Simi Valley, Calif.—The Simi Valley Family YMCA handed out its 8th Annual Volunteer of the Year awards at a November 9 dinner at the Rancho Santa Susana Community Center. The sold-out evening attracted over 250 guests and celebrated the Simi Y’s 35th anniversary. Providing the entertainment was Lynzee Fraye, “American Idol” contestant.
Three individuals who were instrumental in spearheading the drive for a Simi YMCA, John Rutherford, Al Jacobs and Jim King, walked the audience through a history of how the Y came about.
“It took a tremendous amount of work and dedication from volunteers, community members, the YMCA corporate staff and city officials to establish a branch here in Simi Valley,” says Dan Jaeger, Simi Y executive director. “The community was ready for its own Y. Previously, residents would have to drive all the way to the Conejo Valley YMCA (which used to be known as the Tri Valley YMCA) to participate in YMCA events and programs.”
The annual Volunteer of the Year awards honors those who have made a positive impact on YMCA members and the community. Here are this year’s winners.
The “Order of Merit Award” honors a YMCA leader who exemplifies civic responsibility through service to the community. This year’s winner is Mike McGuigan. McGuigan was a Simi Valley planning commissioner for 18 years, a 35-year Rotarian. He owned several businesses in Simi Valley. “For the past four years, Mike has been a strong fundraiser for the Simi Y,” says Jaeger. “His decades of service in Simi Valley are nothing short of amazing.”
The “Distinguished Service Award” honors an individual who has made accomplishments in YMCA financial development. This year’s winner is Mary Spielman. Spielman was signaled out for her work as a long-time YMCA fundraiser and advocate for the Y. “Mary is a constant walking, talking, YMCA ambassador,” says Jaeger “She is a connector. She loves to bring people together.”
The “Jack Vopal Y’s Men of the Year Award” honors a member of the Simi YMCA’s Y’s Men’s Club, a service organization that supports the Y. This year, the award went to Leigh Seaton. Besides volunteering with the Y’s Men’s Club, Seaton contributes his time to Rotary, Simi Valley Senior Center, Free Clinic of Simi Valley and the Boy Scouts. “Leigh is the first one there and the last one to leave,” says Jaeger. “He’s a MacGyver at making things work. We feel so fortunate for his dedication to the Simi Y’s Men.”
The “Jim King Award of Significant Service” honors an individual that has made a significant contribution to a Simi Valley Family YMCA program. Tomas Caceres is this year’s award recipient. Caceres began going to Y camp in fourth grade, became a counselor in training, then counselor before joining the YMCA staff. H currently works with 10 through 12 graders in the counselor in training program. “Tomas is a classic example of someone who has grown up in YMCA camping, going through all the levels, developing leadership skills and now passing on those skills to the next generation,” says Jaeger. He has the perfect ‘camp attitude’ and most of all wants to be there for kids.”
The “Rob Hitchcock Youth Volunteer Service Award” honors a youth volunteer who is active at the YMCA and involved in the Simi Valley community.” Nick Humphrey, 14, is the winner of this award, given out for the first time. Humphrey volunteered at the Y’s Men’s Christmas tree lot last year among other volunteer roles. At the end of the last school year, Humphrey was awarded “Student of the Year” by Simi Valley Rotary Club at Hillside Middle School. “Nick displays a courtesy towards others that’s rarely seen these days,” says Jaeger. “At his young age, he’s already living the YMCA mission.”
The “Lifetime Achievement Award” recognizes a lifetime of commitment to the Simi Valley Family YMCA and the community. This one-time award was given as part of the 35th anniversary celebration. The recipient is Jim King, founding Simi YMCA board member and the branch’s first executive director. He helped organize the Y’s after school childcare and Indian Guides (now Adventure Guides). “Jim’s accomplishments over 35 years has had a profound effect on people’s lives and on the foundation of this YMCA,” says Jaeger. “Jim went on to serve in a variety of roles with the Southeast Ventura County YMCA, culminating in executive vice president. After Jim’s retirement in 2011, he came back to volunteer and serve at the Y and for the community that he loves so much.”
For more about the Simi Valley YMCA, go to http://www.sevymca.org/simivalley.