Press Release: Recipients Announced for the 1st Annual Heart of Sonoma County™ Awards

June 28, 2021

Media Contacts:
Katelyn Willoughby-Bagley Director, Marketing & Communications 


Linda Jacobs, CEO
415.479.5710 x300,

Recipients Announced for the 1st Annual Heart of Sonoma County™ Awards

SONOMA COUNTY, CA, 6/28/21 – Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 1st Annual Heart of Sonoma County™ Awards. 472 community leaders, volunteers, elected officials, and business members logged into the virtual event on Thursday, June 24th, 2021, from 11:00am to 1:00pm. 126 nominees were recognized in eight award categories, and recipients announced for each award. A total of $35,000 was given back to support the critical work of local nonprofits and volunteers.

“The community came together in a virtual space to show appreciation and gratitude for all the nominees and recipients,” said Linda Jacobs, CEO at CVNL. “With contributions of their time, talent, and treasure, the individuals and organizations nominated for the Heart of Sonoma County Awards demonstrate that Sonoma County is a community of great leaders that do the right thing.”

Comerica Bank was the inaugural event’s Presenting Sponsor. Mike Silva, Market President, North Bay and San Francisco Regions, had this to say: “Comerica Bank is extremely pleased to have a role in recognizing so many nonprofit community partners and the many wonderful people who give their all to serve others. CVNL has been doing this for many years in Marin and Napa counties: today we started a long tradition of recognizing the nonprofit super stars of Sonoma County.”

American AgCredit received the Corporate Community Service Award for their Local Community Impact Program, where employees each volunteered 16 hours and were given $500 to donate to local nonprofits; Next Gen Ag Program, which provided funding and scholarships to youth involved in animal projects or pursuing careers in agricultural; and Food For People Program, which supported nonprofits working to improve food and nutrition security.

The Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Gene Girimonte of Alzheimer’s Association of the North Bay. As a Community Educator, Gene, was able to lead three programs designed for caregivers, presenting at 20 activities to 475 constituents. His passion stems from his own personal experience: he lost his husband of 35 years to Alzheimer’s in 2018.

The Excellence in Board Leadership Award was given to Mary Henderson, Chop’s Teen Club. Mary led the board through the transition to become an independent public charity in 2020 and was instrumental in negotiating a funding plan that resulted in a contribution of $4.5 million dollars. She worked alongside Chop’s Executive Director during the pandemic to keep delivering programs and services, while encouraging other board members and supporting staff.

The Excellence in Innovation Award went to the Humane Society of Sonoma County’s Community Veterinary Clinic (CVC). CVC began as a free clinic to serve the urgent needs during the 2017 fires. A national model, CVC prevents avoidable euthanasia and keeps pets in their homes by providing low to no cost urgent and emergency veterinary care to low-income, marginalized, and at-risk pet companions.  

Youth Volunteer of the Year Award recipients included: Tanna Curtis, County of Sonoma Public Law Library and Ceres Community Project, for assisting patrons in utilizing the law library, helping them find resources, and supporting them with legal issues. At Ceres Community Project she helped deliver nutritious food to those in need and wrote encouragement cards; Benjamin Eisley, Boy Scouts of America Troop 135, for helping his troop “go virtual,” planning and coordinating construction of an outdoor classroom at Northwest Prep, planning socially distanced hikes, and raising funds to support troop activities; June Scafani, McDonald Ranch, for her work as camp counselor, supporting the equestrian trainer, and playing a significant role in the Educational Support Program to serve a cohort of 14 children; Cassidy Dorr, Ceres Community Project, who, despite being displaced in October as a result of the fires, became a teen leader in the kitchen and garden preparing meals for 200+ people and harvesting and planting crops; and Flor Castañeda, The Pad Project, for helping to end menstrual stigma and empowering women by organizing a fundraising event with the support of local businesses. Funds raised went towards installation of low cost “pad machines” that are easy to operate, use locally sourced natural resources, and require minimal electricity.

Alan Silow, President and CEO of Santa Rosa Symphony, was awarded the Excellence in Leadership Award for rejuvenating a capital fundraising campaign that raised 145 million dollars, diversifying programming, increasing their endowment from $1.5M to $16.5M, expanding educational outreach to 30,000 enabling inclusion for underserved students, providing access to in-school music programs, overseeing the Youth Orchestra’s first-ever international concert tours, and launching an innovative virtual concert series during the pandemic.

The Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence Award was presented to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa for providing direct services helping people find housing, achieve financial stability, and become citizens. Last year they placed 864 people in permanent housing; renewed the DACA status of 620 Dreamers; helped 454 people become naturalized citizens; enabled 186 seniors to maintain their independence at home; helped 1,789 people grow their income; and served 415,000 meals. They are driving force behind Caritas Village, a comprehensive housing development in downtown Santa Rosa, responded to twice as many calls for food and rental assistance, and distributed over $1M in client assistance.

William “Willie” Tamayo received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Willie has contributed his time and leadership skills serving on over ten boards, and his philanthropic contributions include multiple nonprofits. He has leveraged his background, knowledge, skills, relationships, and resources to support initiatives and organizations that promote learning, skill building, and confidence to disadvantaged youth and the Latinx community such as Social Advocates for Youth and Guy Fieri’s Cooking for Kids Foundation. He helped create the Elsie Allen High School Foundation, building strong relationships between the school and the community. Since 2014, the Foundation has awarded $430,000 in scholarships to students attending vocational schools and colleges. Willie spearheaded the Compact for Success Program, creating partnerships between Elsie Allen, its “feeder school,” Lawrence Cook Middle, and Sonoma State. This program increases access to higher education for low-income students by getting them on the college track starting in middle school. By increasing access and reducing barriers to education and career opportunities, Willie has helped countless youth over the decades realize their dreams of higher education, good jobs, and fulfilling careers.

All recipients were presented with certificates of recognition from Senator Bill Dodd, Senator Mike McGuire, Congressman Jared Huffman, Congressman Mike Thompson, Assemblymember Marc Levine, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar Curry, Assemblymember Jim Wood, and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Additionally, winners (except Corporate Community Service) received an award of $5,000 for their nonprofits. The five Youth Volunteers of the Year received $1,000 each.

The Awards were sponsored and presented by CVNL (Corporate Community Service); Exchange Bank (Volunteer of the Year); CVNL (Excellence in Board Leadership); Kaiser Permanente, Marin Sonoma (Excellence in Innovation); Peter E. Haas Jr. Family Fund (Youth Volunteer of the Year); Medtronic (Excellence in Leadership); Community Foundation Sonoma County (Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence); and Redwood Credit Union (Lifetime Achievement).

“In the 28 years CVNL has produced these events, we’ve been able to award hundreds of thousands of dollars to dozens of nonprofits,” said Jacobs. “CVNL is a resource, connection, and voice for the nonprofit community and the challenges we face, and has offices in Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma County. We stand united with our nonprofit stakeholders ready to support them into 2021 and beyond.”


About CVNL: For over 50 years, CVNL has advanced nonprofits and volunteerism by strengthening leadership, encouraging innovation, and empowering individuals in their communities. Passion alone isn’t enough when it comes to creating strong nonprofits. That’s why we work with aspiring and established leaders and volunteers every day to help them build the skills and connections that can take their impact to the next level. Together we offer comprehensive programs that support nonprofits and volunteers including training, executive search, customized consulting solutions, volunteer services, and corporate engagement. Heart of Marin™, Heart of Napa™, and Heart of Sonoma County™ events support nonprofits of every size and mission through recognition and cash awards. Other programs and services include the Sonoma Human Race, Secret Santa, Court Referral Program, and Volunteer Wheels. We provide disaster preparedness training and serve as an Emergency Volunteer Center (EVC), overseeing spontaneous volunteers and donations for Napa, Marin, Solano, and Sonoma Counties in the aftermath of a disaster. We believe that with confident and prepared leaders and volunteers, our nonprofits will be better equipped to create healthy, happy communities. Visit to discover more.