The Danville Town Council took the time to acknowledge the exceptional community volunteers that contribute toward making their community a better place to live on Tuesday, and handed out awards of recognition during the 38th Annual Mayor’s Installation and Community Service Awards.
Held at the Village Theatre and Art Gallery in downtown Danville, community members gathered to watch the Town Council distributed awards and appreciate the philanthropic spirit of their neighbors.
“Our town is incredibly fortunate to have an active and engaged group of folks that each year contribute countless hours and support in maintaining our small town charm and outstanding quality of life,” Councilman Robert Storer said at the ceremony. “This past year our town government has benefited from the efforts of 819 volunteers that contributed 16,167 hours for the town of Danville. That’s incredible.”
After awards were distributed and speeches given, the Town Council selected Karen Stepper to serve as the town’s mayor for the coming year, also selecting Lisa Blackwell to serve as vice mayor.
The Mayor’s Installation and Awards Ceremony will be broadcast on AT&T U-verse channel 99 and Comcast channel 26, on Dec. 12 and 19 at 7 p.m., Dec. 14 and 21 at 11 a.m. and Dec. 16 and 23 at 1 p.m.
The Danville Award
An award so prestigious that the Town Council has been known to not hand out every year, according to Storer, the Danville Award is presented to particularly exceptional individuals or groups who have spent “a great deal of effort and a great deal of time dedicated to making Danville a very special place to live.”
During Tuesday’s ceremony longtime residents Don and Joan Kurtz were awarded this prestigious award, for their creation of the Tassajara One Room School Living History Program at the historic Tassajara Grammar School.
Since the program's inception more than 47,000 third grade students from the San Ramon Valley have visited the site where they have had the opportunity to step back in time and learn what life and school was like in 1888.
“They are the glue that keeps this wonderful volunteer program together,” Storer said. “For many students this is the beginning of learning the value of history and their appreciation of historical sites… These young people are temporarily unplugged and get an appreciation for life as they currently live but also the past.”
Michael K. Shimansky Community Service Award
Current student body president at San Ramon Valley High School Emma Cochran, was awarded the 11th annual Michael K. Shimansky Community Service Award on Tuesday, for community service and a lifetime commitment to giving back to others, according to town staff.
To name just a few of her philanthropic endeavors, Cochran has volunteered with the town of Danville, Special Olympics, challenger baseball, St. Vincent for De Paul and habitat of humanity.
Town Volunteers of the Year
Two town volunteers were honored with special accolades for their contributions to the town, starting with environmental steward Dick Heron.
Town staff say Heron has led the charge in coordinating efforts to remove arundo -- also known as elephant grass -- from San Ramon Creek. To achieve this goal he has coordinated teams of volunteers to go out and remove large amounts of the invasive species, which helps prevent creek bank erosion and promotes the growth of native species.
Also recognized as a volunteer of the year was the town’s public information officer Geoff Gillette, who was honored for hosting the Trail Mixers hiking group since August of 2014. In that capacity he has volunteered more than 360 hours of his weekend time, leading more than 36 hikes and 650 hikers through local Bay Area trails.
Awards of Merit
The town granted four awards of Merit this year, giving them to residents who have shown a particular commitment to making their community a better place to live.
* Lazarex Cancer Foundation: Operating since 2006, the Lazarex Cancer Foundation works to not only help cancer patients find clinical trials for treatment, but also helps them pay for costs associated with treatment such as travel and lodging.
Accepting the award was Lazarex founder Dana Dornsife, who earlier this year was the recipient of DanvilleSanRamon.com’s Tri-Valley Heroes Role Model award.
* Robert McHale: A teenage Danville resident, McHale was recognized for his leadership role in his local Boy Scouts of America troop and his musical contribution to the town’s annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony -- McHale plays the bugle and will soon reach the rank of Eagle Scout.
* Sharon Wilson: Town staff say Wilson was recognized for her commitment to serving Danville’s senior population. Not only was she vital in creating the Senior Friday Lunch Program, but she was an essential leader in expanding the senior walking programs and creating the Walk and Talk Group that meets at Osage Station Park.
* The Wheelchair Foundation: Founded by Blackhawk developer and philanthropist Kenneth E. Behring in 2000, the Wheelchair Foundation seeks to not only create awareness about the needs of people with physical disabilities internationally, but to also ensure that every child, teen and adult in the world who needs a wheelchair receives one.
The Town Council took some time to recognize the longevity of public servants who were celebrating major milestones in their time with the town.
Elaine Betts and Beverly Kumar were given awards for celebrating four years of service to the town, while Kent Rezowalli was recognized for 16 years of service. Resident Randy Haberl was also given special recognition for his 20 years of service to the town.
Outgoing Commissioners in 2019
Taking the time to recognize the community volunteers who help run the town by serving on various commissions and advisory boards, the council recognized nine commissioners who will be leaving their positions or have already left.
Commissioners leaving the Arts Commission include Kim Bowles, Celeste Evans, Susan Gallinger, Kim Holmes, Chris Kenber, Beverly Kumar, Christina Richards and Susan Ritner. The council also recognized Julianna Murray who has served on the town’s Parks, Recreation and Arts Commission.