Gavilan College announces 2017 Community Spirit Awards

The Gavilan College Board of Trustees announced the 2017 Community Spirit Award winners for Morgan Hill, Gilroy and San Benito County.
Gavilan College announces 2017 Community Spirit Awards

At their September meeting, the Gavilan College Board of Trustees announced the winners of the Community Spirit Awards for 2017. 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 awards will be presented at three breakfasts this fall:
  • Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce Breakfast, October 5, 2017, 7:30 a.m. at Mama Mia's Restaurant in Morgan Hill
  • Hollister Downtown Association Breakfast, October 25, 2017, 7:30 a.m. at Paine's Restaurant
  • Gilroy Chamber of Commerce breakfast, November 15, 2017, 6:45 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn
This year's awards will be presented to:
San Benito County:
  • Individual – Refugio Sanchez
  • Organization – San Benito County Agriculture in the Classroom
  • Business – Flapjacks
  • Individual – Gary Walton
  • Organization – Dreampower Horsemanship
  • Business – Young Signs
Morgan Hill / San Martin:
  • Individual – Charles Weston
  • Organization – Interfaith Clergy Alliance
  • Business – Mama Mia's



About the Community Spirit Award winners (information provided by nominators):
Refugio Sanchez – Refugio Sanchez is a volunteer soccer coach for the Hollister Tremors Competitive Soccer club. Coach "Cuco" has been a volunteer coach for almost over 30 years. He has dedicated himself to hundreds of kids and their families on and off the soccer field. He has been a positive, encouraging role model and father figure for many. When you meet him and get to know him, you realize that he sees the best in each of his athletes. He will go and beyond to make sure each child receives the equal opportunity and encouragement. Coach Cuco is a man with a huge heart for his athletes but also the game of soccer.  Refugio and his family moved to Hollister CA when he was a young teenager about 43 years ago. He attended and graduated San Benito High School, after studying hard, learning English, pursuing athletics (soccer) and earning the esteemed title of Caption of the Varsity Boys Soccer team. He continued to play soccer, and became part of the coaching staff for SBHS. He involved himself with coaching the Hollister community soccer leagues, coaching boys thorough tournaments and championships. He has been head coach for the Hollister Tremors competitive travel teams for more than a decade, coaching teams of young boys and continuing with the same team up through their teenage years. One of his current teams he has been coaching for the past 7 years. Coach Cuco has resided in Hollister for over 40 years. He works at a job in Hollister, and is always looking after his family and ready to help them if they need anything. After Mon-Fri work hours he is at the soccer field 3 days per week coaching soccer. He is currently the head coach for two competitive boys teams. Each team has 12 to 14 players. Even though he works a 10 hour work shift, he makes it a priority to be at practice, since it is more difficult for the other coaches who work out of town. These teams play games on the weekends. These are some families who's children play on his teams that have economic challenges. He always offers to drive any of his players to games and tournaments (sometimes 60+ miles away to other cities) as many parents work of have other duties at home. He will also pick them up and drive them to soccer practice if needed. He always makes sure there is an extra uniform available is a player should need one. He is supportive of fundraisers and always helps out the boys.


San Benito County Agriculture in the Classroom – San Benito County Agriculture in the Classroom is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating youth throughout California about the importance of agriculture in their daily lives. Their mission is to increase awareness and understanding of agriculture among California's educators and students. Their vision is an appreciation of agriculture by all. Currently San Benito County Ag in the Classroom provides the following programs: 
  • Farm Day – a fun, interactive day where approximately 1,000 3rd grade students are educated about Agriculture. This event is offered to expose children to various Agricultural enterprises and develop an awareness of the positive contributions that Agriculture makes to our local community and economy. There are over 100 dedicated volunteers that make this day a success year after year. 
  • EATs (Educational Ag Tours) workshop – This day, immerses 50 local teachers in Agriculture for one full Saturday each school year. The morning session is spent going over ways to incorporate Ag lessons and activities into their classroom. The afternoon is filled with field trips to several Ag operations within the county to learn more about the industry and get a first-hand look at what it takes to produce food. The workshop started 5 years ago and every year there is a waiting list for teachers to attend. 
  • Harvest of the Month – This is a program that runs monthly throughout the school year. Children are exposed to various locally grown food products, from fruits, vegetables, nuts and even meat. A new product is offered each month and students experience a taste test as well as learn about the Farmer that grew the product, how it's grown, the nutritional benefits, history of, and recipe ideas. This program has grown over the last 4 years from 60 classes participating countywide to now over 125 classes, equally approximately 3,400 students from Preschool to High school. The value of educating youth about local Agriculture and nutritious eating is clearly evidence by the success of this program.
Flapjacks has been in business for several decades and has been under new management for the past two years. Naomi, the manager, states that they definitely are willing to support the community which they serve as well as other communities in the surrounding areas. One of their recent sponsorships was to the Basketball women's league out of Santa Cruz and Food donations to the Tres Pinos school along with gift certificates to help with their school fundraisers.
Gary Walton – Gary Walton has been fixing up, and fixated on, Downtown Gilroy for quite some time. He came to town and purchased a few buildings, then built the mixed-use building at Fifth and Eigleberry in 2006 which was originally an apartment building that burned down. He then renovated Old City Hall with hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own funds and opened up Lizarran Tapas Restaurant with his brother Joe Walton. He built La Aldea at the corner of 4th and Eigleberry that is also mixed use with retail, business and apartments.  He has served on the Gilroy Downtown Association for over 10 years and currently serves as president and has worked to improve our downtown immensely. He supported saving the Miller Red Barn and launched "Porchfest' now in it's fourth year. He spent years working with Rally Round Downtown Gilroy, to build interest and excitement about downtown happenings and businesses. He is an advocate for the business owners and usually the ones without a voice. He tirelessly works to improve not only downtown but all of Gilroy by sitting on many committees with the City of Gilroy, including the General Plan Committee. Gary is very involved in all things Gilroy, attends all events downtown, whether organized by him or others, and participates in every task force, community forum, and public meeting he can. 


Dreampower Horsemanship – DreamPower Horsemanship has been providing equine-assisted activities and therapies for children, teens and adults in the South Bay Area for the past 15 years. DreamPower offers equine-facilitated psychotherapy, equine-assisted learning and therapeutic horsemanship programs and services for children, teens and adults with mental, emotional, behavioral, physical and medical special needs. They provide services to more than 700 participants each year, assisted by more than 500 volunteers each year. DreamPower now offers 20 unique programs serving a wide variety of South Bay Area residents from pre-schoolers through elders. A few of their programs include: Horses for Warriors (for military veterans and their families); The LEOS (Law Enforcement Officer Support) Project for law enforcement officers and their families; the Autism Research Group studying the therapeutic benefits of group horseback riding lessons for children on the autism spectrum; The Hitch Team (therapeutic carriage driving); Ponies & Preschoolers; Equine Empowerment for Elders (for elders with high-functioning dementia); Horse Power: Living Strong with MS (multiple sclerosis); Equine Journey Wilderness Adventure (for at-risk youth and young adults) and many, many more. DreamPower partners with most of the non-profit organizations serving our community including Community Solutions, Rebekah Children's Services, Chamberlain Children's Center, the Bill Wilson Center, the Palo Alto VA, the San Jose Vet Center, Advent Group Ministries, and many more. DreamPower has won many awards, including 8 Regional and 2 National Awards from the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.)
Young Signs (owner Richard Young) – Young Signs has been in business since 1934 where it was started by Richard's father with Richard working in the business during high school and then taking over in the early 1980's. If you look across Gilroy's business landscape, you will see many of the larger signs that have been designed and installed by Young Signs. The company has evolved from doing mostly billboards into many mediums, including neon. Gavilan College's Gilroy campus also contains many signs which were designed, built and installed by Young Signs. Richard Young is also a member of the Gavilan College 'family', having taught part-time in the art department for almost 25 years, from 1971 to 1995. During this time he introduced art to many young artists, taking students on field trips to the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, to art museums in Oakland and Sacramento, and to many commercial art galleries. For many of these students, it was their first exposure to not only the art museums and galleries but to the cities themselves. Many of his former students have grown to become talented artists.The business has been a long time member of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce. Although he makes his living from Young Signs, Richard is an artist at heart who has had his work showcased at the Monterey Museum of Art and just recently his works 'Contemporary Art by Richard Young' was on display at the Gilroy Center for the Arts. Richard was recently featured in our local 'South Valley' magazine (January 20, 2017) with an article titled 'Forever Young'.  He served on the City of Gilroy's Library and Cultural Commission for approximately 8 years. Richard is also an avid runner and has inspired many in the community to get out and exercise. As an active member of the local running club, which he helped organize, he always encouraged others to join him on training runs and/or at weekend running events. "


Charles Weston – Charles Weston started the Freedom Fest Fun Run in Morgan Hill and has kept it going for many years. In 2015 the race was listed in the PA/USTFA grand prix circuit which consists of some of the fastest runners in Northern California. Charles has organized this race for years and the funds raised for the race go directly to the Freedom Fest day of celebration which is an all day event. In 2015 it raised $35,000 that went towards the day of celebration. The Morgan Hill Freedom Fest is a non-profit organization. The first year only 100 runner signed up for the day and in 2015 a record 864 runners participated in the race which listed on the PA/USTFA grand prix circuit for the first time."
Interfaith Clergy Alliance – Inspired by the interfaith service led by sixteen local clergy, held on Martin Luther King Day 2016, a group of enthusiastic individuals launched the Interfaith Community of South County (ICSC). This interfaith group is committed to creating compassionate communities through social, service and educational programs. The group has sponsored a series of educational programs entitled "The Faith of Our Neighbors. This broadly composed group of clergy of many faiths, has come together to serve their community TOGETHER. They organized an Interfaith Community Walk for Peace and Prayer Vigil in August, and have piloted South County's first "Safe Parking" program for homeless families. Their own words on recent events speak most strongly:
'In South Valley, we live in harmony.  We respect each other's faiths and backgrounds, and we embrace diversity.  And we are stronger as a community for it. The terrorism that occurred last weekend in Charlottesville and the hate rallies that will occur in response this Saturday is appalling in our great nation.  We are deeply saddened by the lack of universal and focused outrage towards the display of Nazi symbols and chants against Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics and others. This is not the United States which we all love and treasure.
 During such times of national discussion and challenge, fellowship and prayer can provide comfort and strength in the knowledge that we are not alone – and that we are strongest as God's creation when we stand together.  We are the majority.
Let us do something good today, as every day, to help heal our corner of the world. "


Mama Mia's – Mama Mia's donates to everything and serves as a gathering place for the community, hosting numerous community meetings and events. This fall, they were also the venue for a new Gavilan College noncredit class in Hospitality and Tourism.
Write-up from Morgan Hill Times in 2015: "Business of the Year – 2015, Morgan Hill Chamber. "Mama Mia's owner Majid Bahriny might be difficult to reach on the phone, but one place to find him is in the kitchen of the restaurant on East Dunne Avenue, where he was cooking salmon for the lunch crowd earlier this week. When Bahriny is not cooking or otherwise making his four Mama Mia's restaurants-including one in Gilroy-run smoothly, he can be seen at local nonprofit events where he caters meals and provides food service staffing. "Food is a big part of any fundraiser," he said. But Bahriny, 51, is quick to note the recipient of the Chamber award, which he wasn't expecting, is his business and not himself. "My employees appreciate it and deserve it more," Bahriny said. "They help with all the community (events) I do, and they are on the front line." Bahriny added it's easy to be involved in a town like Morgan Hill. "It's very pleasing to be a part of such a nice community," he said. "A lot of people do a lot of good stuff, and it's nice to be able to see what is needed and help."

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