"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"
That quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is part of the inspiration for the annual MLK Day of Service, when people across the country volunteer to serve their neighbors and communities.
There’s no better time to highlight the 2012 recipients of the annual Heart of Marin Awards, which the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership of Marin has been doling out for "outstanding Marin nonprofits and the committed individuals who serve them” since 1992.
This year's awards ceremony took place Jan. 5 at the Marin Center Exhibit Hall. Recipients receive $5,000 to put toward their respective agency.
- Volunteer of the Year – Jim and Ann Patterson of 10,000 Degrees were honored for their work in helping low-income youth in West Marin navigate the path to college. They were credited for having “changed the culture in West Marin regarding attending college.” Excellence in Board Leadership – With the Family Service Agency of Marin faced with reductions in public and private funding that necessitated painful downsizing of staff and programs, board member John Curtis lead the organization to take control of its destiny. He enlisted the support of a skilled volunteer in strategic planning through the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership’s ProBono Marin program, establishing a board, staff and volunteer task force.
- Corporate Community Service – Matt and Jeff’s Carwash & Detail Center in Novato donates one penny to local schools for every gallon of gas sold, a strategy that has led to contributions of more than $120,000 to date. That money has helped preserve the school library program for 8,000 students. The business promotes recognition of Veterans Day every year with a free lunch and car wash for all vets, and hosts fundraisers for over a dozen community groups each year ranging from scouts to sports teams to dancing troupes.
- Excellence in Innovation - Marin Organic’s flagship initiative, the Organic School Lunch and Gleaning Program, provides access to healthy, local food for residents, bridging the gap between organic farms and schools by gleaning, donating and delivering food aesthetically unfit for market. With an estimated 20-30 percent of all food that is grown left unpicked, Marin Organic gets that food into schools where it is needed.
- Excellence in Leadership – In the battle against homelessness, Diane Linn, the executive director of the Ritter Center in San Rafael, has doubled the agency’s budget from 1.2 million in 2008 to 2.4 million and launched the Art Houses of Marin campaign. She is credited with making the Ritter Center “a sustainable agency that is focused on changing the lives of clients and creating positive outcomes for the community.”
Dance Palace is a multi-purpose community center providing educational, recreational, cultural and community services focused on improving the quality of life and responding to the changing needs for people of all ages in West Marin.
- Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence – The Dance Palace Community Center, a multi-purpose community center providing educational, recreational, cultural and community services for people of all ages in West Marin. “Whether a class, cultural event, government meeting or disaster shelter, the Dance Palace is woven into the life of the West Marin community.” The Point Reyes National Seashore Association does environmental education, runs the visitor center bookstores and hosts field seminars for the National Park Service, raising millions of dollars to fund park activities that profoundly impact the health and well being of visitors and local ecosystems.
- Youth Volunteers of the Year – Receiving $1,000 each for their outstanding volunteer work were Kyra Deeth-Stehlin of Catholic Charities CYO's Canal Family Support Program (Kids Club), Dilsy Mendez of Education, Excellence & Equity (E3), Ernesto Garcia Jr. of Canal Welcome Center Ecobaby Project, Rachel Blackman of Marin Human Society and Drake High; and Ivan Shaw of LGBT Center Youth Pride Coalition.