Published : Tuesday, November 20, 2018 | 11:23 AM
Hillsides, a Southern California foster care and mental health charity, recognized five outstanding individuals or organizations during its annual Circle of Excellence dinner held on November 15 in Pasadena. Collectively, the five have been involved with Hillsides for nearly 100 years. The five were also awarded letters of commendation from Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
The five individuals/organizations honored were:
• Beth Gertmenian, who received the Hillsides Lifetime Achievement Award. Gertmenian has been involved with Hillsides for more than 40 years and helped create the Hillsides’ annual gala and library. She also created a mentor program for youth at the charity’s Youth Moving On program for youth formerly in foster care transitioning into adulthood.
• Donna Ford, who received the Hillsides Angel Award. Ford has been a member of the Hillsides board since 2005 and just stepped down after a two-year term serving as chair. During her time as board chair, she steered the board through many major achievements, including a 2016 merger with another child welfare agency, Bienvenidos, the creation of a three-year strategic plan, and the finalization of the $18.1 million capital improvement project on Hillsides’ main campus.
• Las Candelas, which received the Hillsides Community Angel Award. This Glendale-based service group functions as the PTA for the Hillsides Education Center, Hillsides’ nonpublic therapeutic school. Las Candelas provides monthly assemblies for the children, takes students on field trips and runs a monthly student store for the students where they redeem good behavior points for books, games, and educational toys, among other efforts.
• Uyen-Uyen Vo, who received a Hillsides Special Recognition Award. Vo volunteers in board positions for two of Hillsides support groups and supports the third. She has also mentored three children in residence at the charity’s residential treatment program.
• Ava Herrera, who also received a Hillsides Special Recognition Award. Herrera is president of the young professionals group H100. In this role, she has helped grow the H100 board, revitalized a monthly newsletter, and increased annual giving at each event.
The evening was also a chance for Hillsides President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph M. Costa to thank the agency’s capital campaign co-chairs, Debbe Booth and Don Clark, for their leadership on Hillsides’ $18.1 million transformation of its main campus in Pasadena. The project, which includes a 34,000-square-foot Student Center, will be completed by the end of this year. Guests enjoyed a slide show of the construction throughout the years, from groundbreaking to near completion.
Rob Wherley, a reading specialist at the Hillsides Education Center, was the keynote speaker for the evening. Wherley created an intensive peer or volunteer one-on-one reading program, Reading Rocks, that for five years has helped students improve their reading fluency or comprehension by one to four grade levels. During his speech, Wherley said that it had been an honor to work at the school for 25 years, concluding that “my inspiration for doing this work is pushing ahead with faith, hope, and love for the children.”
The evening ended with Christian Daly, the assistant field deputy, San Gabriel Valley, for Supervisor Barger, presenting all honorees with a commendation from the county.
Hillsides annual Circle of Excellence dinner is an opportunity to thank donors and volunteers who in the past year have gone above and beyond for the charity. The dinner was held at The Rococo Room in Old Town Pasadena.
Hillsides, with its affiliate Bienvenidos, is dedicated to healing children and young adults, strengthening families, and transforming communities through quality comprehensive services and advocacy. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the agency serves nearly 17,000 children and families in Southern California throughout more than 40 sites, including school-based mental health offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Baldwin Park. Foster care and adoptions services are offered in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. To learn more about Hillsides, please visit www.Hillsides.org. Visit Hillsides on Facebook @hillsideschildren, on Twitter @Hillsides, or on Instagram @HillsidesPasadena.