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Mother Lode Volunteers In The Limelight

Sonora, CA – More accustomed to working behind the scenes, six Mother Lode volunteers basked in the spotlight Friday as Sierra Nonprofit Services hosted its annual luncheon at the Sonora Elks Lodge.

According to organizers, the “Heart of Tuolumne County” Volunteer Awards Luncheon honors the heart, love and work of local volunteers in all aspects of service. As part of their award, honorees receive a cash gift to donate to a favorite cause. After being nominated by other volunteers for these awards, the applications are reviewed and winners chosen by a citizens’ panel. Today’s luncheon was emceed by Maryann Curmi of Star 92.7. Here’s a rundown of this year’s winners and their nonprofit beneficiaries:

EXTRA MILE WINNER: Kathy Sudduth

A skilled large-quantity cook, Kathy has used her talents for decades to strengthen half a dozen community organizations. For the Church of the 49ers, she prepares hundreds of free meals every Thanksgiving and Christmas. For many years, Kathy headed up the Soulsbyville United Methodist Church annual Pasty Dinner, its largest fundraiser of the year. For the VFW, American Legion and Disabled Veterans, Kathy prepares Christmas dinners and organizes other dining events. Her big heart and generosity has blessed local veterans, lonely senior citizens, and less fortunate community members for many years.

Sudduth’s nonprofit beneficiary: Church of the 49ers Helen Johnson Community Dinner

NEVER TOO YOUNG AWARD: Sarah Graham

When she began classes at SRT Jr., Sierra Repertory Theatre’s new education program, Sarah was in nominator Ralph Krumins’ very first class. He says Sarah’s interest and dedication made her the perfect assistant. Quietly, she learned and picked up on the nuances of directing and educating, preparing lesson plans, asking questions, and diving in with confidence. She wants to become a Theatre Educator, working with youth, and she already is accomplishing that. There is something magical about someone who starts volunteering for something they enjoy, and realizes that is has changed their whole life.

Graham’s nonprofit beneficiary: SRT Jr. Program

VOLUNTEER’S CHAMPION: Southside Senior Services — accepting for Southside, Director Lucy Tindall

Southside Senior Services provides a highly successful program for seniors aged 60 and up called “Wheels.” Volunteers with the program drive seniors to destinations in Groveland, including medical and dental appointments, the library, post office, bank, grocery store, and shopping. A new service has been added for medical appointments going to and from Sonora. In its first year of operation, Wheels provided more than 1,150 one-way trips, all at no charge to seniors. A team of more than 50 volunteers, including drivers, schedulers, and client advisers coordinate and transport people to their appointments. For many people, this is their first time volunteering.

This entry volunteer opportunity brings them to Southside. Here, a number of volunteers have engaged in other opportunities, such as the new Village on the Hill program, where more than 40 volunteers have signed up to provide numerous services to help people stay in their homes as they get older. These volunteers include handyman services, social visits, a call-a-day program, assistance with electronic devices, running errands, such as grocery shopping, and more. In addition to Wheels and Village on the Hill, Southside Senior Services runs the The Little House, where another group of volunteers conducts a variety of free programs. Among them are Balance and Core, chair dancing, a needlework group, Wii bowling leagues, and mah-jong; through these activities helpers log another 200 volunteer hours a month.

Nonprofit beneficiary: Southside Senior Services

COMMUNITY EXCELLENCE WINNER: Kohl’s Cares — accepting for Kohl’s Cares, Jessie Martinez

Kohl’s Cares Team is made up of Kohl’s associates, who generate a team of volunteers, donating their time to different events in Tuolumne County. The focus and commitment is directed towards helping children, kids’ health, and above all, education. These associates show up at each event with willingness and bright smiles. Their commitment to making a difference in the future of the children they serve reflects their belief that everyone has the opportunity and ability to make a difference in the world. Kohl’s Cares Teams are indeed Community Superheroes.

Kohl’s Cares nonprofit beneficiary: A-TCAA Food Bank

ED MINIUM JUDGES’ SPECIAL AWARD: Ron Harms

Ron Harms has deep roots in Tuolumne County. He was born here, and he and his family used to live above the Iron Door Saloon in Groveland. Ron is the former president of Health Plan Services for the United Health Group. Currently, he is co-owner of Yosemite Cellars Winery. Ron started volunteering at Southside Senior Services in 2009. A year later, he became the board president. His role had since expanded, and he contributes his business expertise to the development and strategic planning of Southside Senior Services, The Little House and the Wheels Program. In 2014, Ron was the principal recruiter for Wheels, resulting in 25 trained volunteers. Ron also volunteers with Groveland Area Partnership. For GAP, Ron sits on the Board and his focus is to improve access to health services in the Groveland area. To this end, he is the liaison between GAP and Sonora Regional Medical Center, working on feasibility planning and the creation of a rural health clinic for Groveland residents. Ron serves as a principal advocate for the Village on the Hill in Groveland. There are over 100 of these programs throughout the United States. The main purpose of The Village is to organize an all-volunteer group that will provide assistance to senior citizens, allowing them to stay in their homes as long as possible.

Harms’ nonprofit beneficiary: Southside Senior Services

NEVER TOO OLD AWARD: Ruth Callahan

Ruth is in her “young 90’s” and has been volunteering at the Food Bank for well over a decade. She is the oldest volunteer amongst the groups and serves as the Site Host at the Food Bank for the monthly distribution. She is in charge of having clients sign up for food and making sure the volunteers sign the timesheet. She informs new clients of the program and the process and makes sure each client is served with respect and kindness. Ruth is a very considerate individual who cares about her community, and it shows. She was also a founding member of Habitat for Humanity-Tuolumne County.

Callahan’s nonprofit beneficiary: Habitat for Humanity-Tuolumne County