship is available. All proceeds from the event go directly in support of programs within the Coachella Valley.

With the needs of the Coachella Valley constantly growing, support for programs that help families get the services that they need is vital. The UWD organization is in focus with making these programs flourish, and indeed helping those in need, “Build a Pathway out of Poverty”.

For tickets and more information visit

For information about the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage visit