Volunteers' efforts lauded by Merced County Board of Supervisors

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comApril 23, 2013 

The Merced County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday honored four people and six organizations for their outstanding volunteer efforts.

"We had a number of nominations this year, and today we're going to be honoring 10 recipients here in our ceremony," said Chairwoman Deidre Kelsey, District 4 supervisor.

"If it wasn't for the volunteers in this county, many projects wouldn't get done. I'd like to say congratulations to all of you for a job well done," Kelsey said.

Each supervisor introduced the nominee for his or her district, spoke briefly about the nominee's accomplishments and presented the award.

Supervisor John Pedrozo recognized Monica Bianchi, who works with Building Healthy Communities, and United Methodist Women for District 1.

Pedrozo also presented the District 2 awards in Supervisor Hub Walsh's absence. Betty Avery, who works with United Methodist Women, and the late Albert Bonilla, who was a volunteer for a hospital and for Sacred Heart Church in Planada, were honored.

Bonilla, 52, died suddenly in February after a battle with pneumonia, according to his family.

Yolanda Torres, Bonilla's sister, said her brother volunteered at Mercy Medical Center about four shifts each week -- despite a learning disability and no transportation.

"It was very important to him," Torres said. "He would have been very thrilled and happy about this."

Bonilla worked 2,000 volunteer hours in three years, according to Janice Wilkerson, director of Mission Integration at Mercy Medical Center.

Bonilla's friend, Dan Baladad, nominated him for Tuesday's volunteer recognition.

"Albert was a terrific man, and we miss him. He died way too young," Baladad said. "It's kind of sad because he deserved to be here. He would have been so proud."

District 3 Supervisor Linn Davis presented awards to Jerome Rasberry Jr. for his work with Youth to Youth and Distinguished Outreach Services.

In District 4, Kelsey recognized the Merced County Food Bank, which just marked its 10-year anniversary, and Helping Hawks -- a Delhi High School student club that helps the homeless.

District 5 Supervisor Jerry O'Banion presented awards to Court Appointed Special Advocates and the Los Banos Golden Age Club, which keeps seniors active.

A brief reception with refreshments was held after the awards ceremony.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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