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September 17, 2015

Gavilan College announces Community Spirit Awards for 2015

Lifetime Community Spirit Award to be presented to Dennis Kennedy in Morgan Hill

(Updated September 18, 2015)

At their September meeting, the Gavilan College Board of Trustees confirmed the winners of the 2015 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.

This year, the Board will also be presenting a special award for Lifetime Community Spirit to former Morgan Hill Mayor, and current Santa Clara County Water District Board member and Vice Chair Dennis M. Kennedy.

The 2015 awards for Morgan Hill will be presented to: Ron WoolfeLeadership Morgan Hill, and Chiala Farms at the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce breakfast on October 1, 2015. (Event information:

The 2015 awards for Gilroy will be presented to: Cheryl EllembergDaughers of Charity – Saint Louise Hospital, and Pinnacle Bank, at the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce breakfast on October 21, 2015. (Event information:

The 2015 awards for San Benito County will be presented to John ArballoSan Benito County Cattlewomen, and Pizza Factory at the Hollister Downtown Association Breakfast on October 28, 2015. (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:


Life Time Community Spirit: Dennis M. Kennedy:

Dennis Kennedy currently serves as Vice Chair for the Santa Clara County Water District, for which he was elected to the District 1 seat on November 4, 2014.

He has lived in Santa Clara County for over 50 years and in Morgan Hill for the last 37 years, serving in a variety of capacities in public service and community organizations, as well as in professional and business organizations. He retired in December 2006, after serving as Mayor of the City of Morgan Hill for nearly twelve years.

Dennis moved to Morgan Hill in 1976. He served three terms on the Planning Commission, two terms on the General Plan Update Committee, and was elected to the City Council in 1990. He is past Chairman of South County Regional Wastewater Authority, has served three terms on the Board of Directors of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), and is a past President of the Santa Clara County Cities Association.   He is active in a variety of non-profit organizations; including the Morgan Hill Downtown Association, Sister Cities Committee, Aquatics Foundation and Silicon Valley Land Conservancy.  

Dennis is a member of the Silicon Valley American Leadership Forum, Morgan Hill Rotary, past President of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association, Recipient of the Morgan Hill 2007 Leadership Excellence Award and past President of the Morgan Hill Sister Cities Committee.
Morgan Hill Individual: Ron Woolf
Ron Woolf has been a resident of Morgan Hill for over 40 years. A retired teacher with the MHUSD, Ron was ASB director and Math teacher. He was awarded Educator of the Year in 1992. He continues his strong educational ties serving a director of the board for the Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras. He spearheads the scholarship committee, where high school seniors who are selected receive $1,000 scholarships toward their college education. Ron has been in charge of this for 20 years. Presently, Mr. Woolf serves as elected official on the MHUSD as Vice Chair. He served as chairman of the school board prior to his reelection for a six-year term. Ron is out in the community as strong advocate for k12 education.

Morgan Hill Business: Chiala Farms
Chiala Farms, Inc. an agricultural business, has been in the community of Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy for over 60 years. This farm, headed by George and Alice Chiala, have donated produce to every non-profit organization in south Santa Clara County. Chiala Farms provides internships to high school and college students that seek a career in agriculture. Owners George and Alice are strong proponents of building a Catholic High School in Morgan Hill. George has served a chair of Saint Louise Regional Hospital. Chiala Farms are outstanding philanthropists in our region.

Morgan Hill Organization: Leadership Morgan Hill
Leadership Morgan Hill is now celebrating its 20th year of providing over 300 leaders who have gone through its 9-month course. Each class of 20-24 adult learners receive monthly curriculum that provides them presentations from prominent individuals in each field. Such monthly classes include local, county and state government, media relations, education day, medical and social services day, environmental issues, history of Morgan Hill, a challenge retreat, and leadership classes. Each class develops their own community project to benefit the residents. You can see these projects all over Morgan Hill. In any audience you will know there are always LMH graduates leading and serving Morgan Hill and giving back to a city they call home.  LMH has established an endowment for scholarships for future needy potential leaders, called Leadership Excellence Award Dinner (LEAD).
Gilroy Individual: Chery Ellemberg
Cheryl Ellemberg: Cheryl always makes time to volunteer and help wherever and whenever she can. It started at her children's elementary school, Luigi Aprea Elementary. She volunteered as part of the parent teacher organization (PTO) to become more involved with the school to meet the needs of all the children, not just our own. For the last six years, she has been actively involved volunteering at the Gilroy Garlic festival for Rotary, Gilroy Arts Alliance, Solorsano Middle School, Christopher high school boosters, CHS basketball and the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce. She started as a Chamber Ambassador and served as the Chairperson of the Ambassador Committee for 2 years. Afterwards, she became a board member of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce. She has not only volunteered numerous times for many different nonprofits throughout Gilroy but has served as an incredible role model for her children, who have provided hundreds of hours of service to the community. Very often, Cheryl has been right by their side. Currently, Cheryl is assisting with a nonprofit called "Jake's Wish" that keeps abandoned animals from being euthanized and helps to get them to a forever home. Currently she is fostering four puppies. “She has and never would do her good deeds to be recognized and this is precisely why I believe she would be a good candidate for this. She has made a significant impact in the Gilroy community through schools, church, business, and nonprofit
Gilroy Business: Pinnacle Bank
To welcome its neighbors and guests, Pinnacle Bank has hosted events open to the public, including fashion show fundraisers, classic car shows, Little League ceremonies, and numerous other local gatherings to celebrate the community. As part of the company’s mission to “Reach Higher,” Pinnacle Bank is committed to enhancing the Downtown area and supporting the City of Gilroy through professional and charitable involvement.  Pinnacle Bank strongly encourages employees to support the community through activities that raise philanthropic awareness, promote education, and support the local economy. Many of the bank’s directors and staff members attend Gilroy Chamber of Commerce events, and several sit on the boards of local agencies, including the Gilroy Economic Development Corporation, Gilroy Downtown Business Association, Gavilan College Educational Foundation, Gilroy Foundation, Gilroy Rotary. Pinnacle Bank is also a supporter of: Christopher High School, Community Solutions, Gavilan College, Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, Gilroy Compassion Center, Gilroy Downtown Business Association, Gilroy Economic Development Foundation, Gilroy Exchange Club, Gilroy Foundation, Gilroy High School, Gilroy Sister Cities Association, Leadership Gilroy, Relay for Life, Rotary Club of Gilroy, Saint Louise Regional Hospital Foundation, St. Joseph’s Family Center, St. Mary’s Catholic School.
Gilroy Organization: Daughters of Charity – St. Louise Regional Hospital
Saint Louise Regional Hospital is part of the Daughters of Charity Health System, has been a lifeline for South County's residents. Along with being a nonprofit organization, Saint Louise Regional Hospital has been supportive of many other local nonprofits. They have generously sponsored the fundraising events of local nonprofits, including Community Solutions’ Helping Hands & Healing Hearts Awards Luncheon. Saint Louise Community Health staff have offered free screenings for high blood pressure and diabetes at health fairs and community events. Promoters (community health educators) bring information on diabetes and nutrition directly to local residents. The hospital has sponsored South County health-related events such as Gilroy Community Health Day and the Bi-national Health Week Conference. For many years, Saint Louise coordinated services at the RotaCare free health clinic in Gilroy, providing critically needed healthcare to uninsured adults. They have a specific dedication to the poor and underserved members of the community.

San Benito County Individual: John Arballo
John Arballo is 2nd generation Hollister “born and raised.” He has coached youth activities for over 17 years for football and softball. John has volunteered for the Hollister Exchange Club raising money for local youth, running the concession booth at the San Benito County Fair, and helping out at the Fireworks Booth. He has served as score-keeper and umpire for over 10 years for the City Recreation Department. He is also a Gavilan Alumnus who played football for Gavilan in ‘85/’86 under Bobby Garcia. When asked what he liked most about volunteering for local youth he replied. “12-13 year olds are at a pivotal point in their lives.  Watching them from day one to teaching them the values of Family, School and Sports and seeing the progression they make to becoming self-confident makes it all worthwhile.” 
San Benito County Business: Pizza Factory
Pizza Factory San Juan Bautista - Dennis the owner is very kind-hearted. As a business he doesn’t turn anyone away when approached for sponsorships.  He helps various non-profits including the Little League, football, National Safety, San Juan School, Red Ribbon Run, combatting Substance Abuse, and many more. He also sponsors 2 “Adopt a highway” sections on our local roads.
San Benito County Organization: San Benito County Cattlewomen
The Cattlewomen support the San Benito County Fair and other events within our county. The CattleWomen have contributed $500.00 to assist with the Fair events for the last two years. The week before the Fair the CattleWomen provided the first place award of $150 for the Ladies Calf Branding contest at the Ranch Rodeo. 
 On October 1st, the CattleWomen supported 4Hers, FFA members and their families by providing Tri-Tip Sandwiches in the Patio Café. The CattleWomen supported the San Benito County Heritage Foundation, which is raising funds for capital improvements to improve Bolado Park by providing lean ground beef for them to make “sliders” for people who need something to eat while helping at the Fair.

 A Jr. Livestock Judging Contest is held every year for which CattleWomen provide $300.00 for Livestock judging prizes. Every year the CattleWomen and Cattlemen sponsor a Beef Carcass Competition Contest for beef animals sold through the Livestock Auction.   The annual Farm Bureau Golf Tournament was held in September and the CattleWomen sponsored the 12th Hole by providing a beef sandwich with a special pesto sauce to the golfers.  The CattleWomen’s 8th Annual Fall Fashion Show and Luncheon, held at San Juan Oaks Golf and Country Club on raised over $2200 to support their Scholarship Fund. SBC CattleWomen are dedicated to helping promote their favorite product –BEEF- and supporting various activities within our local community to help create a wonderful place to live, work and play.  

Jan Bernstein Chargin

Last modified: August 17, 2011
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