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Violet Richardson Award

Do you know a young woman age 14-18 who works to make the community a better place? Does she have experience working for an organization that improves the lives of others? Is she passionate about making a difference through tenacity and problem-solving skills? If so, she is encouraged to apply for the Violet Richardson Award.

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 Soroptimist International of Novato is passionate about working to improve the lives of women and girls on a local and global scale by providing resources to underserved women and girls, and raising awareness about issues they face. We are looking to honor a young woman who has demonstrated a desire to improve her community. This can be by solving an issue at school, working towards fixing a community problem, or improving a situation that faces women and girls. The possibilities are endless, and we encourage her to apply for the chance to be rewarded for her volunteer actions! If she either goes to school, lives or works in Novato, she is eligible to apply for this award. The club level winner will receive up to $1,000. Part of the award may go to the organization where the winner volunteers to help further support its efforts.

HOW TO APPLY

If the above criteria describes someone you know, we encourage you to forward this application to her for the chance to be recognized. The deadline for submission has been extended to December 31. If you have any questions, please contact Vicki Campbell, Chair of the Violet Richardson Award.  

Email:  vlcampbell@comcast.net

Cell: (415) 987-5507


** NEWS ALERT**
Dhanya Subramanian was just awarded the District III Violet Richardson Award, which comes with an additional $500 award. Congratulations Dhanya!
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2023 Winners
Awards Given March 2024

This year, we awarded the Violet Richardson Award for a total of $6,000 to six hardworking young women. We wholeheartedly thank our generous sponsors and donors who make this award possible.

 

Dhanya Subramanian

Dhanya volunteers with the Sustainability Commission of Novato because she realizes how much waste is wrongly disposed of and littered throughout her school and community. What frustrated her was that trash would lie on the ground just a few feet away from the trash can. This led to Dhanya creating Sustainable Youth Leaders at Novato High School, a youth-led organization that works on waste reduction and management on school grounds. She leads a team of six incredible young women who are cinematographers, artists, photographers, graphic designers, and garden activists. They work on many projects for school, including Earth Day and the No Novato Gas Campaign. They are working to get recycling bins in all classes and common spaces to boost sustainability on campus. She also joined the Sustainability Commission in Novato, where she works on Novato's Climate Action Plan. She learned the importance of waste reduction, energy conservation, and community engagement in promoting sustainability and environmental justice.

Siena Hayes

 

Siena volunteered for the SummerHawks Program at Hamilton School in Novato for the last three years. The goal is to fight children's "summer slump," where they lose much of their progress during the school year. She sees that the big issue is that most of the kids are below grade level. It can be challenging to gain children's academic trust when struggling. They see learning as a chore and boring. She hopes to fix this mindset towards school. Siena feels learning can be joyous and rewarding. She learned how kids respond differently to learning in different situations. Siena is also a paid aid program specializing in ELA (English Language Arts) and Math, usually only awarded to seniors. SummerHawks showed her the path she wants to pursue in life as a pediatric therapist.

Lindsey Oppegard

 

Lindsey transitioned from sorting and packaging food at the Marin Food Bank. She realized that there was food insecurity in the community. Then, Lindsey began delivering food with her family directly to needy families. Then, she transitioned to Ceres, a community project where volunteers cook and prepare healthy and medically tailored meals delivered to people facing serious illnesses. The goal of Ceres was to provide people in need with 100% organic, hand-crafted meals that will fuel them and help them fight chronic diseases. She became a "delivery angel" for a few months but then transitioned to a teen kitchen volunteer in her junior year, working weekly in the kitchen with adult head chefs and teenage peers. She learned creative improvisation skills due to incomplete and unclear recipes. After six months, she earned her personalized green apron. Lindsey is now on her way to becoming a "Teen Leader, " allowing her to speak at Ceres events, serve on the Board of Directors, and be a more prominent role model in the kitchen.

Ellie Spelman

 

Ellie joined Baja Bound and fellow high school students from Freedom Point Covenant Church, to travel to the Baja region of Mexico. The mission was to build homes for migrant workers and their families living in Ensenada. This journey was a physical excursion and a profound and transformative experience to assist families needing proper shelter. Ellie understood the importance of housing when her family faced the devastating loss of their home due to water damage. They had to constantly relocate during COVID-19, from hotels to motels to any place where rooms were available. During school, she grappled with the uncertainties of her living situation. Then, their insurance ended, rendering them essentially homeless. Witnessing communities where families could not meet their basic needs, including education and proper housing, ignited a sense of responsibility. Ellie helped build more houses and brought toys, clothing, and books to orphanages in Baja, California. She plans to join Baja Bound to build 12 more homes in March 2024

Cammie Klein

 

Cammie volunteers at a local nursing home with her therapy dog, Tucker. She became certified through Therapy Dogs International (TDI) in September 2022. TDI provides qualified therapy dog teams for visitations to facilities needing extra comfort. Therapy dogs work in hospitals, libraries, or nursing homes, but their roles in people's lives go beyond this. Cammie has noticed how much a therapy dog can impact a person's mind and bring them out of their isolated life. Cammie and Tucker perform tricks and do mini-talent shows for the residents. They listen to stories of the resident's previous dogs. The memories come flowing back to many residents. Since Tucker has been visiting, the residents are happier and have something to look forward to. In less than a year, Cammie and Tucker have made over 60 visits and earned several awards.

Grace Buck

 

Grace works at WildCare in the wild animal hospital, where she has hands-on experience caring for wild animals and learning the complexity of the different species and their habitats. She makes food for the animals by following specific recipes while being cautious of species-specific allergies. Grace also helps clean the cages and ensures all the animals aren't living in dirty or unsanitary conditions. She also monitors the animals for specific medical conditions. Grace helps keep the hospital clean and does household tasks such as sweeping and laundry. She wants to study the environment and how humans and nature can interact better. Her work improves the well-being of wild animals and increases their chances of being successfully released back into the wild. Grace is also the Vice President of Soroptimist Opportunities for Women in Leadership and Service (OWLS) at San Marin High School.

Photo Dhanya Subramanian.jpg

Dhanya Subramanian

Photo Siena Hayes.jpg

Siena Hayes

Photo Lindsey Oppegard.jpg

Lindsey Oppegard

Photo Ellie Spelman.jpg

Ellie Spelman

Photo Cammie Klein-2.jpg

Cammie Klein

Photo Grace Buck.jpg

Grace Buck

2022 Winners  
Awards Given March 2023

 

 

 

This year we awarded the Violet Richardson Award to six amazing young women totaling $4,000. We thank our generous sponsors and donors who make this award possible.

 

Ruth Alvarenga

 

Ruth has spent most of her time volunteering for North Marin Community Services (NMCS). She began at the Children’s Shopping Day when she was seven. Ruth continued with programs like the food pantry, making phone calls, gift bagging, and distribution at the annual Holiday Share event. She is a Peer Health Promoter working with the Novato Teen Clinic. They provide teenagers, especially girls, with tools and information to be successful in everyday life and discuss the importance of mental health. She works on the front line talking with teen girls to help them feel supported by providing resources to make better decisions. Ruth recently won the 2023 Miss Marin Outstanding Teen Program, and her platform was the importance of mental health in our lives. Ruth plans to pursue studies in Psychology in college, and her goal is to become a therapist.

 

Aileen Marrufo

 

Aileen has volunteered at Our Lady of Loretto School, Loma Verde Elementary School, and Trinity Lutheran Church. She would help children with activities in class, such as reading and translate from Spanish to English or vice versa. Aileen helped distribute toys and volunteered at the Salvation Army front desk. She has also worked at the Center for Domestic Peace and a group within the larger group called Voces De Cambio (Voices of Change). Currently, she is involved with the Explorer Group at the Novato Police Dept. One of her main goals is to help other kids realize they are not entirely alone. If you give them the support they need, it could push them in the right direction.

 

Lizbeth Mendieta Alvarado

 

Lizbeth volunteers with the Marin County Youth Commission (MCYC). She joined this group in 8th grade. She noticed that she was the only person of color, so she took an interest in racial equity as a focal point for her work. Her committee conducted training on power and privilege, usually for schools, students, and staff. Lizbeth and her peers reached hundreds of students and teachers through these training sessions, even during the pandemic. Lizbeth started volunteering at the Novato Teen Clinic as a Peer Health Promoter to help young people access resources for their mental and sexual health needs. She worked in the Student Wellness Advisory Group to build the foundations for creating a wellness campus. They planned Wellness Fairs as ways for students to come together and find the needed resources. Her supervisor said she is a veteran youth commissioner who has helped create a welcoming, safe, inclusive culture. Lizbeth has been a critical reason the youth commission has been so strong over the last few years. She won the Heart of Marin Youth Volunteer of the year in 2022. She is also an Ambassador to the Marin Teen Girl Conference in 2023.

 

Kalyani Ryaru

 

Kalyani volunteers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to advocate for immigrants’ rights and racial justice. In her junior year of school, she founded the Advocacy Club at Novato High and served as president. She coordinated the club’s texts to voters about social justice issues and answered voters’ questions through multiple text banks on behalf of the ACLU. They told voters about the negative impact of sheriff cooperation with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They provided information about a meeting to educate activists about the issue and how to voice concerns. Kalyani learned about the disproportionate impact of facial recognition on police body cameras on communities of color. Kalyani helped pass SB 1038, Keep Facial Recognition Off Police Body Cameras. Kalyani trained the Legislative Summer Recess Kickoff volunteers to advocate for immigrant rights. During the Kickoff, she taught volunteers how meeting with legislators effectively brings attention to priority bills. As a college student, she plans to schedule planning meetings with ACLU volunteers to advocate for immigrant rights and racial justice-focused bills in preparation for legislative visits. The ACLU Programs Manager said, “Kalyani’s kindness, curiosity, effectiveness, and ambition have made her a great advocate for civil liberties in Marin County.”

 

 

Caroline Schmidt

 

Caroline was born in Pyatigorsk, near the fighting in Ukraine. She felt helpless as a teen living in America to help out. She found ENGin, a program that matches American peer tutors with Ukrainian students who want to learn English. Caroline worked as a tutor with a girl her age, creating lesson plans and homework assignments. Caroline knew that one person could make a difference. Leadership has many forms, and even the most minor changes can have a significant impact. Caroline lives with a physical disability, but she allowed physical therapists to videotape her doing exercises to share the video with other professionals to use as a training aid. She even had an article nationally published about her that shows kids like her that anything is possible when you are dedicated and determined. During the COVID shutdown, Caroline participated in weekly online physical training seminars with kids worldwide. She helped by demonstrating the exercises, speaking with parents, and reassuring kids that the training makes living an everyday life possible.

 

Alisa Zhou

Alisa has been a jury member with the Marin County Youth Court (now known as Youth Transforming Justice) for the last several years, serving as an ally to guide the youth throughout their court experience. “Mentoring these youth and witnessing them grow as leaders in their own communities has been the most rewarding experience.” 

 

 

 

Photo Ruth Alvarenga.jpeg

Ruth Alvarenga

Photo Aileen Marrufo.jpg

Aileen Marrufo

Photo Lizbeth Mendieta Alvarado.jpg

Lizbeth Mendieta Alvarado

Kalyani - Copy6.jpg

Kalyani Ryaru

Photo Caroline Schmidt.jpg

Caroline Schmidt

Alisa Zhou

2021 Winners  
Awards Given March 2022

A total of $2,000 was awarded to all three winners: Wambui Munene, Noela De Frenza, and Britney Ordonez Lozano.

 

Wambui Munene

Wambui has been involved with United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay and devoted her time to the Weekend Without Limits program which allowed her to spend time with children who have developmental or physical disabilities. Wambui said “Though communicating with each child may have looked different, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend time with them whether it was talking about their interests or even just playing hide and seek. The program created a safe haven for children with disabilities as they struggle to be understood and experience life in a unique way.”

 

Noela De Frenza

Noela wanted to fight climate change so she founded California Youth Climate Leaders (CYCL) at San Marin High School. They are currently working to install compost bins around campus to increase sustainability at San Marin. They will host a planting project at Bel Marin Keys Wetlands and are also preparing to speak at a science event at Pleasant Valley Elementary School, educating kids through activities and games about climate and environmental issues and solutions.

 

Noela said “With climate change, problems don’t just occur, they compound. Fires, drought, habitat destruction, sea levels rising. They all connect and affect us on a much larger scale. They create a tidal wave of destruction. But just like how our mistakes unfold, our actions and solutions have rippling effects. Any of us can make a difference, whether it is something as small as reducing plastic waste consumption or installing solar panels. I started CYCL to engage the community with climate efforts, to take action towards this increasingly more detrimental issue.”

 

Britney Ordonez Lozano

Britney has worked at many food banks for several years. She started by volunteering in her freshman year at her old elementary school Lynwood food bank. Also, Britney would work at the food bank at Novato Community of Christ. Her duties included unpacking boxes of food, setting up stations and handing them to people, assisting them to their cars, and cleaning up at the end. Britney said “It makes me happy that I was able to help out many people by reducing hunger locally and serving healthy ingredients to make healthy meals. Not only was I able to feed my community, but I also helped reduce food waste. If it weren’t for food banks and the volunteers who help run them, the food would have ended up in landfills with only a small portion being composted.”

IMG_1416.jpg

Wambui Munene

Photo Noela De Frenza 4 - larger.jpg

Noela De Frenza

IMG_1413.jpg

Britney Ordonez Lozano

2020 Winners
Awards Given March  2021

A total of $2,000 was awarded to two winners:  Elizabeth DeRuvo and Ashley (Max) Leonard

 

Elizabeth DeRuvo won the First Place Violet Richardson Award 

At the age of six Elizabeth asked her mom one cold winter night, "What happens to the homeless on cold nights?"  Her mom responded that "unfortunately they have to sleep outside or if they are lucky they will be able to sleep at a shelter". The next morning, Elizabeth began taking blankets from her home and insisted to her mom, that they drive them around town passing blankets out to people they saw in need.  

 

Elizabeth expanded her efforts by sending a letter to family, friends, neighbors and classmates asking for donations of blankets and socks for the homeless in her town.   The outcome was overwhelming and as a result, she was able to help hundreds of people in need.

 

She received an award from the County of Marin Board of Supervisors naming her the sole recipient of the "2010 Look Who's Getting It Done Award" and was also invited to New York to be interviewed on The Nate Berkus Show which highlighted her efforts working with the homeless. In 2011, Elizabeth was also awarded the prestigious "American Red Cross Community Hero Award".  

 

Elizabeth continued her work in 2018, to provide help to people in the CAMP Fire in Paradise, California. She teamed up with the San Marin Athletics program to setup donation bins at football games. They then took these donations to the fire victims at the Torres Shelter in Chico.

 

Operation Warm Winter still provides help to people in need. See her website for ways to help: www.operationwarmwinter.org. We are reminded, that all of this started because "One little girl took blankets from a closet and offered them to those in need. One person CAN make a difference!”

Photo Elizabeth DeRuvo.msg.jpg

Elizabeth DeRuvo

Ashley (Max) Leonard also won a First Place Violet Richardson Award  

"On September 27, 2012, a girl named Hailey was struck by an SUV and died a few hours later. I feel that if the intersection had not been so intimidating to kids, Hailey might still be here today."  Max has been volunteering to improve the safety of the intersection near San Marin High School. "I noticed two issues: there was poor infrastructure, and reckless behavior of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Through my work I earned a Girl Scout Gold Award, and a Proclamation from the City of Novato honoring my efforts and dedication."

 

First, Max targeted infrastructure improvements of the intersection and took the issues to the Novato Public Works department. "I worked on the Project Initiation Document for the City Engineer that was used to receive City Council approval to move forward with the development of a Capital Improvement Plan. Evidence of progress is the re-paving along Novato Blvd. which includes a multi-modal pathway adjacent to San Marin High, a crosswalk at Dwarf Oak Trail, bike paths and new lane striping."

 

Max also worked with "Safe Routes to School" Program Director, Gwen Froh. These programs decrease traffic and pollution and increase the health of children and the community. They focused on student and parent driving, biking and walking behavior through the intersection as well as evaluating appropriate student drop off and pick up and school regulations. "I worked with Safe Routes to School and designed a curriculum called 'Share the Road Campaign' that addressed these issues which were implemented in the 9th grade health classes at San Marin High School.”

 

"Once the infrastructure at this intersection is improved the greater community will be safer. This traffic safety improvement will also significantly reduce CO2 emissions affecting Earth’s climate. I gathered support from the general public as well as the following committees:  Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), Novato Unified School District (NUSD) Trustees, Novato Planning Commission, and the Novato City Council.  The ultimate goal is to create a safer intersection for the community and to prevent a horrible incident from ever happening again."

Photo Max Leonard - Best.jpeg

Ashley (Max) Leonard

2019 Winners
Awards Given March 2020

A total of $2,000 was awarded to two winners:   Evelyn Zavala-Torres and Gabriela Reales-Herrera

 

Evelyn Zavala-Torres won the First Place Violet Richardson Award for $800 with an additional $200 going to the Dreamer’s Program at Novato High School led by Ms. Cinthia Angelicola to help students in the English Learning Development Department.  Samples of what she did to earn this award:

  • Developed a pamphlet of all the staff members at school that spoke Spanish so the students knew who they could go to for help.

  • Visited classrooms to work with ELD students.

  • Tutored ELD students.

  • Created posters about school events so ELD students could be informed and attend dances and other events.

  • Translated and filmed school announcements in Spanish with other ELD students willing to be on screen.

  • Attended a panel in a leadership summit and spoke to ELD students at other high schools to show what could be done in classes to make things more inclusive for all ELD students.

 

*NEWS UPDATE*  Evelyn was awarded an extra $500 because she also won First Place at the District IV level in our Region.  Congrats, Evelyn!!

Gabriela Reales-Herrera won the runner-up award for $400 with an additional $100 awarded to Lynwood Elementary School LEAP Program where she volunteered for two years. Samples of things Gabby did to earn this award:

  • Translated for Spanish speakers in the classes.

  • Helped students and assisted teachers in reading, art, and other programs acting as the translator.

VRA2019-EvelynZavala-Torres.jpg

Evelyn Zavala-Torres

GabbyReales.jpg

Gabby Reales

This year we awarded the Violet Richardson Award to six amazing young women totaling $4,000. We thank our generous sponsors and donors who make this award possible.

 

Ruth Alvarenga

 

Ruth has spent most of her time volunteering for North Marin Community Services (NMCS). She began at the Children’s Shopping Day when she was seven. Ruth continued with programs like the food pantry, making phone calls, gift bagging, and distribution at the annual Holiday Share event. She is a Peer Health Promoter working with the Novato Teen Clinic. They provide teenagers, especially girls, with tools and information to be successful in everyday life and discuss the importance of mental health. She works on the front line talking with teen girls to help them feel supported by providing resources to make better decisions. Ruth recently won the 2023 Miss Marin Outstanding Teen Program, and her platform was the importance of mental health in our lives. Ruth plans to pursue studies in Psychology in college, and her goal is to become a therapist.

 

Aileen Marrufo

 

Aileen has volunteered at Our Lady of Loretto School, Loma Verde Elementary School, and Trinity Lutheran Church. She would help children with activities in class, such as reading and translate from Spanish to English or vice versa. Aileen helped distribute toys and volunteered at the Salvation Army front desk. She has also worked at the Center for Domestic Peace and a group within the larger group called Voces De Cambio (Voices of Change). Currently, she is involved with the Explorer Group at the Novato Police Dept. One of her main goals is to help other kids realize they are not entirely alone. If you give them the support they need, it could push them in the right direction.

 

Lizbeth Mendieta Alvarado

 

Lizbeth volunteers with the Marin County Youth Commission (MCYC). She joined this group in 8th grade. She noticed that she was the only person of color, so she took an interest in racial equity as a focal point for her work. Her committee conducted training on power and privilege, usually for schools, students, and staff. Lizbeth and her peers reached hundreds of students and teachers through these training sessions, even during the pandemic. Lizbeth started volunteering at the Novato Teen Clinic as a Peer Health Promoter to help young people access resources for their mental and sexual health needs. She worked in the Student Wellness Advisory Group to build the foundations for creating a wellness campus. They planned Wellness Fairs as ways for students to come together and find the needed resources. Her supervisor said she is a veteran youth commissioner who has helped create a welcoming, safe, inclusive culture. Lizbeth has been a critical reason the youth commission has been so strong over the last few years. She won the Heart of Marin Youth Volunteer of the year in 2022. She is also an Ambassador to the Marin Teen Girl Conference in 2023.

 

Kalyani Ryaru

 

Kalyani volunteers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to advocate for immigrants’ rights and racial justice. In her junior year of school, she founded the Advocacy Club at Novato High and served as president. She coordinated the club’s texts to voters about social justice issues and answered voters’ questions through multiple text banks on behalf of the ACLU. They told voters about the negative impact of sheriff cooperation with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They provided information about a meeting to educate activists about the issue and how to voice concerns. Kalyani learned about the disproportionate impact of facial recognition on police body cameras on communities of color. Kalyani helped pass SB 1038, Keep Facial Recognition Off Police Body Cameras. Kalyani trained the Legislative Summer Recess Kickoff volunteers to advocate for immigrant rights. During the Kickoff, she taught volunteers how meeting with legislators effectively brings attention to priority bills. As a college student, she plans to schedule planning meetings with ACLU volunteers to advocate for immigrant rights and racial justice-focused bills in preparation for legislative visits. The ACLU Programs Manager said, “Kalyani’s kindness, curiosity, effectiveness, and ambition have made her a great advocate for civil liberties in Marin County.”

 

 

Caroline Schmidt

 

Caroline was born in Pyatigorsk, near the fighting in Ukraine. She felt helpless as a teen living in America to help out. She found ENGin, a program that matches American peer tutors with Ukrainian students who want to learn English. Caroline worked as a tutor with a girl her age, creating lesson plans and homework assignments. Caroline knew that one person could make a difference. Leadership has many forms, and even the most minor changes can have a significant impact. Caroline lives with a physical disability, but she allowed physical therapists to videotape her doing exercises to share the video with other professionals to use as a training aid. She even had an article nationally published about her that shows kids like her that anything is possible when you are dedicated and determined. During the COVID shutdown, Caroline participated in weekly online physical training seminars with kids worldwide. She helped by demonstrating the exercises, speaking with parents, and reassuring kids that the training makes living an everyday life possible.

 

Alisa Zhou

Alisa has been a jury member with the Marin County Youth Court (now known as Youth Transforming Justice) for the last several years, serving as an ally to guide the youth throughout their court experience. “Mentoring these youth and witnessing them grow as leaders in their own communities has been the most rewarding experience.” 

 

 

 

Photo Aileen Marrufo.jpg

Aileen Marrufo

Photo Lizbeth Mendieta Alvarado.jpg

Lizbeth Mendieta Alvarado

Kalyani - Copy6.jpg

Kalyani Ryaru

Photo Caroline Schmidt.jpg

Caroline Schmidt

Alisa Zhou

2021 Winners  
Awards Given March 2022

A total of $2,000 was awarded to all three winners: Wambui Munene, Noela De Frenza, and Britney Ordonez Lozano.

 

Wambui Munene

Wambui has been involved with United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay and devoted her time to the Weekend Without Limits program which allowed her to spend time with children who have developmental or physical disabilities. Wambui said “Though communicating with each child may have looked different, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend time with them whether it was talking about their interests or even just playing hide and seek. The program created a safe haven for children with disabilities as they struggle to be understood and experience life in a unique way.”

 

Noela De Frenza

Noela wanted to fight climate change so she founded California Youth Climate Leaders (CYCL) at San Marin High School. They are currently working to install compost bins around campus to increase sustainability at San Marin. They will host a planting project at Bel Marin Keys Wetlands and are also preparing to speak at a science event at Pleasant Valley Elementary School, educating kids through activities and games about climate and environmental issues and solutions.

 

Noela said “With climate change, problems don’t just occur, they compound. Fires, drought, habitat destruction, sea levels rising. They all connect and affect us on a much larger scale. They create a tidal wave of destruction. But just like how our mistakes unfold, our actions and solutions have rippling effects. Any of us can make a difference, whether it is something as small as reducing plastic waste consumption or installing solar panels. I started CYCL to engage the community with climate efforts, to take action towards this increasingly more detrimental issue.”

 

Britney Ordonez Lozano

Britney has worked at many food banks for several years. She started by volunteering in her freshman year at her old elementary school Lynwood food bank. Also, Britney would work at the food bank at Novato Community of Christ. Her duties included unpacking boxes of food, setting up stations and handing them to people, assisting them to their cars, and cleaning up at the end. Britney said “It makes me happy that I was able to help out many people by reducing hunger locally and serving healthy ingredients to make healthy meals. Not only was I able to feed my community, but I also helped reduce food waste. If it weren’t for food banks and the volunteers who help run them, the food would have ended up in landfills with only a small portion being composted.”

IMG_1416.jpg

Wambui Munene

Photo Noela De Frenza 4 - larger.jpg

Noela De Frenza

IMG_1413.jpg

Britney Ordonez Lozano

Photo Ruth Alvarenga.jpeg

Ruth Alvarenga

2020 Winners
Awards Given March  2021

A total of $2,000 was awarded to two winners:  Elizabeth DeRuvo and Ashley (Max) Leonard

 

Elizabeth DeRuvo won the First Place Violet Richardson Award 

At the age of six Elizabeth asked her mom one cold winter night, "What happens to the homeless on cold nights?"  Her mom responded that "unfortunately they have to sleep outside or if they are lucky they will be able to sleep at a shelter". The next morning, Elizabeth began taking blankets from her home and insisted to her mom, that they drive them around town passing blankets out to people they saw in need.  

 

Elizabeth expanded her efforts by sending a letter to family, friends, neighbors and classmates asking for donations of blankets and socks for the homeless in her town.   The outcome was overwhelming and as a result, she was able to help hundreds of people in need.

 

She received an award from the County of Marin Board of Supervisors naming her the sole recipient of the "2010 Look Who's Getting It Done Award" and was also invited to New York to be interviewed on The Nate Berkus Show which highlighted her efforts working with the homeless. In 2011, Elizabeth was also awarded the prestigious "American Red Cross Community Hero Award".  

 

Elizabeth continued her work in 2018, to provide help to people in the CAMP Fire in Paradise, California. She teamed up with the San Marin Athletics program to setup donation bins at football games. They then took these donations to the fire victims at the Torres Shelter in Chico.

 

Operation Warm Winter still provides help to people in need. See her website for ways to help: www.operationwarmwinter.org. We are reminded, that all of this started because "One little girl took blankets from a closet and offered them to those in need. One person CAN make a difference!”

Photo Elizabeth DeRuvo.msg.jpg

Elizabeth DeRuvo

Ashley (Max) Leonard also won a First Place Violet Richardson Award  

"On September 27, 2012, a girl named Hailey was struck by an SUV and died a few hours later. I feel that if the intersection had not been so intimidating to kids, Hailey might still be here today."  Max has been volunteering to improve the safety of the intersection near San Marin High School. "I noticed two issues: there was poor infrastructure, and reckless behavior of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Through my work I earned a Girl Scout Gold Award, and a Proclamation from the City of Novato honoring my efforts and dedication."

 

First, Max targeted infrastructure improvements of the intersection and took the issues to the Novato Public Works department. "I worked on the Project Initiation Document for the City Engineer that was used to receive City Council approval to move forward with the development of a Capital Improvement Plan. Evidence of progress is the re-paving along Novato Blvd. which includes a multi-modal pathway adjacent to San Marin High, a crosswalk at Dwarf Oak Trail, bike paths and new lane striping."

 

Max also worked with "Safe Routes to School" Program Director, Gwen Froh. These programs decrease traffic and pollution and increase the health of children and the community. They focused on student and parent driving, biking and walking behavior through the intersection as well as evaluating appropriate student drop off and pick up and school regulations. "I worked with Safe Routes to School and designed a curriculum called 'Share the Road Campaign' that addressed these issues which were implemented in the 9th grade health classes at San Marin High School.”

 

"Once the infrastructure at this intersection is improved the greater community will be safer. This traffic safety improvement will also significantly reduce CO2 emissions affecting Earth’s climate. I gathered support from the general public as well as the following committees:  Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), Novato Unified School District (NUSD) Trustees, Novato Planning Commission, and the Novato City Council.  The ultimate goal is to create a safer intersection for the community and to prevent a horrible incident from ever happening again."

Photo Max Leonard - Best.jpeg

Ashley (Max) Leonard

2019 Winners
Awards Given March 2020

A total of $2,000 was awarded to two winners:   Evelyn Zavala-Torres and Gabriela Reales-Herrera

 

Evelyn Zavala-Torres won the First Place Violet Richardson Award for $800 with an additional $200 going to the Dreamer’s Program at Novato High School led by Ms. Cinthia Angelicola to help students in the English Learning Development Department.  Samples of what she did to earn this award:

  • Developed a pamphlet of all the staff members at school that spoke Spanish so the students knew who they could go to for help.

  • Visited classrooms to work with ELD students.

  • Tutored ELD students.

  • Created posters about school events so ELD students could be informed and attend dances and other events.

  • Translated and filmed school announcements in Spanish with other ELD students willing to be on screen.

  • Attended a panel in a leadership summit and spoke to ELD students at other high schools to show what could be done in classes to make things more inclusive for all ELD students.

 

*NEWS UPDATE*  Evelyn was awarded an extra $500 because she also won First Place at the District IV level in our Region.  Congrats, Evelyn!!

Gabriela Reales-Herrera won the runner-up award for $400 with an additional $100 awarded to Lynwood Elementary School LEAP Program where she volunteered for two years. Samples of things Gabby did to earn this award:

  • Translated for Spanish speakers in the classes.

  • Helped students and assisted teachers in reading, art, and other programs acting as the translator.

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Evelyn Zavala-Torres

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Gabby Reales

This year we awarded the Violet Richardson Award to six amazing young women totaling $4,000. We thank our generous sponsors and donors who make this award possible.

 

Ruth Alvarenga

 

Ruth has spent most of her time volunteering for North Marin Community Services (NMCS). She began at the Children’s Shopping Day when she was seven. Ruth continued with programs like the food pantry, making phone calls, gift bagging, and distribution at the annual Holiday Share event. She is a Peer Health Promoter working with the Novato Teen Clinic. They provide teenagers, especially girls, with tools and information to be successful in everyday life and discuss the importance of mental health. She works on the front line talking with teen girls to help them feel supported by providing resources to make better decisions. Ruth recently won the 2023 Miss Marin Outstanding Teen Program, and her platform was the importance of mental health in our lives. Ruth plans to pursue studies in Psychology in college, and her goal is to become a therapist.

 

Aileen Marrufo

 

Aileen has volunteered at Our Lady of Loretto School, Loma Verde Elementary School, and Trinity Lutheran Church. She would help children with activities in class, such as reading and translate from Spanish to English or vice versa. Aileen helped distribute toys and volunteered at the Salvation Army front desk. She has also worked at the Center for Domestic Peace and a group within the larger group called Voces De Cambio (Voices of Change). Currently, she is involved with the Explorer Group at the Novato Police Dept. One of her main goals is to help other kids realize they are not entirely alone. If you give them the support they need, it could push them in the right direction.

 

Lizbeth Mendieta Alvarado

 

Lizbeth volunteers with the Marin County Youth Commission (MCYC). She joined this group in 8th grade. She noticed that she was the only person of color, so she took an interest in racial equity as a focal point for her work. Her committee conducted training on power and privilege, usually for schools, students, and staff. Lizbeth and her peers reached hundreds of students and teachers through these training sessions, even during the pandemic. Lizbeth started volunteering at the Novato Teen Clinic as a Peer Health Promoter to help young people access resources for their mental and sexual health needs. She worked in the Student Wellness Advisory Group to build the foundations for creating a wellness campus. They planned Wellness Fairs as ways for students to come together and find the needed resources. Her supervisor said she is a veteran youth commissioner who has helped create a welcoming, safe, inclusive culture. Lizbeth has been a critical reason the youth commission has been so strong over the last few years. She won the Heart of Marin Youth Volunteer of the year in 2022. She is also an Ambassador to the Marin Teen Girl Conference in 2023.

 

Kalyani Ryaru

 

Kalyani volunteers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to advocate for immigrants’ rights and racial justice. In her junior year of school, she founded the Advocacy Club at Novato High and served as president. She coordinated the club’s texts to voters about social justice issues and answered voters’ questions through multiple text banks on behalf of the ACLU. They told voters about the negative impact of sheriff cooperation with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They provided information about a meeting to educate activists about the issue and how to voice concerns. Kalyani learned about the disproportionate impact of facial recognition on police body cameras on communities of color. Kalyani helped pass SB 1038, Keep Facial Recognition Off Police Body Cameras. Kalyani trained the Legislative Summer Recess Kickoff volunteers to advocate for immigrant rights. During the Kickoff, she taught volunteers how meeting with legislators effectively brings attention to priority bills. As a college student, she plans to schedule planning meetings with ACLU volunteers to advocate for immigrant rights and racial justice-focused bills in preparation for legislative visits. The ACLU Programs Manager said, “Kalyani’s kindness, curiosity, effectiveness, and ambition have made her a great advocate for civil liberties in Marin County.”

 

 

Caroline Schmidt

 

Caroline was born in Pyatigorsk, near the fighting in Ukraine. She felt helpless as a teen living in America to help out. She found ENGin, a program that matches American peer tutors with Ukrainian students who want to learn English. Caroline worked as a tutor with a girl her age, creating lesson plans and homework assignments. Caroline knew that one person could make a difference. Leadership has many forms, and even the most minor changes can have a significant impact. Caroline lives with a physical disability, but she allowed physical therapists to videotape her doing exercises to share the video with other professionals to use as a training aid. She even had an article nationally published about her that shows kids like her that anything is possible when you are dedicated and determined. During the COVID shutdown, Caroline participated in weekly online physical training seminars with kids worldwide. She helped by demonstrating the exercises, speaking with parents, and reassuring kids that the training makes living an everyday life possible.

 

Alisa Zhou

Alisa has been a jury member with the Marin County Youth Court (now known as Youth Transforming Justice) for the last several years, serving as an ally to guide the youth throughout their court experience. “Mentoring these youth and witnessing them grow as leaders in their own communities has been the most rewarding experience.” 

 

 

 

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Aileen Marrufo

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Lizbeth Mendieta Alvarado

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Kalyani Ryaru

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Caroline Schmidt

Alisa Zhou

2021 Winners  
Awards Given March 2022

A total of $2,000 was awarded to all three winners: Wambui Munene, Noela De Frenza, and Britney Ordonez Lozano.

 

Wambui Munene

Wambui has been involved with United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay and devoted her time to the Weekend Without Limits program which allowed her to spend time with children who have developmental or physical disabilities. Wambui said “Though communicating with each child may have looked different, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend time with them whether it was talking about their interests or even just playing hide and seek. The program created a safe haven for children with disabilities as they struggle to be understood and experience life in a unique way.”

 

Noela De Frenza

Noela wanted to fight climate change so she founded California Youth Climate Leaders (CYCL) at San Marin High School. They are currently working to install compost bins around campus to increase sustainability at San Marin. They will host a planting project at Bel Marin Keys Wetlands and are also preparing to speak at a science event at Pleasant Valley Elementary School, educating kids through activities and games about climate and environmental issues and solutions.

 

Noela said “With climate change, problems don’t just occur, they compound. Fires, drought, habitat destruction, sea levels rising. They all connect and affect us on a much larger scale. They create a tidal wave of destruction. But just like how our mistakes unfold, our actions and solutions have rippling effects. Any of us can make a difference, whether it is something as small as reducing plastic waste consumption or installing solar panels. I started CYCL to engage the community with climate efforts, to take action towards this increasingly more detrimental issue.”

 

Britney Ordonez Lozano

Britney has worked at many food banks for several years. She started by volunteering in her freshman year at her old elementary school Lynwood food bank. Also, Britney would work at the food bank at Novato Community of Christ. Her duties included unpacking boxes of food, setting up stations and handing them to people, assisting them to their cars, and cleaning up at the end. Britney said “It makes me happy that I was able to help out many people by reducing hunger locally and serving healthy ingredients to make healthy meals. Not only was I able to feed my community, but I also helped reduce food waste. If it weren’t for food banks and the volunteers who help run them, the food would have ended up in landfills with only a small portion being composted.”

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Wambui Munene

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Noela De Frenza

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Britney Ordonez Lozano

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Ruth Alvarenga

2020 Winners
Awards Given March  2021

A total of $2,000 was awarded to two winners:  Elizabeth DeRuvo and Ashley (Max) Leonard

 

Elizabeth DeRuvo won the First Place Violet Richardson Award 

At the age of six Elizabeth asked her mom one cold winter night, "What happens to the homeless on cold nights?"  Her mom responded that "unfortunately they have to sleep outside or if they are lucky they will be able to sleep at a shelter". The next morning, Elizabeth began taking blankets from her home and insisted to her mom, that they drive them around town passing blankets out to people they saw in need.  

 

Elizabeth expanded her efforts by sending a letter to family, friends, neighbors and classmates asking for donations of blankets and socks for the homeless in her town.   The outcome was overwhelming and as a result, she was able to help hundreds of people in need.

 

She received an award from the County of Marin Board of Supervisors naming her the sole recipient of the "2010 Look Who's Getting It Done Award" and was also invited to New York to be interviewed on The Nate Berkus Show which highlighted her efforts working with the homeless. In 2011, Elizabeth was also awarded the prestigious "American Red Cross Community Hero Award".  

 

Elizabeth continued her work in 2018, to provide help to people in the CAMP Fire in Paradise, California. She teamed up with the San Marin Athletics program to setup donation bins at football games. They then took these donations to the fire victims at the Torres Shelter in Chico.

 

Operation Warm Winter still provides help to people in need. See her website for ways to help: www.operationwarmwinter.org. We are reminded, that all of this started because "One little girl took blankets from a closet and offered them to those in need. One person CAN make a difference!”

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Elizabeth DeRuvo

Ashley (Max) Leonard also won a First Place Violet Richardson Award  

"On September 27, 2012, a girl named Hailey was struck by an SUV and died a few hours later. I feel that if the intersection had not been so intimidating to kids, Hailey might still be here today."  Max has been volunteering to improve the safety of the intersection near San Marin High School. "I noticed two issues: there was poor infrastructure, and reckless behavior of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Through my work I earned a Girl Scout Gold Award, and a Proclamation from the City of Novato honoring my efforts and dedication."

 

First, Max targeted infrastructure improvements of the intersection and took the issues to the Novato Public Works department. "I worked on the Project Initiation Document for the City Engineer that was used to receive City Council approval to move forward with the development of a Capital Improvement Plan. Evidence of progress is the re-paving along Novato Blvd. which includes a multi-modal pathway adjacent to San Marin High, a crosswalk at Dwarf Oak Trail, bike paths and new lane striping."

 

Max also worked with "Safe Routes to School" Program Director, Gwen Froh. These programs decrease traffic and pollution and increase the health of children and the community. They focused on student and parent driving, biking and walking behavior through the intersection as well as evaluating appropriate student drop off and pick up and school regulations. "I worked with Safe Routes to School and designed a curriculum called 'Share the Road Campaign' that addressed these issues which were implemented in the 9th grade health classes at San Marin High School.”

 

"Once the infrastructure at this intersection is improved the greater community will be safer. This traffic safety improvement will also significantly reduce CO2 emissions affecting Earth’s climate. I gathered support from the general public as well as the following committees:  Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), Novato Unified School District (NUSD) Trustees, Novato Planning Commission, and the Novato City Council.  The ultimate goal is to create a safer intersection for the community and to prevent a horrible incident from ever happening again."

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Ashley (Max) Leonard

2019 Winners
Awards Given March 2020

A total of $2,000 was awarded to two winners:   Evelyn Zavala-Torres and Gabriela Reales-Herrera

 

Evelyn Zavala-Torres won the First Place Violet Richardson Award for $800 with an additional $200 going to the Dreamer’s Program at Novato High School led by Ms. Cinthia Angelicola to help students in the English Learning Development Department.  Samples of what she did to earn this award:

  • Developed a pamphlet of all the staff members at school that spoke Spanish so the students knew who they could go to for help.

  • Visited classrooms to work with ELD students.

  • Tutored ELD students.

  • Created posters about school events so ELD students could be informed and attend dances and other events.

  • Translated and filmed school announcements in Spanish with other ELD students willing to be on screen.

  • Attended a panel in a leadership summit and spoke to ELD students at other high schools to show what could be done in classes to make things more inclusive for all ELD students.

 

*NEWS UPDATE*  Evelyn was awarded an extra $500 because she also won First Place at the District IV level in our Region.  Congrats, Evelyn!!

Gabriela Reales-Herrera won the runner-up award for $400 with an additional $100 awarded to Lynwood Elementary School LEAP Program where she volunteered for two years. Samples of things Gabby did to earn this award:

  • Translated for Spanish speakers in the classes.

  • Helped students and assisted teachers in reading, art, and other programs acting as the translator.

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Evelyn Zavala-Torres

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Gabby Reales

2022 Winners  
Awards Given March 2023

This year we awarded the Violet Richardson Award to six amazing young women totaling $4,000. We thank our generous sponsors and donors who make this award possible.

 

Ruth Alvarenga

 

Ruth has spent most of her time volunteering for North Marin Community Services (NMCS). She began at the Children’s Shopping Day when she was seven. Ruth continued with programs like the food pantry, making phone calls, gift bagging, and distribution at the annual Holiday Share event. She is a Peer Health Promoter working with the Novato Teen Clinic. They provide teenagers, especially girls, with tools and information to be successful in everyday life and discuss the importance of mental health. She works on the front line talking with teen girls to help them feel supported by providing resources to make better decisions. Ruth recently won the 2023 Miss Marin Outstanding Teen Program, and h