City leaders recognize community’s top volunteers

 

Merced City Council members took time this week to step off the leadership dais and shake the hands of their chosen Volunteers of the Year for 2024.

Members of the Committee for a Safer Merced were among the winners for their work on renewing the Measure C initiative to support public safety in town. They were nominated by City Council member Sarah Boyle, who represents District 5, and wanted to recognize their grassroots effort.

The original Measure C is set to expire, and when the idea of putting a renewal choice on the ballot for local voters faced opposition by a few Council members, a citizen committee formed and took matters into their own hands. Over the course of a year, they gathered thousands of signatures and gradually met the ballot requirements. Then the volunteers went to work on the campaign to urge Merced voters to pass the renewal.

Their hard work paid off with the Yes on Measure C winning with more than 68 percent of the vote tally. Now the 1/2 cent sales tax measure will continue until 2044, using 95 percent of the revenue for Merced Police and Fire protection, and 5 percent to be used for road and street maintenance and improvement. Measure C is expected to generate around $8 million annually.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, some of the leaders involved in the Committee for a Safer Merced were in attendance, including Mike Murphy, the former mayor; Mary Camper, the local Realtor; and Peg Larson of the TransCounty Title Co.

Interestingly, the City Council later discussed and voted on certain aspects of the administration of the newly revised tax measure, as well as certifying the election results. The votes were not unanimous. They were 6-1, with Councilman Fue Xiong as the lone No vote. Since his election in 2022, Xiong has been a critic of the Merced Police Department’s share of the General Fund budget, as well as being opposed to grant funding used to purchase equipment for officers.

 

District 2

Community advocate Jose Reyes was named the Volunteer of the Year for District 2. He was nominated by Councilman Ronnie DeAnda.

“Jose has a way of getting things done — he volunteers,” DeAnda said. “He’s been a member of Neighbors United For A Better South Merced for quite a while. He’s been a participant of Feet Changing Lives. He volunteers with an Alzheimer’s group and brings about awareness … He’s a blood donor … He helps with food donations at St. Matthew’s Church, and makes himself available to help neighbors.”

 

District 3

Award-winning local photographer Glen Camarda was named the Volunteer of the Year for District 3. He was nominated by Mayor Pro Tem Bertha Perez, who said she thought of Camarda because he was a hard-working artist who shows off the beauty of Merced and helps put smiles on the faces of residents with the work that he does.

“I love showing the good things that are in this town,” Camarda said. “They are here. You just have to go and look for them. That’s why I am here.”

 

District 4

Arts community advocate Jennifer Summers was named the Volunteer of the Year for District 4. She was nominated by Council member Shane Smith.

“Jennifer does a lot of heavy lifting for the Merced Symphony Association,” Smith said. “In fact in March, she pulled off not one but three children’s concerts.”

Smith added that she also works on various projects with artists at the Multicultural Arts Center, and helps circulate information about local events through the Community Foundation. All this, Smith said, while recovering from a recent stroke.

Summers thanked everyone for their support and reminded the audience that May is Stroke Awareness Month.

 

District 6

Members of Love Faith Hope Inc., who advocate and mentor young people in the community, were honored with a Volunteer of the Year award for District 6. They were nominated by Councilman Fue Xiong.

Tanique Williams, a local high school student, spoke up about the Love Faith Hope Inc. program.

“I have been with Loretta Spence (the group’s founder) since I was young, and I still to this day use all the skills I learned from the programs. Being able to mentor the new kids now is a great opportunity. Everything Miss Spence does is amazing, and she has always been active in the community and willing to give back.”

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