Volunteers honored for exemplary service at National Philanthropy Day

Nonprofits honor those who go "above and beyond" at National Philanthropy Day.

Representatives from more than 50 San Benito County nonprofits will gather together on Nov. 13 at San Juan Oaks Golf Club in recognition of National Philanthropy Day. This year marks the 13th year Community Foundation for San Benito County has hosted the event, which invites local nonprofits to select an outstanding volunteer or group to honor.

Esther Curtice, the executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of San Benito, said the annual event allows her group to recognize someone who goes “above and beyond the call of duty.” The agency has selected an honoree each year since 2008.

“This year we selected an advocate who has had a huge impact on a family,” Curtice said of Linda Smith, one of nearly 50 people or groups being honored.

CASA of San Benito assigns advocates to work with children in the foster care system. The list of responsibilities for advocates can include helping to keep siblings connected when they are placed in different homes; helping children receive needed medical or dental care; tracking educational progress; connecting students with positive extra-curricular activities and reporting to a judge on behalf of the children.

“This is a great way for us to honor people who normally fly under the radar,” Curtice said. “They don’t do it for the recognition, but we want to highlight these folks who truly make a difference.”

The Community Foundation started hosting a National Philanthropy Day celebration in 2001. The idea for a national celebration of volunteers was started by Douglas Freeman, a planning attorney and active philanthropist, according to the CFFSBC website. Freeman presented his idea to a group in Minnesota and it spread from there.

“Philanthropy is so powerful and inspiring precisely because it is voluntary – that through the goodness of our hearts, through our need to connect, through our desire to see a better world, we come together to improve the quality of life for all people,” a statement on the CFFSBC call for nominations reads.

Curtice said Smith worked closely with a Oaxacan family with four children. She helped connect the mother to resources in the community, advocated for all four children in their schools and tutored them.

Diane Ortiz, the executive director of the Youth Alliance, said their honoree this year “has been a true advocate for youth empowerment in his leadership role with the city.”

This year the group will honor Clay Lee, the community services director for the City of Hollister. The Youth Alliance provides after-school programs, youth support programs and community outreach.

“The one thing our honorees have had in common is a passion for helping youth,” Ortiz said, via email. “Each honoree has expressed their passion in a unique way, but all have made positive changes in the community.”

Ortiz said her favorite part of the day is celebrating generosity.

“It’s great to come together with those who also believe that we can change our community for the better by giving back,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see how the event has grown over the years. It’s special because we get to publicly thank the local heroes who give back to our community.”

The Women’s Club of Hollister wanted to keep quiet about its 2014 honoree in the days before the event because they hadn’t yet informed their recipient as they wanted the honoree to be surprised at the event.

Cindy Biesemeyer, the secretary of the club, said the group looks for an exemplar member who is “always willing to help and puts themselves out there for projects and doesn’t mind chairing, even if they are already an officer…”

Biesemeyer herself was honored at the 2013 National Philanthropy Day.

“I was honored (to receive the award)” she said. “I was really surprised…I knew I was doing a lot, but a lot of people were doing a lot. It was nice to feel noticed and recognized for some of the achievements.”

Biesemeyer said the Hollister Women’s Club only started participating in National Philanthropy Day a few years ago.

“As we’ve become more known and received more membership we have had people going above and beyond who should be recognized,” she said.

Participating in National Philanthropy Day can also help raise awareness of a nonprofit.

“There are so many groups and we are all working for whatever our cause is,” Biesmeyer said. “It elevates the name of the group…We are 35 people trying to make a difference in the community.”

 In addition to hosting National Philanthropy Day, the Community Foundation offers grants to support the work of nonprofits; holds economic development roundtables to help with communications and support; puts on workshops for nonprofits; connects nonprofits and local government agencies; and administers nonprofit endowments.

Sponsors of the event this year include Hollister Exchange Club, Union Bank, True Value, Tiffany Motor Company, Calvista Insurance Agency, Black-Cooper-Sander Funeral Home, and Richard and Marilyn Ferreira.

Melissa Anderson

Melissa (Flores) Anderson is the former city editor of the Weekend Pinnacle and Hollister Free Lance, where she covered education, county government and more. She currently works for the College of Applied Sciences and Arts at San Jose State University, where she manages the College blog, newsletter and website updates. She has a master's in print journalism from the University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism.