20th Latino Town Hall awards celebrate community spirit, accomplishment
Published:  November 11, 2016

By Peggy Kelly

Santa Paula Times 

Santa Paula Latino Town Hall celebrated community spirit, accomplishment and activism at the 20th Annual LTH Awards Dinner held October 21 at historic Casa del Mexicano.

Awardees were the Magana Family who received the Jesse Victoria Business Award for their Tlaquepaque Restaurant; Larry Alamillo, an Isbell Middle School teacher who received the Education Award; Blanchard Community Library received the Community Service Agency Award; SPHS Seniors Mireille Vargas and Nayhb Oseguera were recipients of the Youth Award; Anna Bermudez, a local artist who works with the Ventura County Museum and Santa Paula Agriculture Museum received the Cultural Arts Award; the Sports Award recipient was Juliet Dike and former Mayor  Kay Wilson-Bolton was lauded with the Raymond Garcia Humanitarian Award for her fierce advocacy for the homeless and her leadership of the SPIRIT of Santa Paula.

The evening featured a Silent Auction and the sold-out crowd included elected officials throughout Ventura County.

“This place has a lot of meaning,” LTH President Lorenzo Moraza said of the Casa, an organization formed to help members of the Latino community and “remains a very committed organization in very many ways.”

“We celebrate who we are,” said former Santa Paula Mayor Dr. Gabino Aguirre, who introduced the array of elected and appointed officials in the crowd. 

The community is blessed that so many, “Contribute to make Santa Paula the center of our universe, the center of our world…”

And, he noted, many of the founders of LTH “have remained active, engaged,” including Bob Borrego, the first president of LTH that held the office for a decade and Laura and Victor Espinosa, among others.

Santa Paula is a better community because of those that give their time to serve the community as a whole.

What is best for the community said Moraza, is “working collaboratively…” 

A voiceover by Borrego who was surrounded by family at a special table, explained the beginnings of LTH and its accomplishments over the years to be an all inclusive community resource.

Presentations were made via voiceover videos that allowed the audience to see the recipients at various stages of their lives and with their families, show their businesses, professions and past-times. 

Tlaquepaque Restaurant, owned and operated for 20 years by Victor Magana and family, has shown longtime business leadership in the community and generous support for various community organizations. Schools, church groups, local sports teams and needy families and individuals have all received much needed support from the Magana-operated restaurant, honored with the Jess Victoria Business Award. 

Magana thanked LTH for the award and noted his family’s honor is being recognized. 

Sports Award recipient Dike has demonstrated outstanding commitment to youth sports in Santa Paula for more than four decades including as a volunteer coach and referee for AYSO Soccer and coaching youth tennis. For more than 30 years she was a PE instructor for area schools teaching elementary students the fundamental rules of each sport and, above all, good sportsmanship. 

Although not a city native or raised in the area, “Everything in my adult life that was important,” said Dike, “happened in Santa Paula…”

Vargas and Oseguera, Youth Award recipients, are SPHS Seniors. 

Mirelle is a well- rounded, high achieving student and community leader. She is SPHS ASB president, served as the Student Representative on Santa Paula Unified School District’s board last year. She is also a member of the district’s LCAP advisory committee, an active youth leader with CAUSE, and a member of SESPEA (Students Encouraging Social Political and Environmental Action). Mireille is an exceptional role model and mentor for her peers, not just in her school but also in her community, “A force,” said SPUSD Superintendent Alfonso Gamino “to be reckoned with...”

Nayhb has been described as having “great leadership skills, personal integrity, work ethic, and respect for others.” He maintains a 4.2-plus GPA and is a leader in the Agriculture Science Academy/FFA program, serving as the 2016 Chapter President. He has participated in numerous youth leadership conferences and is an active volunteer in the community. A Rotary Junior Achievement Award recipient, ASA/FFA Advisor Alex Flores said Nayhb is truly an outstanding role model to other students who “loves all people…to him we are all people.”

Education Award recipient Alamillo has volunteered to take a group of 40-50 Santa Paula students to Washington D.C. each year for 11 years. The History Trips are not district-sponsored fieldtrips, nor does Alamillo receive compensation for his time. Each year he recruits students and chaperones, coordinates fundraising, plans the itinerary, and makes all of the travel arrangements. For many, it is a life-changing experience. Alamillo, who has been an active volunteer for Little League and T-Ball, is considered by LTH to be one of the community’s unsung heroes. 

“I’ve been inspired by so many people,” said Alamillo, “and I pray I’ll be able to inspire students.”

Cultural Arts is a way of life for Bermudez, an artist honored for “her exemplary work” with the Ventura County Museum and the Agriculture Museum — where she is now Chief Curator — to bring high-quality, engaging cultural arts programs to Santa Paula and her longtime dedication to increasing awareness countywide of Latinos in the arts. Bermudez, whose family settled in Fillmore in 1912, has exhibited work at the De Colores Art Show and was instrumental in bringing Latino musicians like Trio Guadalajara to the Agricultural Museum. She is also credited for helping to develop exhibits at the VCM that highlight the contributions of local Latinos to the county, baseball and in Vietnam as well as to bring “Latinas in the Movie Industry” to the VCM. 

“When I saw her bio I thought ‘she is a powerhouse in the art world and I wanted to be ]

\up here with her,” said Laura Espinosa who presented the award.

Bermudez, a Scripps and San Jose State University graduate, is one of the few Latina art curators in the nation.

She thanked her family for their support and noted her dedication to the Agriculture Museum, especially as, “I’m very excited and want to tell all the stories there…”

Blanchard Community Library was honored with the Community Service Agency Award because of its outstanding service to the community, particularly with regards to BCL’s Family Literacy: Aid In Reading (FLAIR) program which provides invaluable support to some of the most vulnerable members of the community. 

The FLAIR program teaches adults English, reading, writing, and job market skills by providing one-on-one volunteer tutoring. The library is also deeply committed to youth development and coordinates ongoing programs to engage Santa Paula youth in fun, educational experiences in a safe, nurturing environment. 

LTH offered “tremendous gratitude to the staff and volunteers” of BCL for their betterment of the community.

“I remember growing up at the library,” said Diane Martinez who presented the award to BCL Board President Laura Phillips and Library Director Ned Branch.

“We’re so proud of our library,” said Phillips. “It’s an exciting time and we’re definitely on our way,” of becoming what has been the community and the board’s vision.

Branch noted BCL would not be “what it is without our staff,” including Children & Teen Librarian Ilene Gavenman, on staff for 29 years and whose programs are among those that “give us more exposure to the Latino community.”

Wilson-Bolton, recipient of the prestigious Ray Garcia Humanitarian Award showed her caring of others early on by her devotion to animals and now, “You can’t deny Santa Paula is a better place because of her,” said Aguirre. 

A former City Councilwoman and Mayor, she has long been a fierce advocate for the homeless and presently leads SPIRIT of Santa Paula, an organization that  feeds hundreds of the area’s neediest residents each week. Her advocacy began Christmas Eve 2008, when a homeless man was found dead in a church.

Last year she wrote, “I have come to know many of our homeless people like family. We have fed them, counseled them, sheltered and housed them, buried several, visited them in jails and hospitals and cried with and over them.” 

A distinguished Realtor who has received numerous awards for outstanding, ethically sound service to her clients and to the community, Wilson-Bolton is also a co-mediator for the Ventura County Superior Court, a Biblical Counselor, a neighborhood mediator, and a Chaplain for the police and fire departments. She is a founding member of United Way’s Women’s Legacy Council, former State President of the California Women for Agriculture, former president of the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Santa Paula Economic Development Commission. 

Said Aguirre, “Because of her huge heart and long-time dedication to Santa Paula’s neediest and most vulnerable residents, and because of her many personal and professional accomplishments and dedication to the economical and social development of our community, Santa Paula Latino Town Hall is incredibly proud to honor Mrs. Kay Wilson-Bolton with this year’s Raymond Garcia Humanitarian Award...we support you 1000 percent.”

“It was one of the greatest blessings when I first came to Santa Paula,” said Wilson-Bolton. “It’s not about me, but what God does through me…”

Retiring Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long, who with other elected officials presented proclamations to those honored, noted “This is my last Latino Town Hall as your supervisor and I want to take a moment to say thank you…I take comfort to know you have the same heart, same passion and the same love of community,” LTH first demonstrated 20 years ago.

The sold-out event featured a keynote address by Elvis Cordova, Acting Undersecretary of Marketing/Regulatory Programs U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Christopher Espinosa, a native Santa Paulan and now Washington, D.C. resident where he is Executive Vice President-COO of Green Latinos, introduced Cordova.

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