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Back row, from left: Board members John Adkins, San Gabriel Fire; Mary Louise Bunker; Frances Moore; Joe Pavon; Ed Guerrero, battalion chief; and Timothy Vu, Alhambra Police Chief. Front row, from left, Board members with award winners: Valarie Gomez, CEO; Mary Cammarano; award winner Dr. Laurel Bear, AUSD’s Gateway to Success founder; Barbara Messina, president; Daisy Ma, District for award winner Assemblymember Ed Chau; Andrew Kwok, SoCalGas Sempra Energy award winner; Henry Lo, with office of award winner Assemblymember Ed Chau.
Celebrating a new chapter in its growth and decades of service, the YMCA of West San Gabriel Valley hosted a Heart of the Community Fundraiser Lunch on Feb. 27 to honor Above and Beyond Award winners and salute supporters.
CEO Valarie Gomez welcomed the sold-out crowd, thanking guests for contributions and pointing out the growing need for YMCA 24/7 children’s programs to help working homeless families and disadvantaged parents working two jobs.
Former Alhambra Mayor and emcee Mark Paulson took over hosting duties as the crowd dined on an Alhambra Court lunch.
The three award winners were Assemblymember Ed Chau; Dr. Laurel Bear, assistant superintendent of Student + Employee Welfare and founder of the AUSD Gateway to Success program; and Andrew Kwok, SoCal Gas, a utility Sempra Energy company executive and YMCA of WSGV board member.
Mr. Chau appeared via video from his Sacramento office to share his belief in “our power to enrich the common good and improve lives of those around us when we work together.” Mr. Chau said he sought the $1.825 million new building grant from the State after he learned from Ms. Gomez and Dr. Bear that the Y never turned away anyone unable to pay for membership and had a decade-long commitment to helping students and families who are homeless and hungry.
“This grant demonstrates the strength of community collaboration,” said Mr. Chau.
The State grant will fund a child care center and family locker rooms to make the Y programs more accessible to homeless and underserved families.
Dr. Bear, whose AUSD Gateway to Success program for student mental health and safety is nationally recognized, commended the YMCA’s what-more-can-we-do approach. “The real heroes in the room are all of you,” she said. Dr. Bear said the YMCA supporters are a model for communities everywhere on how to come together as a family to make magic happen, underscoring the invaluable services the YMCA makes available to Gateway’s 17,000 students and their families.
“Because of support like the Y’s decade of partnership, AUSD Gateway has been able to build an infrastructure of hope and opportunity for our students. It takes all of us to help our children thrive,” said Dr. Bear.
Mr. Kwok received the Heart of the Community Award for his paying-it-forward philosophy toward volunteering, mentoring, and giving. Quoting Pope Francis, Mr. Kwok said, “The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need.” He added that communities thrive when their children can flourish.
Ms. Gomez thanked the honorees and supporters, reminding the crowd that the YMCA is a program-driven organization always in search of program funding.
The donations raised at the lunch support the YMCA ongoing programs, which include summer day camp, weekly field trips, Camp Ta Ta Pochon, basketball league, swim lessons, and the after-school program.