Richmond Volunteers Honored

News Report, Todd Spencer

Committing to do community service without compensation may seem undesirable to some, but to others, donating time for a just cause can be rewarding. And in fact, volunteers are responsible for some of the most important work that takes place in any community, which is why City of Richmond mayor Gayle McLaughlin and city manager Bill Lindsey have recently been working to promote volunteerism across the city.

McLaughlin recently signed a “declaration of service,” making Richmond a member of the Cities of Service national coalition. Cities of Service is a coalition of municipal governments from across the country that are working together to accelerate the “service movement” and engage residents as volunteers to make a difference in their communities.

Richmond was also recently awarded a grant from the Bechtel Foundation to advance best practices and develop a coordinated strategy for implementing citywide volunteer services.

In April, the City of Richmond, in partnership with Richmond Community Foundation (RCF) and the Volunteer Center of the East Bay, honored exemplary volunteer service at a citywide Volunteer Recognition Ceremony at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium. The ceremony was a prelude to the city celebrating National Volunteer Week. At the event, community organizations occupied booths where people lined up to ask questions and sign up for volunteer services.

“I hope people recognize the amazing work that unsung heroes [in Richmond] do, spending their individual time to help improve their community,” said April Suwalsky, director of community engagement at RCF, who attended the event.

Mayor McLaughlin gave an inspirational speech, in which she quoted the great freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow, and learn as if you were to live forever,” she told the audience.

Two types of awards were given out at the event. The first were in recognition of “meritorious service.” Those awards were given to: Roxanne Alexander, Andromeda Brooks, Catholic Charities of the East Bay Family Literacy, Tom Chin, Michael B. Clark, Joann Ford, Sandi Genser-Maack, Virginia Harrison, Felix Hunziker, Teri Katz, John Kendrick, Melanie Myers, Irma Sanchez, Helida Solorio, and Brian Spiker.

The second category was for “distinguished volunteer service.” The winners in that category were:

Bradley Blake, from the group College is Real, whose members have been working under the radar, helping Richmond High School students become the first in their family to graduate high school and attend college.

Jan Schilling, from Weigh of Life, for her work in helping Richmond families attain a healthier lifestyle through health education and exercise classes.

Isela Gonzales, from Building Blocks for Kids, an organization that supports the development of healthy children and the self-sufficiency of all families living in the Iron Triangle neighborhood. Isela thanked the city for its support.

Goshi Kogure, from the Richmond Art Center, said that he recently came back from Japan where he was visiting his ill sister, and was shocked upon learning of his nomination after having worked at the art center for less than two years. Art, said Goshi, is good for the spirit.

Cameron J. Williams, who started a ceramic arts project in North Richmond, was also honored, but was not present to accept his award.

Bea Roberson received a Special Recognition Service Award for her dedication to attending Town-Hall meetings to increase community understanding of issues around the city. Roberson encouraged everyone to find something they enjoy doing that can help to improve this great city.

Congratulations to all the award winners. May your plaque be displayed with pride, knowing you’ve done something to help improve the City of Richmond.

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