Attendees showed support of honorees by waving their napkins in the air. Photo courtesy of Marisa Duran photograpy.

As people across the country celebrated National Philanthropy Day, residents of San Benito County gathered at San Juan Oaks in Hollister Nov. 15 to recognize 32 local honorees for their contributions to the community.

While two masters of ceremonies reading 100-word summaries explaining what led to each recipient being recognized, audience members got a glimpse of the people and groups making a positive difference in San Benito County.

Honorees ranged from former educators teaming up with the San Benito County Free Library to increase literacy, lifelong county residents who are now giving back through art and support of nonprofits. Others received recognition for their efforts to raise funds for cancer research and for baking birthday cakes for abused women and children.

While they varied in age, gender, socio-economic class, causes and backgrounds, they were united in their purpose of making San Benito County a better place.

“Tonight is about service,” said Gary Byrne, CEO of the Community Foundation for San Benito County.

As each honoree received their award, audience members waved their dinner napkins in the air to show their support.

The night was not just for those receiving awards, but for all attendees. In his keynote speech, Eduardo Cervantes touched on the purpose of service and philanthropy. He is currently an instructor and administrator at Gavilan College, as well as president of the San Benito County League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Cervantes, who was born in San Benito County, spoke of how his mentors helped shape him from a child labeled “at risk” into an individual who could further his education and in turn give back to the community.

He summed up the purpose of the evening when he said, “Let us remember we can plant the seeds of hope for the next generation to pay forward.”

Nominators and their honorees include:

  • Aromas Hills Artisans: Andrea McCann
  • Aromas-San Juan Unified School District: Shary Greene
  • BenitoLink: Community Foundation for San Benito County
  • CASA of San Benito County: Maureen Bloch
  • Chamberlain’s Children Center, Inc.: Amalia Ellis
  • City of San Juan Bautista: Anthony Ponce
  • Community Action Board: Gary Cameron
  • Emmaus House: San Benito Birthday Cakes 4 Free
  • Fishes and Loaves: Lise and George Emery
  • Friends of the San Benito County Free Library: Kathy Larabell
  • Gabilan Chapter Kinship Center: Linda Churchill
  • Hazel Hawkins Hospital Foundation: Danette Perrien
  • Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital: Vivian Romero
  • Hollister Airmen’s Association: John and Mary Szpara
  • Hollister Downtown Association: Dean Machado
  • Pinnacles Quilters of San Benito County: Diane Mezerkor
  • San Benito County Arts Council: Phil Leonard
  • San Benito County Free Library: Ed Smith
  • San Benito County Historical Society: E. Clampus Vitas Viejo Chapter 1846
  • San Benito County Relay for Life: Tony and Cathy Alameda
  • San Benito Agricultural Land Trust: Paul F. Hain
  • San Benito Stage Company: Brent Redmond Transportation
  • San Juan Bautista Community Business Association: Max Martinez
  • San Juan Bautista Library Auxilary: Ray Covert
  • Rotary Club of San Juan Bautista: Jill Ortiz
  • Sun Street Centers: Stephanie Hicks
  • Top Hatters Motorcycle Club: Michael Springs
  • United Way of San Benito County: Graniterock
  • YMCA of San Benito County: Christina Castaneda
  • Women’s Club of Hollister: Kimberly Kimber