A group of volunteers who go the extra mile in the community were recognized Wednesday during the 2018-19 South Pasadena Council PTA Honorary Award Luncheon at the South Pasadena Unified School District Board Room.
Melinda Vargas, Council PTA executive vice president and Honorary Service Awards chair, emceed the program, opened the luncheon by acknowledging the committee, including Grace Kung, Judy Woo, Kathleen Bauman, Chris Holmes, Sara Shaffer and Laura Morales, who helped to review and select this year’s honorees.
Honored were individuals in the community “who make our children’s lives exceptional,” explained Vargas, stressing those honored put in countless hours supporting South Pasadena schools.
“While every volunteer is deserving of recognition, each year we reflect upon what’s been accomplished during the year to identify those individuals or groups who have served our schools above and beyond our expectations,” Vargas told audience members. “In addition to thanking them for their dedication, the PTA will make a donation on each recipient’s behalf toward a scholarship fund that is rewarded to a deserving graduating senior from South Pasadena High School.”
Julie Guilioni, Jon Primuth, Michele Downing and Scott Moe, all past presidents of the South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF), presented SPEF President Stacey Petersen, on behalf of the organization, with the Council PTA’s Distinguished Volunteer Service Award.
Giulioni said she and the group of past presidents were honored to present SPEF with the Council PTA’s highest honor because “it is the heart and soul of education in South Pasadena. It’s a magnification of the commitment and the generosity of our community, an inspiration, really a home for those who want to make an enduring and real difference.”
SPEF, preparing for its annual extravaganza on May 19 known as Parti Gras at Arroyo Golf Course, is celebrating a milestone birthday – 40 years.
Guilioni pointed out that over the years the foundation, the fundraising arm for the local school district, has contributed more than $14 million to South Pasadena schools.
“With a grateful community, tens of thousands of students and parents and teachers who have benefited from the programs, community events and the 14 million dollars of programming we otherwise would not have and enjoy, it’s a pleasure to present this distinguished service award to Stacey Petersen on behalf of SPEF,” said Guilioni.
It appeared Petersen had a speech mapped out in her mind, but her emotions, moved by the honor, got the best of her and she didn’t get too far.
“Thank you very much,” said Petersen, wiping away tears, joking, “I told you I’m a cry baby. We will proudly display this.”
The program continued as Saida Staudenmaier presented a certificate of appreciation to Ed Donnelly and Yuki Cutcheon (not present) on behalf the No on N campaign. The two co-chairs in the effort “beat the streets” to tell South Pasadena residents of what the repeal of the UUT in the November 2018 election would mean to the city.
Donnelly and Cutcheon actively urged South Pasadena voters to maintain the utility users’ tax that has been around since the early 1980s.
Used to winning, Donnelly has also served on the successful Measure S and Measure SP campaigns, which passed with overwhelming support.
No on N committee members spent long hours on the phones calling voters, writing op-ed pieces for newspapers, and attending countless community events to get their message out to keep the UUT intact. Repeal of the UUT would have meant immediate impact to the city’s quality of life, according to Donnelly, with direct cuts to school safety, senior services, streets and sidewalks and “our small town way of life,” he said prior to the election.
Committee efforts paid off, Donnelly pointing out that the margin of victory to defeat the repeal was by about 80 percent. He praised Cutcheon for her hard work and thanked the No on N committee members for making it happen.
Kung presented another a certificate of appreciation to Vargas for her enormous contribution to the schools over the years. The award recognizes individuals or organizations for their contribution toward a specific cause or event benefiting South Pasadena children. Vargas has contributed to the Cub Scouts as a den leader, served on various school groups, including the PTA, co-chaired many events, despite some personal family challenges, “and is a real inspiration,” noted Kung, in a heartfelt testimony to her colleague and friend, paying tribute to her “extraordinary time and effort” to help children in the community.
Kung and Chris Holmes presented the first of two honorary service awards to Tammy Selden. “This energetic person seems to be everywhere helping nearly with everything over the last seven years,” said Holmes of Selden, who has been heavily involved in the PTA, supporting band, updating websites, teaching Mandarin, designing the Monterey Hills Elementary School 5th grade yearbook, updating websites, tutoring in math lab, publishing newsletters, assisting in the classroom, chairing the PTA Reflections Program, chaperoning field trips and more.
The second honorary school service award went to Donnelly, whose strong community outreach has snowballed over the years to include passage of successful measures, including Measure SP and S, co-chairing the successful No on N committee, serving as president of the South Pasadena DUDES and the South Pasadena Middle School PTA, along with his involvement with the South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC) and Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Activism, the Eclectic Music Festival.
Donnelly, as humble as they come, drew a laugh from the audience following a lengthy presentation by Saida Staudenmaier, a huge volunteer in her own right, who highly praised the award winner for his dedication to the schools, highlighting his many contributions over the years.
Leaning into the microphone, Donnelly responded laughing, “And I almost blew this off,” meaning he nearly skipped out on the occasion to receive all the accolades that came his way.