The County of Los Angeles recently honored several volunteers at the “35th Annual Volunteer of the Year Awards held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.   
Numerous volunteers from each County department were recognized, and the Department of Parks and Recreation had five volunteers who were honored for their outstanding service: Jacob Ceballos, Chloe Foon, Memdley Garcia, Shirley Harriman and Joel Ramirez.   

“The definition of a ‘volunteer’ is to undertake or express a willingness to undertake a service, and our volunteers have by far exceeded that with their contributions to our parks community,” said John Wicker, Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

In fact, in 2016, 4,409 County volunteers worked 258,855 hours in 2016, and donated hours of work valued at more than $6 million based on the national value of volunteer service.

Jacob Ceballos was one of those volunteers. He was selected as the Youth Volunteer of the Year by the Department of Parks and Recreation. He volunteers at Ruben F. Salazar Park in East Los Angeles, and has spent 1,200 hours volunteering at the park over the past three years.

Jacob has overcome many challenges in his personal life, but he has not let his environment dictate his future. His eagerness to learn and give back to the community by assisting with coaching, special events and exhibits, and his go-getter attitude to help staff have made him a role model to many youths in his community. Because of his mentorship, more young people are now volunteering at the park.

“I grew up playing sports and was a part of a team that led me to volunteering,” Jacob stated. “My ability to teach kids right from wrong has allowed me to become a role model to kids, and I treasure this opportunity to support my community.”

As the Department’s selection for its Adult Volunteer of the Year, Chloe Foon has volunteered for one year, amassing 383 hours at the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes Estates. A recent college graduate, Foon decided to spend her free time volunteering at the Garden. She has been nicknamed “Does it All,” because she works with volunteer gardeners, docents, propagation, craft workshops and for special events like the “Pokemon Go” event! Her upbeat, positive and welcoming attitude represents the best that County volunteers offer.

“I’m privileged to represent the Garden’s core of volunteers,” Foon stated. “It’s an honor to work alongside the diverse and dedicated staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to enrich the Garden experience for visitors. I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the beauty of nature, and I’ve also grown to cherish my new friendships.”

Memdley Garcia, a volunteer from East Rancho Dominguez Park in Compton, has garnered a great reputation with staff and youth.  As the Youth Volunteer of the Year as selected by Los Angeles County Second District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, she initially started volunteering as part of her community service requirement for school, and decided to continue volunteering. She now works with the After-School programs, assisting with distributing snacks, helping with arts and crafts, sports and helps decorate for special events. 

“Being a County volunteer means responsibility to the community and working together, as one, to make our community strong,” says Memdley.

Joel Ramirez, selected as the Youth Volunteer of the Year by Los Angeles County Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn, volunteers at Pathfinder Community Regional Park in Rowland Heights, where he has served for three years and 750 hours as part of the Pathfinder Park’s Teen Club. 

Joel always looks for opportunities to assist where he can, and during special events, he can be found working alongside park staff to help get the job done. He’s also one of the key volunteers who helps build the park’s Haunted House. Last year, he skipped his own birthday plans to assist with a Halloween event that fell on the same day, because of his dedication to his community.

“Being a County volunteer means showing the community the types of good people that live in this area,” Joel said. “Being a minor, and being a volunteer, shows the community what we youths can grow up to be in the future.”

Shirley Harriman was honored as Adult Volunteer of the Year by Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger for her volunteerism at Stephen Sorensen Park in Lake Los Angeles. There, Shirley has contributed more than 4,500 hours of service to her park over the past 10 years.

Her dedication to bringing innovative amenities to the Lake Los Angeles area; contributions to the Antelope Valley Partners for Health; and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s “Step by Step LA” show her dedication. 

She has also donated more than 400 lights to the annual Christmas tree lighting, and participates in volunteer recruitment for the park by helping to distribute fliers locally to businesses and schools highlighting park programs, special events and public safety.  

“Our Parks and Recreation Department congratulates our volunteers, and we’re very proud that they were chosen for their distinct qualities as related to Los Angeles County values of accountability, a can-do-attitude, compassion, customer orientation integrity, leadership, professionalism and respect for diversity and responsibility,” Department Director Wicker said.      

The Department of Parks and Recreation wishes to extend its sincere gratitude to all of its volunteers, who selflessly dedicate much of their time to help improve the quality-of-life in their communities.