Merced County residents and organizations who have contributed to the betterment of the community will be honored Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors as outstanding volunteers.
A total of 12 individuals and groups were selected as honorees from each of the county’s five districts. “The awards are based on service given above and beyond the job asked of them,” according to the county’s website.
The volunteers being recognized during the board’s regular meeting Tuesday, as part of National Volunteer Week, are:
Fernando Aguilera, president of the Merced Soccer Academy
According to Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza, Aguilera’s commitment to the soccer academy has helped keep children off the streets by providing them with safe and entertaining sports activities. “Fernando loves to see the kids enjoy their time playing soccer,” Espinoza said, adding that Aguilera volunteers more than 30 hours a week to the academy.
University Friends Circle
The University Friends Circle connects the UC Merced community to communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley through service programs and fundraising, said Virginia Lerer, the university’s director of operations. The group this year hosted an event that brought groups from other University of California campuses to Merced. The group also has raised more than $360,000 over nine years for scholarships and awards.
Susan Flinspach, Merced County Library volunteer
Flinspach used her grant-writing experience to help Merced County Library apply for several grants. She also was instrumental in organizing the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, said Amy Taylor, the county librarian. Taylor described Flinspach as a “library angel.”
Betty Avery, Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program volunteer
Maria Nava, HICAP’s program manager, nominated Avery for her “excellent services and volunteer.” Avery began her volunteer work in 2005 and has worked closely with clients to resolve Medicare billing problems and reinstate them to plans. “Betty made the difference in people’s lives,” Nava said.
Hinds Hospice Volunteers of Merced
Hinds Hospice Volunteers spend time at patients’ bedside and support family caregivers, outreach efforts, provide fundraising support and more, said Amy Tobin, Hinds Hospice’s CEO. “Our volunteers make significant contributions to our mission,” Tobin said.
Tim Dyke, Merced County Human Services Agency senior companion volunteer
The primary duty of a volunteer in HSA’s Senior Companion Program is to befriend a senior citizen. Dyke has helped the program thrive, Alexandra Pierce, HSA’s deputy director said.
Greg Olzack, Merced County Human Services Agency senior companion volunteer
Pierce also nominated Olzack for his work with the Senior Companion Program. “Mr. Olzack is the true definition of ‘Neighbor helping neighbor,’” Pierce said.
Randy Hasness, Gustine Police Department volunteer
Hasness leads the Gustine Police Department’s program where he checks in weekly on elderly citizens, Police Chief Douglas Dunford said. “He has developed such a rapport with some of them, they have come to enjoy the weekly conversations,” Dunford said.
Erin Benning, Hilmar High School junior and founder of the Karing for Kaiden charity
Benning essentially became a big sister to Kaiden Pacheco, an 8-year-old girl battling cancer. Benning has raised more than $140,000 to help Kaiden’s mother and other local families.
Dos Palos Lions Club
Currently in its 50th year, the Dos Palos Lions Club provides many services to the community and holds many events. “On many occasions they will be cooking a fundraiser for other organizations, youth groups or a memorial celebration of a former resident,” Supervisor Jerry O’Banion said.
Los Banos VFW Post 2487/American Legion Post 166
The Los Banos VFW and American posts provides flag raising ceremonies for events, puts on the November Veterans Parade and teaches flag etiquette.
Kathy Wilber, Los Banos Volunteers for Animals volunteer
Wilber assists with all projects at the animal shelter, Los Banos Police Chief Gary Brizzee said. She has been instrumental in keeping save rates in excess of 80 percent the last two years.