Community Voices

Fullerton celebrates kindness

Donna Edman Photography

The fourth annual Kindness Awards ceremony recognized seven awardees for their notable service on World Kindness Day at Fullerton College. Hosted by Orange County’s fourth district supervisor, Doug Chaffee, the Nov. 13 ceremony honored one individual from each of seven cities within the fourth district (Anaheim, Buena Park, Fullerton, La Habra, Placentia, Stanton, and Brea).

During the event, Anaheim council member and emcee Jose Moreno spoke on each awardee’s significant contributions through kindness.

One of the recipients who represented the awards theme “be kind whenever possible” was Verne Wagner from Fullerton.

Wagner, also known as Campus Mom, was recognized for her more than 32 years of volunteering at California State University, Fullerton, as part of the prestigious President’s Scholar Program for high school students.

“That President Scholars Program is so critical to the dreams of our students,” Moreno said, “She shares herself with others and truly cares for those around her.”

Verne’s work also included volunteering at the National Charity League, a nonprofit organization of mothers and daughters, giving people in need a place to stay, dog sitting and more.

“It feels so good to help somebody and to help them get along on their way,” Verne said. “When they tell me how much I touch them, I just think I get so much more from it.”

From Anaheim, Robert Ornelas was selected for leading the Sons of God hip-hop crew, also known as S.O.G, in its efforts to help the homeless and provide Bible studies in high schools, among other places. Always contributing to his local community, Ornelas said kindness means putting others before himself.

Mary Shandrow represented the city of Buena Park for her kindness as a volunteer for Trauma Intervention Prevention where she supports anyone who has experienced a traumatic event and offers emotional support.

“There’s nothing worse than going through the death of a loved one, and if I can be there to help them out a little bit, that helps,” Shandrow said.

Fellow honoree Nohemi Valenzuela is a student supervisor at Walnut Elementary School. Alongside her roles at the school site, the La Habra resident participates in numerous community events, such as translating documents for non-English speakers.

“I’m not scared to come out of my shell and to go out there and do what I know how to do best, which is serve the community,” Valenzuela said.

Known for a “contagious smile,” Sandy Castillo represented the city of Placentia for her contributions to youth soccer. With 31 years of coaching expertise under her belt, Castillo was also recognized for bringing her passion for soccer to children and adults with physical, emotional or intellectual disabilities.

First ever recipient from Stanton, after the city joined the Orange County District, was school teacher Maria Eline Sanchez. Through her Head Start program, Sanchez continues to leave a lasting impact on many people’s educational journeys.

Danny Mendoza from Brea started Together We Rise nonprofit while studying criminal justice at CSUF. He founded the foster care program after he learned that his 9-year-old cousin was living in a car. Now, Mendoza is the CEO of one of the nation’s largest volunteer engagement organizations as he and over 500,000 volunteer bases from all over the country help youth by building bikes, skateboards and other resources.“[This award] means a lot to us, to know that we’re actually helping people,” Mendoza said.

2 replies »

  1. Verne is so amazing and does so much for the students at Cal State Fullerton. Congrats to all.