Board Members

Dinah Bear, Chair

Dinah Bear, ChairDinah Bear began involvement in causes involving migrants, when, growing up in southern California, she began volunteering as a high school student to support the Delano grape strike and boycott and learned about the plight of migrants generally. She began volunteering for Humane Borders in 2003.

Professionally, Dinah works in the field of environmental law and policy. She served for many years as General Counsel for both Democratic and Republican administrations at the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, the environmental agency in the Executive Office of the President. Ms. Bear has chaired the Standing Committee on Environmental Law of the American Bar Association and the Environment Section of the District of Columbia Bar Association. She received the Chairman’s Award from the Natural Resources Council of America, the Distinguished Service Award from the Sierra Club, and the Distinguished Achievement Award in Environmental Law and Policy from the American Bar Association.

Ms. Bear now lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she remains professionally active in environmental law and policy with a special focus on the borderlands. She received a Bachelors of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1974, and graduated from McGeorge School of Law, Sacramento, California, in 1977.

Bob Feinman, Vice Chair

Bob Feinman, Vice ChairBorn and raised in the New York City area I was never far away from the Spanish language (remember West Side Story?). I arrived in Tucson in 1967, by then having become fluent in Spanish, to attend the University of Arizona. Quite by accident, I ended up in the radio business. First in the English language, and then in the Spanish language. My radio career lasted 40 years and took me to Phoenix for a while, and then back to Tucson where I live today.

I am the grandchild of Jewish immigrants. Each year we’d celebrate the Passover Seder at their homes. The story of the Exodus, of our being lost in the desert, and my grandparents flight from Europe had a profound effect on me. A few years ago, I read about a group called Humane Borders. Their mission is to prevent people lost in our deserts from suffering, as we did in the Sinai.

I am a Spanish speaking Jew that the Hispanic community of Arizona accepted with open arms. How could I not want to be a part of Humane Borders? Its mission is part of my heritage.

Ildefonso "Poncho" Chavez, Treasurer

Ildefonso Poncho Chavez currently serves as the Managing Director of the Eller Economic Development Program at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. He grew up in Coahuila, Mexico, moved to Monterrey where he graduated from the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon with a degree in finance, accounting and auditing.

Poncho is especially noted for his service to Central American families seeking refuge in the United States.

He moved to the United States in 1990, first living in Minnesota, where he obtained degrees in both accounting and English. After moving to Tucson, he became involved with Humane Borders in 2006 and joined the Board in 2010, becoming Treasurer in 2016. Poncho is well known to many border groups in southern Arizona and is especially noted for his service to Central American families seeking refuge in the United States.

Dan Abbott, Phoenix Representative

Dan Abbott, Phoenix Representative Dan grew up as a “missionary kid” in India, where his parents taught at a Bible College. He became psychiatric social worker who was employed in public schools as a consultant and advisor to emotionally handicapped children.

Together with Catherine May, his wife, who is a historian at the Salt River Project, he has five children and ten grandchildren. He is a member of and Deacon at the University Presbyterian Church in Tempe where has also taught adult education and is on the board of Presbyterian Border Region Outreach.

"We ... walk together on a journey of peace to remember people, friends and family who have died." - Migrant Walk

He is on the organizing committee of the Migrant Trail Walk, a 75 mile walk from Sasabe to Tucson that occurs each year. Dan became involved with Humane Borders since 2004 and has driven dozens of water runs from Phoenix to areas of the west desert in southern Arizona. He also enjoys walking and has walked the Camino de Santiago.

Norm Baker, Phoenix Representative

Norm Baker, Phoenix RepresentativeNorm Baker has been a volunteer for Humane Borders since 2002. “I believe very strongly in this lifesaving work and hope for a day when good people in search of a better life can cross the border legally and safely,” he says.

“I ... hope for a day when good people in search of a better life can cross the border legally and safely.”

I have been a contractor here in Arizona for 30 years building custom homes, and have recently retired. Originally from Nebraska, I studied at the University in Lincoln, and earned a Masters degree in microbiology. I worked a few years for a major pharmaceutical company, but realized I didn’t enjoy that somewhat confining lab work for a big corporation. I went back to hands on work building things for people and have found much more satisfaction. I still do some small remodel projects, woodworking in my shop, and volunteering for my church.

My wife Pat and I enjoy traveling to interesting new places.

Rev. John Hoelter, Director

John Hoelter, Secretary John Hoelter, and his wife Diane Hoelter, moved to Tucson in the summer of 1994, when John began employment at the Carondelet Hospice as a chaplain.

John retired in 2008, and both he and Diane started volunteering for Humane Borders. John drives for Humane Borders virtually every week and sometimes takes turns as a passenger. Diane often goes out on water runs and helps in many other ways.

"I am enriched by my association with the people at Humane Borders."

John says, “The work I do is a small part of a larger effort by good people I am pleased to know who work to keep prominent basic humanitarian concerns for those who, at great danger, cross the desert. I am enriched by my association with the people at Humane Borders.”


Joel Smith, Operations Manager

Joel Smith, Operations Manager Joel Smith was born in Tucson but as a result of his father’s Air Force career, grew up all over the United States and Europe. After a stint with the U.S. Marine Corps, Joel moved back to Tucson. He began working with Humane Borders in 2009.

A strong believer in the humanity of every person and of Humane Border’s mission.

Joel is a strong believer in the humanity of every person and of Humane Border’s mission. In July, 2016, he was the subject of the cover story in the Tucson Weekly, discussing both his personal values and Humane Border’s work. He was quoted saying, “I am an Air Force brat and a Marine Corps veteran. I love my country. If you want to call me unpatriotic, it is like barking at a tree.”