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County Presents Unity in Diversity Awards to Community Leaders and Organizations

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – This summer, five community leaders and organizations received awards at the County’s annual Unity in Diversity celebration. The awards were presented by the County Supervisors to recognize contributions these individuals and organizations are making in support of diversity in Santa Clara County. The County Executive also recognized two County staff at the event.

“Santa Clara County has one of the most culturally diverse communities in the United States,” said President Dave Cortese, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “The Board of Supervisors has made diversity a key organizational value and has sought to promote this value through training for County employees, outreach to the community, and special diversity observances for the past fourteen years.”

Community Awards Presented by County Supervisors
Supervisor Mike Wasserman, District 1: Erin O’Brien, President/CEO, Community Solutions
As President and CEO of Community Solutions, Erin O’Brien is devoted to meeting the growing and changing needs of South Santa Clara County communities. She is dedicated to ensuring that individuals receive the support and services that allow them to create positive changes in their lives.

O’Brien is actively involved in various countywide efforts that help to improve services and support for the most vulnerable and underserved populations. Currently, she sits on the board of the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies, and is an active member of California Alliance of Child and Family Services, the Community Connections Partnership, the Status Offender Services Provider Network, and South County Collaborative. O’Brien has also served on the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits, Domestic Violence Council, Greenbook Oversight Committee, Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council, and the Juvenile Detention Reform Steering Committee.

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, O’Brien holds both Master of Social Work and Bachelor of Arts in Humanities degrees from San Jose State University.

Vice President George Shirakawa, District 2: Washington Camina Contigo
Washington Camina Contigo was formed in November 2010, in response to the stabbing and death of a young man in front of Washington Elementary School. A group of about 20 parents, lead by Juan Villalobos, father of a 4th grader at Washington Elementary School, formed a parent/child walking group. The mission of the group is to make sure that all children feel safe walking to and from the school.

The group also focuses on giving back to the community by organizing monthly neighborhood beautification events and encouraging the entire community to get involved. The first beautification event was held in February 2011 and a total of 35 volunteers attended the event. Twenty seven bags of trash were filled and 210 graffiti marks on buildings and the school surroundings were removed. The parents now schedule monthly beautifications/ clean-up events.

President Dave Cortese, District 3: Michael Rose, Sunnyvale Neighbors of Arbor, Including LaLinda
Michael Rose has been the President of Sunnyvale Neighbors of Arbor, Including LaLinda (SNAIL) Neighborhood Association for the past 2 years. SNAIL was established in 1995 and now represents 1200 households.

Rose has helped the community to grow and thrive by making sure that residents’ health and safety issues are resolved. Through reaching out to City and County leaders, Rose brought attention to the needs of SNAIL community members. He also helped to organize and ensure the success of the community’s first Arts and Crafts Festival.

Rose’s volunteer work also extends to the County where he serves as a member of the Measure A Committee, which oversees the expenditure of voter-approved bond funds that are being used for seismic retrofit work at Valley Medical Center. Once this project is completed, Valley Medical Center will be able to continue operations during an earthquake.

Supervisor Ken Yeager, District 4: Sue Runsvold, Founder, Turning Wheels for Kids
In 2003, Susan Runsvold set out upon what has become quite an adventure. Her vision was to buy bikes at Christmas and give them to underprivileged children, whom she believed might otherwise not receive any present from Santa.

In 2005, Susan asked an amazing group of individuals to help flesh out her dream. With a resounding yes from each person, Turning Wheels for Kids was born. The unbelievable success of this group has resulted in well over 6,000 bikes to local children. And as with all good ideas, the mission grew. Today, Turning Wheels for Kids distributes bikes not only during the holiday seasons but also year round through a number of partnerships. The organization also partners with the Santa Clara County Family Lifestyle Modification Center and Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative to encourage outdoor activities for the health and well-being of children.

Supervisor Liz Kniss, District 5: Outlet Project, Community Health Awareness Council
The Outlet Project began in 1997 with Monday Night Support Group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth living in the Bay Area. In 2003, Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC), a nonprofit mental health services agency located in Mountain View, acquired the Outlet Project which had previously been overseen by the Palo Alto YWCA. Over the years, the Outlet Project has extended its services and programs to include one-on-one mentorship, sexual orientation and gender identity workshops, a Spanish service program called De Ambiente, and HIV/STD prevention.

CHAC Mountain View’s Outlet Project has been an incredible asset to the community by empowering LGBTQQ youth through building safe and accepting communities through support, education, and advocacy. The program has served over 2,500 youth directly.

County Employee Awards presented by Dr. Jeffrey V. Smith, County Executive
Elena E. Robles, Social Services Agency
Robles is Chair of El Comité, Social Services Agency’s oldest employee coalition, where she brings top-notch speakers and presentations to County employees on a monthly basis. With her efforts, regular attendance of the meetings has grown by 50 to 150 people.

Robles has hosted four “Friendship Teas” events that engaged employees of various backgrounds in fun and interesting lunch-time potlucks to help promote intercultural respect and understanding.

Jill Boone, Facilities and Fleet Department
Jill Boone encouraged Fleet Management and Building Operations to convene a group of employees to focus on Women in Non-traditional Work Roles within the department. The committee meets regularly to identify and address challenges and barriers to increase the diversity of the Facilities and Fleet workforce.

Collaborating with Center for Employment Training and community colleges, the committee has initiated a pilot program to assist female students to pursue education in building trades and vehicle maintenance. The committee will also host an open house for high-school and college students. As a result of Boone’s efforts, Facilities and Fleet Department is now developing an internship program to place female students in the Fleet Management operations.

Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Lingxia Meng, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119; Steven Blomquist, Office of Supervisor Dave Cortese (408) 299-5037
Posted: September 9, 2011