Volunteers shown value of work

The Downey Coordinating Council (DCC) saluted 27 "outstanding" community volunteers for the year 2008-09 at its 55th annual Community Service Awards and Installation Dinner on Thursday last week.First to get her plaque was American Association of University Women's Marilyn Thomas, who retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District as an elementary school principal after 41 years of service. She was cited for her "leadership and dedicated service to [the Downey] branch." A 35-year Downey resident who "enjoys gardening and antiquing with her daughter," Thomas to her peers "generously donates her centerpieces for our monthly meetings, which are used to raise money for our scholarship program." She is an active member of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International and the Downey Rose Float Association. Deborah Massaglia of the Assistance League of Downey was recognized for her work as president of the Roxanna Todd Hodges Foundation which she helped develop and whose day-to-day operations she runs. A member of the Gypsy Johnson Auxiliary for 14 years, she has served as its chairman and is currently the Assisteens coordinator. Active on the stroke awareness front (she began working with the Stroke Association of Southern California in 1996), she has been a recipient of the Woman of Distinction Award from the Soroptimist. The Catholic Women's Guild's pick this year was Sally Johnson, who early on got involved with The Parents Adoption League after she and husband Bill adopted two boys. Her current focus is on the Ladies of Charity as representative for the San Pedro area and on the Skidrow Sandwich Program, as well as the Guild, where she serves as refreshments and decorations chair. She is known for doing everything "with love and expertise," and her peers extol her for her "devotion and dedication." Alta Morelli, representing the Christian Women's Club of Downey, has said she finds it "extremely wonderful" to work for the club. She joined it in the early '80s, holding several positions over the years, including club chairperson. She currently serves as Bible coffee coordinator and Bible Study guide. The Downey Chamber of Commerce's president, Rick Rodriguez, was also the chamber's selection as outstanding volunteer. Currently serving on its Business Watch and now in his third year as chairman of the Street Faire Committee, he has served on the Holiday Lane Parade Committee. His nomination attests to his "genuine enthusiasm for the chamber and volunteering," his frequent travel around the nation on business as president of RMI International, Inc. notwithstanding. Joanna Shull's 12 plus years of "sharing her time and the gift of reading by delivering books to individuals who otherwise would not have access to the library" as a "Book on Wheels" (a partnership with the Assistance League of Downey) volunteer was the main reason why she has endeared herself as a member of the Downey City Library's volunteer corps. Otherwise, in the same breath, she is also mentioned as having "given a lifetime of service to Downey." The Downey Coordinating Council's Mary Guzman is this year's DCC choice as its outstanding volunteer for her work with the Downey Emblem Club (serving twice as its president "over many years of service") and Arc of Southeast Los Angeles County. It says here "she is much loved by everyone" in the Downey Coordinating Council because aside from helping buy supplies, she takes care of the coffee for every DCC meeting. Marge Lewis, a familiar figure in the Assistance League of Downey and the Symphony Guild, has been volunteering with DCC since 1990 (serving as its president from 1992 to 1994) while also finding time to get involved with PTA Helps. She was PTA Helps' volunteer of the year selection. Pat Vallefuoco is this year's Downey Family YMCA nominated honoree. She is the current president of the Downey Y's Men Club which raises funds through sales projects, Christmas tree lot sales and other fundraisers. She is known for her all-out support for the Y's youth and family programs. Louis Wilson joined the Downey Regional Medical Center Auxiliary 32 years ago, and has logged a total of 10,500 volunteer hours being a general factotum (floor service, chaplain's aide, chairman of ICU/CCU, etc.). According to her associates, the word, CARING, is writ large on her forehead. Her nomination to receive DCC recognition this year was uncontested. The Downey Rose Float Association's representative this year was Mike Artherton, a Float member for 22 years and currently its 1st vice president. He is known to Furman Park summer concert aficionados as the "ice cream scooper guy." A Boy Scout leader for several years, he's also involved with the Southern California Metropolitan Car Club which hosted the Southwestern Unique Little Car Show at the Citadel this past April. Downey Sister Cities' choice as its honoree was Paula Mejia, who is this year's association's treasurer. Her family has resided in Downey for many years. She has held various positions with the Montebello Board of Realtors and has recently joined the Amer-I-Can program where she will counsel kids and parents. Her daughter Jacquelinne, who is now pursuing a career in journalism at the University of Missouri, was at one time an occasional contributor to this paper. Getting recognition is old hat to Bernice Stumps, honored by the Downey Symphony Guild as its representative for outstanding volunteer. A mother of 5, and grandmother of 9, she finds time to build and manage the Downey Tennis Club's website and is on the tennis courts several times a week. A member of the Women's Club of Downey and Pro Networkers of Downey, she has her own business as an authorized contractor for The Free enterprise Institute, a company that that "teaches and promotes business ethics and creative technologies for solving problems." The Downey Symphonic Society's representative nominee this year was Downey Symphony director Sharon Lavery, who also teaches and conducts at USC's Thornton School of Music. With characteristic energy, she has thrown herself into a lot of projects promoting the continued success of the Downey Symphony, including founding a Young Artist Competition, to the delight of many. Harriett Paine, Adult Education home economist, instructor and author, needs practically no introduction because of her work with OASIS. Her early pioneering work in the home and family disaster preparation area, following the San Fernando earthquake, led her into a collaboration with the city manager and the fire chief in promoting city disaster preparedness via churches, clubs, the PTA and city employees. She was the Emergency Preparedness Committee's choice as its honoree this year. Representing the Friends of the Downey City Library was its longtime volunteer, former president and its perennial bookkeeper, Vicki Spearman, who works full-time as a realtor and was the moving force behind the major remodel of the main entrance and the Friends bookstore. Hard to contemplate, but she, a Warren High School product, has been married for 46 years to a Downey High alumnus. Barbara Lamberth was this year's Gangs Out of Downey outstanding nominee for her indefatigable involvement in many areas of GOOD's increasingly influential program. She has served as GOOD chairman and is "one of the key reasons GOOD continues to thrive." Honored for the "time and energy he has contributed to the community over the years," Byron Dillon, retired dentist and former U.S.A.F. captain who served in WWII and the Korean War, was a shoo-in as Keep Downey Beautiful outstanding volunteer nominee. He is known to remove or pick up anything that even remotely resembles trash or clean surfaces of unwanted graffiti. Not only is this commendable activity "keeping him fit" by walking daily, he also leaves behind a clean street." Living Help Center's delegate honoree was Linda Malme, who has been with the center for over 15 years. She has been a board member and worked many positions but mainly she has worked in the computer department. She has also invested her energies in the center's Walk for Life program and the city's Kids Day at the park. The Newcomers Club of Downey's honoree was Joanne Hoffman who joined the club in 1989. Since then she has served as secretary, treasurer, president and chairman of activities and decorations. She helps out with the club's scholarship program, entertains monthly for the Pan Group and the monthly coffee, and hosts the annual Back Yard get-together. Daniel Gold was the Optimist Club of Downey's representative volunteer of the year for his involvement with its many charitable activities. He is on the golf tournament committee, supports Arc, participates in the annual Halloween Pumpkin Patch event, and helps provide major assistance to the children's programs at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. The Polio Survivors Association's choice as outstanding volunteer was Nora Ruth Pla, for her work with adults, children and infants with various disabling conditions, including spinal cord injury, developmental disabilities, and polio. A regular volunteer at Rancho Los Amigos, she devotes many hours each month helping the Polio Survivors Association and the Rancho Post-Polio Support Group. Rancho Los Amigos' volunteer of the year was Julie Helgren, who is celebrating her 25th year of service there, particularly in the area of pediatric care. Through her "bubbly personality and consummate professionalism, combined with her endless creativity," she tries to help every kid participate in "life-changing activities and achieve their dreams." Together for Hope's representative was David Butler, an alumnus of Warren High and Cerritos College. He worked as a federal fireman at Fort Riley Army Base in Kansas and is a Vietnam veteran. Upon retirement, he returned to California where was put to work by The Ladies of Together for Hope. A relative newcomer to Soroptimist International of Downey, Patricia Kotze's drive and talents have catapulted her to leadership roles. She is SI Downey's president-elect and served as chairperson of the club's scholarship committee this year, after co-chairing the recent Casino Night Fundraiser. She concurrently serves on the board of the Downey Chamber of Commerce. Unity in the Community's honoree was Devi Kokaram, who has been involved with the association's work with the residents of Treasure Island for some time now. She currently serves as vice president. Her active involvement includes following up on safety concerns on the Island, interfacing with city officials on the Island's behalf and helping arrange feature events. She was at one time editor of the Island newsletter, "The Breeze." Outstanding volunteer up for recognition chosen by Women's Club of Downey was longtime member (23 years), former president (2 years) and former executive board member (3 years) Cheryll Olson whose active participation in the club's activities has included serving as Su Casa Domestic Violence Shelter chairman for 18 years, service in the Gourmet Section for 10 years, and helping obtain items for veterans at the VA hospital in Long Beach. She first started serving the community by becoming a "candy striper" in 1963 at Rancho Los Amigos. Outgoing DCC president and emcee for the evening Anne Bayer thanked her 2008-09 officers team that included nonreturning Kathleen Midstokke as treasurer and Linda Malme as auditor, for their "support and a job well done." The rest of her original team forms the core of the incoming 2009-10 officers, namely, Leonard Zuniga, who served as secretary and will now serve as president; Barbara Emry, who will continue to serve as 1st vice president; and Carol Rowland, who will continue as 2nd vice president. DeeAnna Hampton is the new secretary, Brenda Warner the new treasurer; and Jan Scott the new auditor. Acknowledging the large turnout to the event and no less important its quality, mayor Mario Guerra said: "Downey is a great place because of people like you."

********** Published: May 29, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 6

Eric Pierce