Small things make a difference in our community. That was the theme at the city of Pleasanton's Community of Character Luncheon on May 6 that presented this year's Juanita Haugen Civic Engagement Winners.
Ellen Pensky McGraw, president of the Pleasanton Community of Character Collaborative, encouraged the crowd assembled at the Senior Center to perform Random Acts of Character. Some suggestions were to be on time for a meeting; to let someone with fewer items go ahead of you in a grocery store line; or to have your family volunteer its time.
"Little things were important to Juanita," noted Pensky, who said no one was better at these random acts than Haugen.
It was Haugen, a 28-year school board member, who realized that we could not teach our children about character unless the community's adults, too, were demonstrating these traits. Pleasanton adopted six behavior characteristics to aspire to: responsibility, compassion, self-discipline, honesty, respect and integrity.
Keynote speaker DeRionne P. Pollard, president of Las Positas College, said she did not believe in Random Acts of Character.
"I have come to the opinion that acts of character shouldn't be random at all - but have intentionality and deliberateness," she said. "Acts of character are manifestations of who we are."
She added, "Character is a consciousness to a positive way of living.
This year's recipients were:
• Chris Miller, founding chairman of the Pleasanton Military Families Support Group, which raises funds, collects supplies and sends hundreds of care packages to those in the military from Pleasanton who are serving in the Gulf and Afghanistan. He was also last year's "Man of the Year," an annual recognition by the Pleasanton Weekly which also sends the newspaper free of charge to the roster of service men and women designated by the Military Families group.
• Dr. Pushpa P. Dalal for her support of cancer patients and their families as the Vigil Volunteer Coordinator for Hope Hospice and as a volunteer for Axis Community Health. Besides providing pre-natal support to low income patients at Axis, she teaches volunteers hands on skills in helping families cope with a loved one who is dying.
• Bob Athenour, who also was the recognized as Pleasanton Weekly's "Man of the Year" in 2001, is being honored by the Community of Character Collaborative for his years of service as a founder and board member of the Pleasanton/Tulancingo Sister City Association and as chairman of the Wheelchair Committee of the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, where he has been a member for 27 years. His group has provided more than 3,500 wheelchairs to those in need in Mexico and South America.
• George A. Spiliotopoulos Invitational Tournament (GASIT) was established 40 years ago to honor G.A. Spiliotopoulos and his dedication to the community. Since 1986, 190 Pleasanton students have been awarded scholarships totaling $742,950. With another $267,560 currently banked for pending scholarship commitments, the organization's Committee of Friends has raised more than $1,000,000.
Past winners of the awards are Sue Evans, Ken Mano, Diana and Howard Mendenhalll, Lori Rice and Jerri Pantages Long. For more information, to go www.communityofcharacter.org.