Last week may have been National Volunteer Week but the efforts made by local individuals and organizations in Merced County are lasting contributions that will boost the local community all year long.
Eleven winners were honored in the 2014 Merced County Volunteer Recognition Program, one more than is typically chosen, a testament to the good work of locals in the county. The seven individuals and four organizations, whose efforts are recognized by the five districts within the county, received recognition from the Merced County Board of Supervisors meeting last Tuesday in front of community members, local leaders and their peers.
“It’s an excellent time for us to recognize some of the folks throughout the community who do some great work and sometimes they go unnoticed, so it is nice to be able to acknowledge them for their contributions,” said Mike North, public information officer for Merced County.
While the county’s aim is to spotlight the good works of local community members, many of these members intend to support the community without gaining much attention. For Julio Valadez of the Livingston Chapter of Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal society established in 1882, selfless work is at the core of the Knights’ mission.
“We do not do it for the recognition, but it is nice to be recognized,” said Valadez. “We’re just following what we’re taught to do by our program.”
The local Knights of Columbus play an integral role in facilitating community events throughout the year including their annual Kite Festival, the town’s 4th of July celebrations, as well as soccer challenges, a free throw contest and other children’s events at the St. Jude Catholic Church in Livingston.
Another key player in the community, especially for childhood development, has been Richard Macchia, the school resource officer at Livingston High School and founder of the Livingston Police Explorers Program, Post 518. After establishing the Explorer program in Merced, Macchia brought his innovative talent to Livingston where he has cultivated a successful program of more than 60 students who contribute to the community through volunteer work. While the Explorer program is oriented towards a career in law enforcement, many members continue into community service after they leave the program.
“It was an honor to be recognized, but the explorers are the main thing. A lot of the kids don’t have an outlet to go to so I think they enjoy that the program allows them to get involved and go to different places and see new things. Being the school resource officer at Livingston High also helps as give me an inside track to recruitment,” said Macchia. “We try to teach them discipline, teamwork and life tools.”
The Knights of Columbus and Richard Macchia were selected as recipients from District One of Merced County. The complete list of 2014 Merced County Volunteer Recognition Program recipients include the Merced Police Department Volunteers in Police Services and Providence Christian School for District Two, Holly Jenkins and Jan & Friends for District Three, Dot Dame and Emily Ewing for District Four and Jerry Knoester, Lynnette Gerbi and Maria Murillo for District Five.