EL CENTRO – Molina Healthcare acknowledged three community leaders Thursday celebrating unsung heroes and recognizing them as “Community Champions” during a luncheon at the Old Eucalyptus Schoolhouse in El Centro.
According to the Molina Healthcare website, in 2006, the Community Champions Awards program was created to honor the memory of Dr. C. David Molina, founder of Molina Healthcare. “The awards ceremony brings together people whose leadership, volunteerism and public advocacy embody Dr. Molina’s spirit of service, family and community.”
Master of ceremonies Deborah Miller, president of Molina Healthcare of California, announced and called the 2017 Community Champions to the stage, where they were each presented with a trophy by Ruthy Argumedo, associate vice president of Molina Healthcare. Each Community Champion recipient also received certificates of recognition from Tomas Oliva, representative of Congressman Juan Vargas in Imperial Valley, and Christian Nuñez, representative of Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, 56th District.
In addition to the trophy, recipient will each receive a $1,000 grant for the nonprofit organization of their choice.
This year’s Community Champions were Larry Hudson, president of the Imperial Lions Club; Amanda Brooke, deputy superintendent of Imperial County Office of Education; and Yulil Alonso-Garza, founder and president of Mothers and Men Against Gangs Coalition.
Miller read the background information of each champion. She said Imperial Lions Club president Larry Hudson gave the gift of sight by implementing free eye screening to needy children, adults, seniors and farm workers. Furthermore, he helped provide hearing aids, participated in fundraising for the community, helped with emergency relief, and scholarships. Miller said, “Last year, 5,000 children benefited from complimentary eye-screening that Larry facilitated in several Imperial County schools.” His grant will go to Imperial County Behavioral Health.
“It’s a great honor, because Lions, number one, are for the community. And that award I treasure more than anything else. I’ve been on the floor of United Nations, in the State capital, but this honor means more to me, because it comes from the community where I help the most,” Hudson said.
The second recipient was Amanda Brooke, deputy superintendent of Imperial County Office of Education. Miller said Brooke worked tirelessly serving children, their families, communities of special needs, and migrants. When Brooke’s son, Brandon, became gravely ill and was admitted to the intensive care unit for several weeks — where he sadly passed away — her family experienced the tireless, kind, emphatic and courageous spirit of the staff. That prompted her to apply to be on the Board of Trustees at El Centro Regional Medical Center, Miller said. Her grant will go to Imperial County Office of Education.
Brooke spoke about receiving the honor. “I’m so honored to be recognized by Molina Healthcare,” she said. “I have tremendous respect for everyone that is in the healthcare industry. When our son became ill, I got to see firsthand how those people worked tirelessly, how they laughed with us, and cried, and prayed with us. So, I’m very honored.”
The third recipient was Yulil Alonso-Garza, founder and president of Mothers and Men Against Gangs Coalition. MAG Coalition was founded when her son, Martin Alberto Alonso, died as an innocent victim of gang violence. Instead of brooding in self-pity, the Garza family embarked on a campaign to transform their community by making alliances with agencies, parents, school districts, and businesses to organize youth events and outreach prevention programs. “Outreach programs include scholarship programs, 5K events, anti-bullying presentations and literacy events,” Miller said. Her grant will go to the MAG Coalition.
“It’s definitely an honor and I feel blessed to be recognized for the work that we do, day in and day out, for our community,” said Alonso-Garcia. “We never expect anything in return. But once in a while, it feels good to be recognized for the time and our effort that we put forth to make a difference and change our community.”
Deborah Miller of Molina Healthcare said there is no single entity in a community that can address all the needs of the citizens. “So if we collaborate, we have a better chance of keeping the community healthy and solving the problems that might be determinants to seeking healthcare and healthy lifestyles,” she said.