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Sunflower Hill hands out inaugural Rainmaker Awards

Officials honored at nonprofit's Moonlight in the Vines

Pleasanton City Councilwoman Kathy Narum, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and the city of Livermore were recently recognized as the inaugural recipients of nonprofit Sunflower Hill's new Rainmaker Awards.

The two elected officials -- along with Livermore Mayor John Marchand, accepting on behalf of his city -- received their awards as part of Sunflower Hill's annual Moonlight in the Vines fundraising gala held July 29 at Wente Vineyards in Livermore.

"We are very fortunate to have accomplished as much as we have over the past five years," Susan Houghton, president of Sunflower Hill's Board of Directors, said in a statement. "And we know that without the support of these important Rainmakers, we would not be where we are today."

"Each, in their own way, allowed the 'rain' to fall for Sunflower Hill. Our organization grew. Our sunflowers blossomed. These Rainmakers believed in our vision and because of that, our entire community now benefits," Houghton added.

Sunflower Hill, based in the Tri-Valley, aims to provide vocational, educational and residential opportunities for people with developmental disabilities in the region.

The first elected official to actively help the nonprofit in its search for a land for a planned residential community, Haggerty was also honored with a Rainmaker Award because of his $500,000 grant last year that allowed Sunflower Hill to hire its first employees, according to Houghton.

The nonprofit singled out Narum for placing Sunflower Hill's residential needs on the Pleasanton City Council's priority list in 2015, Houghton said.

Earlier this year, the council approved a residential development plan for 87 new houses on Irby Ranch, where Stanley Boulevard turns into First Street -- a project that includes 1.64 acres dedicated to the city for a future affordable residential complex for adults with special needs. Sunflower Hill was given exclusive negotiating rights to the site, and its proposal is now in the design phase.

"(Narum's) early recognition of the need for additional special needs housing in Pleasanton helped the organization form a partnership with Irby Ranch and their planned residential subdivision," Houghton said. "Sunflower Hill's campus within Irby Ranch is now in development and will afford 30 individuals with special needs access to affordable housing."

Houghton said the city of Livermore was recognized for accepting the nonprofit's proposal to operate a one-acre sustainable garden at Hagemann Ranch, providing staff and operational support to ensure success.

Last year, more than 100 local residents with special needs worked at Sunflower Hill Gardens at Hagemann Ranch on a regular basis, and they harvested 9,600 pounds of food, with 70% donated to local food kitchens, according to Houghton.

Sunflower Hill is also moving forward with a housing complex to serve 44 adults with developmental disabilities on First Street in Livermore.

Nearly 370 people were on hand at Moonlight in the Vines as Haggerty, Narum and Marchand accepted the Rainmaker Awards. The sold-out gala raised approximately $152,000 in net revenue to benefit Sunflower Hill, according to Houghton.

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