2018 Governor's Volunteering and Service Award Winners

Hoffman Prize

Karen Kawanami, Director of Enterprise Social Responsibility Programs, The Walt Disney Company

The Hoffman Prize recognizes an exceptional California business executive who demonstrates outstanding and impactful work fostering volunteerism in his or her local community, the State of California, the nation, and the globe. For the past 16 years, Karen Kawanami has managed the Disney VoluntEARS program, and connects volunteers around the globe to foster conversations and share best practices on volunteerism. Karen spearheaded the Disney VoluntEARS Global Service project, the first one bringing 30 Disney VoluntEARS from around the world together to help build a school house in Ecuador. From her many years working with NGOs and community members, she understands what a difference volunteers can make and launched a program that engages Disney employees through skills based volunteerism to help build non-profit capacity. Additionally, Karen plays a leadership role in advancing community service through her activities with the Points of Light Corporate Service Council, the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) Global Corporate Volunteer Council, and is a member of the CaliforniaVolunteers Business Partners Program.

California’s Volunteer of the Year

Emily Aldritt

This award honors an outstanding Californian whose volunteer service is exemplary and inspirational. From an early age, Emily Aldritt understood the importance and impact of service and helping those in need in her community. Emily credits her service-oriented family and upbringing for her awareness of community issues. At just 11 years old, Emily started Em’s Treat’em Sweet, where she prepares, packages, and sells her favorite holiday treats, with 100% of proceeds donated to the Alliance Against Family Violence and The Bakersfield Homeless Center. In 2015, when her baking needs outgrew her family kitchen, Emily partnered with Bakersfield College’s Culinary Arts Department, where she received help from volunteers and students from her school, church and the community. The money raised helped provide simple necessities that are often overlooked when working with people impacted by family violence and homelessness – sweet treats, clothing for children, sleeping supplies. With the needs of people experiencing homelessness on the rise in Bakersfield, Emily’s service project has been critical to the awareness and support of these nonprofits. Since 2011, this project has collectively raised over $35,000. In 2017 alone, Em’s Treat’em Sweet raised over $16,000 over a few weeks. After seeing the overwhelming success of her first undertaking, Emily expanded her service and along with three friends, started Boxes of Comfort to support mothers with babies in the NICU at local Bakersfield hospitals. Emily’s passion for service and her desire to impact her community, along with her leadership and entrepreneurial skills, have made each of her endeavors a success. At just 18-years-old, Emily has proven herself as an active member of her community.

Catherine Milton California AmeriCorps Member of the Year

Jose Castaneda-Morales, Tree Mortality Program

This award honors a California AmeriCorps member who has made a substantial impact to their community during their year of service. When Jose Castaneda-Morales joined the California Conservation Corps (CCC) in February 2015 he knew very little English, was a high school dropout, had no knowledge of basic tools, and was very unfamiliar with the outdoors in general. To put it lightly, he was a fish out of water. Jose went right to work as a corpsmember and John Muir Charter School student, working full time and attending class at least eleven hours per week in the evening. He worked tirelessly to learn English and work towards his diploma. Jose grew to love working outdoors and even joined the Backcountry Trails Program in April 2016 where he worked for five months building trails in remote areas of Yosemite National Park. He returned to the Los Padres Center in September of 2016 and quickly became a lead sawyer. Jose was accepted into the California Volunteers Tree Mortality Program where he served for six months as a sawyer battling tree mortality in the Sierra Nevada. Since Jose joined the CCC he has obtained his Commercial Driver’s License, has become a certified Feller 3 Sawyer, speaks English with confidence, has a new found love for the outdoors, and graduated from High School in June 2017.

California’s Governmental Agency of the Year

Office of Planning and Research

This award honors an outstanding state, county, city agency or department that has demonstrated a remarkable dedication to service. As devoted public servants in the Office of Planning and Research (OPR), Ken Alex and Michael McCormick have transformed how state agencies work with local communities. Eager to bring the climate change agenda to the local level, Ken and Michael partnered with the Local Government Commission (LGC), to first listen to regional voices and understand their technical and capacity gaps. Through this collaborative approach and with knowledge of community needs, they then launched Civic Spark – an AmeriCorps program that places passionate and driven young leaders at the forefront of the climate change agenda. These AmeriCorps members serve in local government agencies across California as boots on the ground to provide essential subject matter expertise on environmental policies and climate action plans. Civic Spark AmeriCorps members operate in eight regions throughout the State of California. Since launching, over 200 Civic Spark AmeriCorps members have provided over 140 public agencies with energy assessments, greenhouse gas inventories, water monitoring and survey reports to name a few. And perhaps most significantly, with their projects, these AmeriCorps members have directly engaged over 15,000 Californians from all walks of life. OPR worked closely with LGC, external partners, and colleagues across local, regional, state and federal agencies to provide a recipe for success. That recipe is utilizing the power of AmeriCorps as a resource for addressing critical needs facing California and building ties with local government to solve regional issues.

California’s Disaster Volunteer Program of the Year

California Office of Emergency Services Auxiliary Communications Service Amateur Radio Volunteers

This award honors an outstanding California disaster volunteer program that has demonstrated an unwavering service commitment to the local community. During the response to the October 2017 Wildfires that tore through Northern California, the Auxiliary Communications Service Amateur Radio Volunteers played a pivotal role in receiving and relaying critical information from amateur radio operators in the field to the State Operations Center, which was coordinating the response. There were many cell phone towers out of service in Sonoma, Mendocino, and Napa counties, and it was clear that amateur radio would be the only means of communication for many. Their ability to tap their network of amateur radio operators helped maintain communications with local government and non-profit organizations involved in the fire response. In particular, they were able to provide the State Operations Center updated shelter information about those displaced by the fires, and intel about communication equipment losses, in some cases before others were aware of the loss. Cal OES says that the greatest value that amateur radio volunteers bring to the Auxiliary Communications Service program is their talent and expertise. They constitute a force multiplier, using their specialized skills in voice, data, and satellite communications to deploy state resources anytime, anywhere.

California’s Nonprofit of the Year

Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz

This award honors a California nonprofit that has shown an extraordinary ability to leverage volunteers in service to their organization. For 50 years, the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz has had offices open in Watsonville, Santa Cruz, City Hall, Felton, Cabrillo and Live Oak and tens of thousands of community members have walked in to offer their time and talents, or get the help they needed. They strive to make it easier for youth, seniors, people with disabilities, Spanish speakers, families with young children and people on the job to volunteer their time. In the past five years, they have increased the number of volunteers engaged annually to 12,500 individuals and increased the number of people they help annually to over 9,000. Across years and issues, they have created a profound connection with their community and are fortunate to witness how volunteering transforms lives for good.

California’s Foundation of the Year

Werner Kohnstamm Family Giving Fund

The Werner Kohnstamm Family Giving Fund (WKF) is a small family giving fund invested in community well-being and focused on building resiliency through strategic gifts to organizations that are committed to social justice. Led by trustees JoAnn Intili and Ed Kissam, WKF has prioritized the cultivation of strategic support for immigration issues, including the civic integration of immigrant communities. WKF has focused their investment and efforts on the Central Valley region, working directly with immigrant communities. As a major actor in a region where few other funders are active, WKF directly supports grassroots organizations in the area. Since 2012, WKF has built a core support network of community-based organizations. This network, the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative, has mobilized numerous volunteer lawyers who have helped immigrants understand the immigration system and have provided critical services to individuals, including assisting with naturalization paperwork and navigating the legal system. In addition to addressing basic community needs, including health resources, WKF has also invested in higher education opportunities for individuals within the immigrant population. Their innovative work in building resiliency among the Central Valley immigrant communities and their efforts to dynamically invest and engage volunteers while supporting these communities demonstrates a strong commitment to bettering California.

California’s Business Volunteer Program of the Year

Disneyland Resort

This award honors an outstanding California business with an innovative, high-impact volunteer program that exemplifies collectively giving back to the community. VoluntEARS program began at the Disneyland Resort 35 years ago and has been expanding ever since. In 2017, Cast members volunteered more than 85,000 hours at 240 local events. Dozens of organizations nominated by cast members received more than $350,000 through the employee-managed Disney VoluntEARS Community Fund grants. EARS to You, a program that allows cast members to turn their hours of volunteer service into a financial contribution to a nonprofit organization of their choice, granted more than $225,000 to local nonprofits.