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September 11, 2014

Gavilan College presents 2014 Community Spirit Awards

At their September meeting, the Gavilan College Board of Trustees confirmed the  winners of the 2014 Community Spirit Awards.  The awards are presented annually, in each of the communities served by Gavilan College, to honor the people and institutions that contribute to improving the quality of life in each community.  Each of the three sets of awards includes an individual, a business, and an organization.
The 2014 awards for Morgan Hill will be presented to: Dan SullivanThe Edward “Boss” Prado Foundation, and America Tae Kwon Do Center at the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce breakfast sponsored by Gavilan College on October 2, 2014. (Event information:
The 2014 awards for Gilroy will be presented to: William FausSTAR Arts Education, and First Street Coffee, and the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce breakfast sponsored by Integrated Financial Benefits on October 15, 2014. (Event information:
The 2014 awards for San Benito County will be presented to Ruth EricksonComstock Community Farm, and San Benito Bene at the Hollister Downtown Association Breakfast sponsored by Gavilan College on October 22, 2014. (Event information:
Any community member may present a nomination for an award. For more information about the awards, go to:
Information about this year’s winners was provided by their nominators:
Dan Sullivan
Dan has been a board member of the Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras for the past 20+ years and has served as President of the Board of Directors for 10 years. Under his leadership as President, the M.H. Mardi Gras has raised over $360,000 in scholarships for seniors who reside in the Morgan Hill Unified School District as well as started a new mini-grant program for Elementary and Middle Schools special school projects. Since its inception 6 years ago, over $40,000 in mini grants has been awarded. This annual family festival has been in existence for 36 years.
America Taekwondo Center
America Taekwondo Center has been serving Morgan Hill and the greater south valley community for over 10 years. Led by Master Chae Sun Mun (6th Degree Black Belt), this school produces world class martial artists, including dozens of national champions and teaches positive moral value to students age 4-adult. Each year ATC sends numerous students to the US National Taekwondo Championships, the U.S. Open and a number of world-class tournaments, and every year, a number of them return as champions, qualify for the U.S. National Team. ATC prides itself on producing students of the highest caliber, and not only values their martial arts techniques, but also their character and intellect, training them on the five tenets of Taekwondo (Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control, and Indomitable Spirit). Prior to belt examinations, students must present letters from their parent as to their personal conduct at home, and grade reports from their teachers indicating that they are making positive achievements in the classroom. Dedicated to self-defense, sport Taekwondo, and character development, ATC is truly a school that promotes a well-rounded martial artist. Through its program with young people, it contributes to the overall quality of the Morgan Hill community.
The Edward “Boss” Prado Foundation
This foundation has operated in MH since 2004, and came under the umbrella of the Morgan Hill Community Foundation in 2013. Founder Cecelia Ponzini established the foundation in memory of her son, who at the age of 29 suffered heart failure.  He left a legacy of generosity, sensitivity and service to others. The Edward “Boss” Prado Foundation has been established as a 501-C-3 non profit not for profit public charity, with the long term goal of becoming an endowment that can be used to expand the “No Child Goes Unfed” program to middle schools and elementary schools.  This foundation sponsors “Cecelia’s Closet”, which is building a career closet for Central High School students.  When Central students go on a job interview they will be able to have access to career clothes.  They choose gently used interview appropriate clothing in all sizes. The foundation has now partnered with Community Solutions.  Families are referred to Cecelia’s Closet where they can select food and clothing at no cost. They also sponsor “No Child Goes Unfed”. With this program, any Live Oak or Sobrato student who cannot afford lunch can go to the Associated Student Body office where they will be provided with a noon-time meal.  No questions are asked because the program wants to protect the dignity of young persons who participate.  This foundation has also assisted the El Toro Youth Center.  Realizing the center could use her help, Cecelia organized efforts to paint and fix up the building to provide quality educational, recreational and social services to low-income youth and their families.  While the fundamental goal is to ensure academic success, the center also gives children and teens a safe place to go after school where they can get the help and support they need. 
William Faus
Bill is a prolific volunteer in the Gilroy Community. He spends time helping at the food pantry for St. Josephs, preparing and serving food at the Armory homeless shelter every winter with his group from the Methodist church. He has been a volunteer at the Garlic Festival for over 30 years for RCSKids. He serves on the Board of Directors for both the Gilroy Compassion Center and RCSKids.
He volunteers at the Gilroy Museum, doing research and serving visitors. He also does tours for school groups on an as needed basis. 

According to RCSKids: "Bill and his family came to Gilroy in 1983 where he worked 26 years for the City and retired in 2009 as Gilroy’s Planning Division Manager. Bill’s local volunteer work started with Rebekah Children’s Services in 1985, and included their community advisory committee for many years. He was also involved with the Gilroy Historic Society, Chamber of Commerce, and local soup kitchen at the Armory. In 2004 he completed the Gilroy Leadership program. In retirement, he quickly transitioned into non-profit and charity work, volunteering as a museum docent, St. Joseph’s Food Pantry, Boy Scouts, and serving on the Board of Directors for the Gilroy Compassion Center. He currently chairs the Chamber’s Government Review Committee." He has aslo served on the Gilroy Housing Advisory Committee, Homeless Task Force, and General Plan Committee.
According to a community member: “I have known Bill for several years and he is always some where helping some one or some organization. He is selfless when it comes to his time to help others.”
STAR Arts Education
For twenty-nine years, the STAR (Summer Theater Arts Repertory) Arts Education has been providing an unparalleled service to the youth of Gilroy and San Juan Bautista. STAR began in 1985 and during each summer for the past 29 years has been a safe, fun and educational summer camp for hundreds of local children STAR provides opportunities for children to learn about theater and perform in a stress free, positive learning environment. STAR is committed to serving all youth within the community regardless of race or socio-economic background. . In 2014 STAR Arts Education became an independent non-profit organization, partnering with the Gilroy Arts Alliance to add to the artistic life of downtown Gilroy.

“My own son began in STAR during the summer of 2009. He entered STAR with a very low self-esteem, struggling in school. I have watched in amazement as the STAR staff has encouraged him to be himself and try activities that he otherwise would have shied away from. My son is now a high school junior who is confident and was most recently able to lead the other children in their performance of Guys and Dolls. He has learned to believe in himself, take pride in his efforts and, most importantly, cooperate and work with others. I know he is not the only to have benefited in the past 29 years.”
First Street Coffee
First Street Coffee is a n active business in the community, supporting local endeavors and always willing to help a project or person in need. They have participated in Art Around Town, providing  exhibit space to local artists. The served as a venue for Silicon Valley Gives, host a Giving Tree / Toy Drive at Christmas time, and have made donations to numerous nonprofit organizations including Operation Freedom Paws, Leadership Gilroy, Gilroy Compassion Center, GHS Girls Volleyball program, and many, many others.... First Street Coffee is a community gathering spot, where they are always happy to have people meet, share information and work together.
Ruth Erickson
 When asked, Ruth Erickson will say that she’s a Community Advocate. To advocate means to be a supporter, and a believer, but also to encourage. Believing in her Community, she does not advocate for the status quo or “it’s always been this way – it’s never going to change” but, encourage that Organization, that City Department, that elections department, that County Department, the local health care system to extend services, look at new ways of delivering services, being more responsive to all members of the community; developing new programs of diverse cultures and inspiring us to look at our local and National History through her years of visiting classrooms throughout San Benito County and events at the County Library. By providing for cultural exchanges through the Sister Cities Program and international student exchange programs, Ruth’s enthusiasm for introducing others to the wonders of other cultures became a significant and enriching part of life in San Benito County. The concept of “fun” in fundraising has been a personal mantra – it’s always been more fun to lug glass jars of pennies collected from students enrolled in the San Benito County schools so that “the children will feel part of the effort we’re making to bring the Bookmobile back”.

Believing in her community, Ruth has contributed her insight to the County Grand Jury; the 156 By-Pass/Measure A Committee; was a Founding member of school and community-related action committees; advocated for the provision of streamlined ways of filing forms, conducting business, getting answers to community members’ questions. As President of the Hollister Airmen’s Association’s she has sustained the enthusiasm of Pilots (which she isn’t) and the Plane owner; (which she is not) and has been a significant part of our community’s interest in the growth and importance of the Hollister Airport.
Comstock Community Farm
This organization supports learning and partners with educational institutions while helping provide farm-fresh organic food to the less fortunate. They provide K-12 students with interactive interdisciplinary hands-on activities related to the production of healthy food to support curriculum with real-world experiences at their family farm. Comstock Community Farms partnered with Gavilan College Computer Graphics and Design department to provide Environmental Design students with an opportunity to learn about sustainable design practices while developing a completing a housing and educational facility for this organization. This project enabled students who had little knowledge of the needs of agricultural residents to learn how to support users unique needs. Students also gained knowledge about reuse of building materials and farm practices. This community resource helps students learn about the importance of sustainable practices in all aspects of life.
San Benito Bene
San Benito Bene deals and collaborates directly with area talents and innovative artisans. It is a “One-Stop” gift shop in an artistic environment with hometown friendliness. San Benito Bene was Awarded the 2013 Retail Business of the Year + Best Locally Made Products.  The nomination said: “I love this store and the owner is so friendly and truly loves what she does. It is filled with local products. The owner, Kathina Szeto, is a perfect representative and promoter of our local community. This award was designed for people and businesses like this.”
updated September 22, 2014

Last modified: August 17, 2011
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