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At its September meeting, the Gavilan College Board of Trustees announced the winners of the Community Spirit Awards for 2016, including three from San Benito County. 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 in October:

Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce Breakfast, Oct. 6, 2016, 7:30 a.m. at the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center
Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Breakfast, Oct. 19, 2016, 6:45 a.m. at the Gilroy Hilton Garden Inn
Hollister Downtown Association Breakfast, Oct. 26, 2016, 7:30 a.m. at Paine’s Restaurant

This year’s awards will be presented to:

San Benito County:

  • Individual – Sandy Gabe
  • Organization – Hollister Youth Alliance
  • Business – Paine’s Restaurant

Morgan Hill / San Martin:

  • Individual – Roger Knopf
  • Organization – Morgan Hill branch of the American Association of University Women (A.A.U.W.)
  • Business – GVA Cafe


Individual – Alice Souza
Organization – Gilroy Community for A Better Downtown
Business – Articulate Solutions

About the Community Spirit Award winners (information provided by nominators):

Sandy Gabe: If ever there was a person with community spirit, Sandy Gabe is that person. “How can I help?”, “What would you like me to do?” She has been volunteering for years, giving of her time, talents, and caring cheerful disposition. She enjoys supporting projects involving pets and belongs the “Furry Friends,” who take their dogs to visit children and adult facilities to give enjoyment and pet therapy. “Pet Friends” is another one of her favorite animal groups to support and help. Sandy also enjoys working with children. She volunteers at the County Library with Homework Club and has mentored youth at Chamberlains Children’s Center. She has also been teaching Adult Literacy at the County Library and enjoys seeing her students’ language skills improve and their conversation confidence grow. In Gilroy, Sandy helps at The Lord’s Table monthly, feeding the needy at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Her transcription skills have assisted doctors at Rebekah Children’s Services in Gilroy and formerly at Chamberlain’s Children’s Center in Hollister.

Youth Alliance is a nonprofit serving San Benito County as well as Gilroy since 1995. They benefit over 13,000 children, youth, and their families every year. They offer many different services to our community in order to help our youth out. Services include teen pregnancy prevention programs, teen father support groups, positive school discipline and violence options, community engagement and youth organizing in high need/violent parks and schools, early intervention bilingual counseling and case management. They offer free after school programs/services to help guide our youth in the right direction. Youth Alliance also has a program at San Benito High School to educate and give guidance to our teens.

Paine’s Restaurant has been a favorite fixture in San Benito County, cherished for many years by so many for the comfortable restaurant, entertaining bar, and its banquet facilities. John Kouretis purchased Paine’s in 1980, sold it in 1986, and bought it back in 2013. John can’t get away from the restaurant business and has flourished at this location for many years. The reason he is honored today is the fact that he has always been so generous with his time and that of his staff in accommodating the many non-profits in their events, (such as this one)! His food has consistently been delicious, and Paine’s service has always been professional, friendly, and fun. John’s family has been there with him and for him and we honor his very special place in our community.

Roger Knopf – Roger’s Morgan Hill roots reach back for decades. He has been very active in local and regional community service: For Morgan Hill Unified School District he served on the Personnel Commission for 18 years and chaired two successful Bond Election campaigns (the last built Barrett Elementary and Sobrato H.S.) For Santa Clara County he served on Advisory Committee for Channelization of Llagas Creek (566 project), served on several ad hoc planning committees for the Planning Department and served on the General Plan Up-date committee 93-96. He served the City of Morgan Hill on the Architectural Review Board (which he also chaired) for six years; served on the ad hoc committee that developed and wrote the city’s present Ethics Policy: served on and chaired the Corporation Yard Commission, 1990-present. For community organizations he has served on the Board of Directors of the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce, served on the Centennial Committee, volunteered for the Morgan Hill Historical Society; been a 34 year member and Past President of Rotary Club of Morgan Hill, was a founding director of the Morgan Hill Community Law Enforcement Foundation, a founding director of the Community Foundation of Morgan Hill. Roger currently serves on the board of Leadership Morgan Hill, and served as president for two years. Roger was also a founding director of South Valley National Bank, a director of Pacific Capital Bancorp and on the boards of South Valley Hospital, Health Dimensions/Good Samaritan Health System, and San Jose Hospital/Regional Medical Center of San Jose, where he is currently serving as Chairman of Board of Trustees.

A.A.U.W. Morgan Hill – This year the Morgan Hill AAUW is celebrating their 35th anniversary in this community. AAUW’s vision is to empower women and girls to reach their highest potential and is primarily accomplished thru educational scholarships and community grants. As a non-profit organization AAUW-MH exemplifies the ideals of community support. AAUW-MH is best known for the annual Wildflower Run. The first 5K Run was held in 1982 and raised $1000. In 2016, the Wildflower Run has grown to 1000 participants and includes a 10K run, 5K run/walk/stroll, a 2K run for kids and 2K run for seniors, raising approximately $40,000 to • send eight middle school girls to Tech Trek, an AAUW sponsored science and math camp held on the Stanford campus; • support Girls Engaged in Math and Science (GEMS), a STEM program for local junior and high school girls • provide eight scholarships to our local high school girls and Gavilan community college women; • provide follow-up grants to previous scholarship winners to help them complete their college education • provide a nursing or health care scholarship to a Gavilan College student • provide community grants for projects that are in alignment with AAUW’s mission • send a local college student to AAUW’s National Conference of College Women Student Leaders, for a week of leadership training • send an AAUW member to Leadership Morgan Hill, sustaining a strong connection to community • conduct a speech contest, Speech Trek, for local high school students. Additionally, AAUW Morgan Hill co-sponsors a community Candidates Forums during election years and presents educational programs open to the public (held at the Morgan Hill Library).

GVA Café – Possibly the only corner coffee shop that also serves wine. And Gelatto. And food. And provides a venue for bands, musicians, and live comedy shows. GVA Café is definitely a community gathering place and an important part fo the Morgan Hill downtown. In an interview, owner Rene Carillo said “I’ve always said, this it not just for me, it is for my community, for my employees, an experience for anyone who enters”

Alice Sousa has one of the biggest hearts in the community. She walks the talk when advocating for the poor and underserved. This longtime Gilroy resident works behind the scenes, never asking to be spotlighted or recognized. She is fierce to right a wrong and fight for causes she believes in. For many years she has been a year-round mainstay with the Lord’s Table, which offers hot meals to homeless and less fortunate. Many also know her as one of the “Women in Black” who gather weekly at First and Monterey streets in silent vigil holding high signs alerting drivers and passengers to the horrors of war. Alice and her late husband Dick opened their home to children they adopted. These children, now adults, share Alice’s character and like her are active in their communities.

Gilroy Community for a Better Downtown: For the first time in the history of these awards, we are recognizing a Facebook Group. Gilroy Community for a Better Downtown was started by Gilroy resident Joe Lovacchio to encourage the community to discuss, and more importantly, take action to improve Gilroy’s downtown, on February 10, 2016. Since then the group has grown to 3,204 members. It has become a place for sharing of ideas and creating change. Just since February, the group has: brought the Moveable Feast to downtown Gilroy, partnering with the Downtown Business Association’s existing event Friday Night Live. This amazing event was so successful, that it was extended for an extra month! It brought hundreds of people downtown for a community event. The group organized volunteers to help a new bookstore move into town, and to put up lights on the downtown trees. They promote and support downtown businesses and events organized by the Gilroy Arts Alliance and Gilroy Downtown Business Association.

Articulate Solutions: This award-winning graphic design firm has worked on numerous local projects and has been instrumental in creating a unified “look” for local institutions. They have worked on the Downtown Paseo, downtown signage, the City of Gilroy logo, Leadership Gilroy logo, Gilroy Gardens logo, and developed a website for Gilroy Welcome Center. They have donated design work for the Gavilan College Educational Foundation, Gilroy Garlic Festival, Downtown Car Show, Gilroy Holiday Parade, Gavilan College Athletics, been a sponsor for the Art and Wine Stroll. Kat Filice served as a judge for “Shark Tank.”