County Leaders Honor Hard Work Volunteers in Local Community – Merced County Times

Merced County Government CEO Raul Lomeli Mendez described Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors as a special meeting filled with a “spirit of appreciation.”

Normally these regular meetings of county leaders are marked by sobering discussions and decision-making, but this week much of the time was spent honoring the hard work and efforts of some of the best volunteers in the region.

This was part of the 48th National Volunteer Week which featured the theme “Celebrating Service”. Council members say it is a good time to remind local residents of the importance of volunteering and to make volunteering an integral part of their lives.

Earlier this year, officials encouraged community members to nominate volunteers who inspire everyone. Later, an advisory committee helped select those who will receive county recognition.

Ten were chosen. Here they are:

• Jose Gonzalez – Planada Elementary School District Superintendent

Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza said there is no one in the Planada community who does not like Mr. Gonzalez. The educator was praised for going above and beyond the call of duty during the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Among other things, Gonzalez helped create gathering centers at schools in this small community and led efforts to deliver food boxes and other supplies to families. It has also worked with agencies to establish vaccination clinics at school sites.

• Ye Thao — Merced Lao Family

Thao is described as an exceptional resident who has dedicated more than 1,000 unpaid hours over the past year to help the community, especially the vulnerable. Thao works with the Merced Lao Family organization and provides social services to members of the Hmong, Lao and Mien communities. He also works with Foster Farms, the Methodist Church and the USDA to distribute food boxes to food insecure people. Thao added to his volunteer efforts in 2021, dedicating time to more than 20 covid vaccination clinics.

• Olivia Olson — Kohl associates in action.

Olson’s involvement in the Associates in Action program of his work includes working with local nonprofits in need of volunteers. She works with colleagues to bring these volunteers on site to immediately help with actions for the benefit of the whole community. These nonprofits include the D Street Homeless Shelter, Boys & Girls Club, Merced County Food Bank, City School District, churches, and many other community groups. Kohl’s asked Olson to meet other organizers at 16 different stores in the Central Valley so they could learn how to give back effectively to their communities.

• United Methodist Food Pantry — Food Distribution

Over the past year, this church pantry has served more than 20,000 family meals and 1,200 homeless people. Pantry volunteers distributed 1.5 million pounds of food, while sorting, stacking, preparing and purchasing more when needed.

“The Food Pantry is so much more than food,” said one member, “it’s an extension of our love for the community.”

• Brad Kessler — Old Town of Atwater

Supervisor Daron McDaniel describes Kessler as a “longtime volunteer who takes initiative, has the drive and ability to help and support other organizations and civic groups” and a “great motivator for getting everyone involved” .

Kessler established a scholarship fund for FFA students and led the Old Town Atwater group’s charge to bring an ice rink downtown, with numerous sponsors. He also helped ensure that 8,000 high school students received a free ticket to skate.

• Castle Veterans Organization – Veterans Memorial Building

This non-profit group and its members have come together to preserve the Veterans Memorial Building in downtown Atwater and keep its doors open to veterans and other community groups during a difficult time. The facility is now available to all veterans organizations.

• Robert Ramirez—Winton Jr. Giants

Ramirez is described as a “community man” who has contributed to Winton’s recreation programs for over a decade and coaches several youth sports teams each year. He also helps out at the Winton Spring Festival. Ramirez was. instrumental in establishing a flag football league in the city.

• Frank Marques—Hilmar High School/Valley Children’s Hospital.

Marques teaches an activity class at Hilmar High and is the college football coach. He is described as someone who has spent “endless hours teaching students the importance of volunteerism and giving back to the community”. For the past six years, he has led an effort with all schools in Hilmar to raise over $150,000 for Valley Children’s Hospital.

• Jeri Blevins — Merced County/United Way

Blevins sprang into action during the COVID-19 pandemic by assisting local vaccination efforts in the Los Banos area. She could literally be found amid almond orchards helping farm workers get vaccinated or directing foot traffic outside the mass clinic at the fairgrounds – rain or shine. the weather is nice.

• Bethel Community Church — Food Distribution

This church is instrumental in helping the homeless and other struggling residents of the Los Banos community. Early in the pandemic, the church secured federal funding for a delivery van to provide food to homebound people in need. The church has also held weekly drive-thru food events for residents and distributed “takeout bags” to those living on the streets. The church has also partnered with Walmart and Grocery Outlet to reuse excess food.

On Tuesday, Merced County leaders also honored county government staff with service pins for outstanding service and time spent in the community.

Here are the names of those who have been awarded.

• Robert Gamble Jr, Appraiser – 15 years of service

• Sabrina Parker, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services — 20 years of service

• Elwyn Gray, Planning — 30 years of service

• Monica Gallegos, Retirement — 15 years of service

• Martha Espinoza, Social Services Agency — 20 years of service

• Nora Kisling, Social Services Agency — 15 years of service

• Feliza Gray, Social Services Agency — 20 years of service

• Parmjit Sahota, Public Health — 20 years of service

• Sheri Villagrana, Retirement — 15 years of service