Sure Helpline Crisis Center Honors 11 Community Leaders at Gala

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(L-R) Norma Aguilar, Deborah D. Owen, Maribel Padilla, Sheriff Raymond Loera, Estela Miranda, Carmen Durzo, Michael Horn, Jason Jackson, Raymond Castillo and Daniel Ochoa Jr. are honored during the annual Sure Helpline Crisis Center Dinner and Gala.

HEBER – The Sure Helpline Crisis Center honored 11 inspirational community leaders who received  “Men and Women of Iron” awards during its Sixth Annual Sure Helpline Crisis Center Fundraiser Dinner Gala event Friday evening at Club Lohoo.

The fundraiser benefits local individuals who are victims of sexual, domestic, teen interpersonal violence and prejudice while assisting with suicide prevention and eliminating barriers on other mental health issues.

“Our community is blessed – having community leaders who have done wonderful things for our community while being an inspiration to all of us is a true blessing,” said Margret Sauza, executive director of Sure Helpline Crisis Center. “Choosing wasn’t easy as we have many volunteers who assist our center.”

“Our volunteers are our heroes. Sure Helpline could not work 24/7 without the help of our volunteers,” said Sauza.

The eleven honorees were: Daniel Lira Ochoa Jr., Veterans Employment Committee board member; Jason Jackson, El Centro City mayor; Michael “Mike” Kelley, District 3 Imperial County Board supervisor; Raymond “Ray” Castillo, District 5 Imperial County Board supervisor; Michael W. Horn, Imperial County Behavioral Health Services director; Miguel Miranda, former Brawley city councilman; Raymond Loera, Imperial County Sheriff-Coroner; Deborah D. Owen, assistant district attorney; Maribel Padilla, founder of the Brown Bag Coalition in Calexico; Norma Aguilar, co-founder of the Brown Bag Coalition in Calexico; and Carmen Durazo, president of the Calexico Arts Council.

“When I was informed I would be a recipient I was in complete shock,” said Ochoa. “I am humbled and speechless. Not only was I surprised, but also my family and friends. I am thankful for my colleagues and US Veterans who are here supporting me and this cause.”

“I will never stop helping our U.S. veterans and families in need or the homeless population,” said Ochoa.

Ochoa established an annual toy drive benefiting veteran families and was the lead organizer of the 10th Annual Project Homeless Connect where the Imperial Valley homeless population was provided with support from a variety of agencies. Ochoa is largely focused on networking both locally and nationally to provide services to United States veterans and their families.

“We live in a community where people are victimized and with support people like you (attendees) the Crisis Center is able to help them,” said Owen. “I’m thankful for the members of the District Attorney’s Office who fights for these victims every day and am truly honored to receive this award.”

Owen assisted with establishing the Imperial County Family Justice Center which focuses on providing coordinated services to individuals who have experienced family violence in addition to establishing a country-wide protocol for the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence cases and created the Special Victims Unit in 2013 to vertically prosecute sexual assault, child exploitation and domestic violence cases.

Supervisor Raymond Castillo said he was grateful of being a recipient of the prestigious award. Castillo also accepted and received Supervisor Mike Kelley’s award, as he was on vacation with his family.

Accompanied by her children and family, Estela Miranda received the Man of Iron statue on behalf of her late husband Miguel Miranda, and said her husband was devoted to community and she was honored on his behalf.

Attendees enjoyed a succulent meal, live music by local musician Sergio Alberti, a fashion show with local law enforcement modeling suits and gowns from Dillard’s Department Store and Al’s Tuxedos, and a silent auction.

“People in our Valley need to be aware that violence does exist,” said Brenda Ayala, an attendee. “You never know what the future brings, and maybe someday any of us can be in an unfortunate situation where we, too, will need help and will seek assistance.”

“The community needs to be involved and support events like these that serve a good cause,” said Ayala.

Additionally, the Sure Helpline Crisis Center was presented with recognitions from the offices of Congressman Juan Vargas, Sen. Ben Hueso (40th District) and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia.

Sure Helpline Crisis Center was established in 1971 and was originally funded by two local farmers’ wives who wanted to assist teens seeking assistance with drug addiction. At the time, the crisis line was only open a few hours per day, and it was not until 1991 that the center received its first funding to provide sexual assault intervention services.

Sure Helpline Crisis Center offers assistance, free of charge, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, person to person and over-the-phone crisis intervention, prevention, support and referral as well as peer counseling, support groups, sexual assault, mental illness, drug and alcohol prevention and community education, and accompaniment and advocacy for victims of sexual assault.

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