Patriot Awards go to Dolores Bengtson, John Sensiba

Individuals honored at Museum on Main reception

This year's recipients of the Ed Kinney Community Patriot Awards are Dolores Bengtson and John Sensiba.

Individuals change the world, not organizations. So states Pleasanton's W. Ron Sutton, founder of the Fourth of July community celebration.

Sutton was referring to Ed Kinney, the former mayor of Pleasanton who performed master of ceremony duties for many years at the Independence Day festivities. Its planning team helps to choose each year's recipients of the Ed Kinney Community Patriot Awards.

"Ed was an inspiration to those of us who worked with him on this and other projects," Sutton said. "He exemplified loyal service in the development of his community, both as an elected official and as an everyday citizen volunteer a community patriot."

This year's recipients are Dolores Bengtson and John Sensiba. They were honored Monday at a reception at Museum on Main.

Bengtson, who moved to Pleasanton in 1968, has shared her passion for the outdoors throughout her career and into her retirement. She began working for the city as a swim instructor, eventually becoming head of the swimming programs at the aquatic center that now bears her name.

In 1979, Bengtson became director of the city's parks and recreation program. She developed the policy of planning neighborhood parks within a half-mile of most residences as well as larger community parks to serve everyone.

She also literally "blazed trails" by gaining permission to open up the trails beside local arroyos and canals, between neighborhoods, along the western ridge, and around the municipal golf course. After her retirement in 1998, Bengtson continued as a trail advocate and guide.

"I like to encourage people to use our trails, to get out and walk, both for getting places and for exercise," she said. "I like to get people to realize the assets they have every right to use, and to see the value to them."

Bengtson is on the task force of Alviso Adobe Community Park, where she stresses the need for more amenities to attract users. She is an expert gardener with the Livermore-Amador Garden Club, whose members maintain the Sensory Gardens at Centennial Park, work at a church produce garden for shelters, keep up Camp Arroyo organic gardens and sustain Hansen Rose Park in Livermore. Bengtson also serves on the Alameda County Agricultural Advisory Committee, to help farmers and ranchers coexist with suburban housing.

For 10 years, Bengtson has served on the Kottinger Place Redevelopment Task Force and the board for Pleasanton Gardens, looking for ways to provide more affordable housing for those who wish to "age in place" in Pleasanton. She is helping Axis Community Health with its capital campaign to expand health care for those of limited means.

Bengtson also has traveled extensively in Africa and volunteered for six-week intervals at a preschool and orphanage in Tanzania.

She has four children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Although she is over 80, she shows no sign of slowing down in the many ways she helps people of all ages in this community and beyond.

John Sensiba's years of volunteering began unintentionally when he started helping his brother coach a soccer team. That led him to become involved with coaching other sports.

John and his wife, Marianne, moved to Pleasanton 22 years ago. He was a CPA in San Carlos, but they were attracted to Pleasanton by the quality of the public school system and the fact his brother was here. Eventually his sister and dad also moved to Pleasanton.

For several years, while still working in San Carlos, Sensiba would drive home to Pleasanton to coach his children's teams, frequently returning afterward to San Carlos to finish his work. In 1994, he joined his current firm, Sensiba San Filippo, eventually opening a Pleasanton office.

Sensiba is active in the Chamber of Commerce and served as board chairman, and he is a founding member of its Business and Community Political Action Committee. Six years ago, he joined the board of Valley Care Health System, and he is now chairman, guiding it through the current challenging transitions.

Sensiba also joined Rotary Club of Pleasanton because he felt it did great things for the community. For years he has inspired his three children to rise early on Father's Day to set up for the Rotary Spirit Run.

He participated in the Leadership Pleasanton Program, and is currently chairman of the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group board. He is also a former board member of the Las Positas College Foundation and the Presidential Advisory Council for Las Positas College, as well as a member of the Pleasanton Unified School District Excellence Committee and the Pleasanton Unified School District Budget Advisory Committee.

Sensiba said that his work as a volunteer has been a learning experience. Not only has he met many great people, but he said that through volunteering he has grown to be a better person.

Besides the reception Monday evening, Bengtson and Sensiba will be honored at the Independence Day celebration in Lions Wayside Park.

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