It was a night for celebration as the city of Pleasanton brought back its Commission and Committee Recognition Dinner and Mayor's Award event last month. The previously annual festivities were interrupted by the pandemic, shifting to video in 2020 and postponing in 2021.
"We have some catching up to do," Mayor Karla Brown told the audience in Casa Real at Ruby Hill Winery on May 12.
For Brown, it represented her first chance to hand out the city's coveted Mayor's Award since her ascension to the top office in fall 2020. She would give out two that evening -- and surprising the winners, as is tradition.
Both went to such deserving recipients known for long records of dedicated community service that many of you would have read about in the Pleasanton Weekly over the years.
Tri-Valley REACH won for 2021, which was when the nonprofit celebrated its 30th anniversary, and the 2022 award went to Linda Garbarino, a former educator and longtime volunteer most recognized now for her work leading the Pleasanton Heritage Association.
It's hard to imagine what Pleasanton would look like without the positive impacts of both winners.
Established 31 years ago, Tri-Valley REACH (officially named Resources Education Activities Community and Housing for Special Adults of the Tri-Valley) strives to provide affordable, quality and safe homes for adults with developmental disabilities to live as independently as possible.
The organization acquires and maintains properties in the area that it then rents to qualifying adults in the low- or extremely-low income affordability categories -- such a laudable and underserved mission in our communities.
"Understanding there are varying degrees of developmental disabilities, they focused their efforts on building an organization that could provide the supportive services necessary to allow members to live like everyone else -- in their own homes," Brown said. "Independence builds confidence."
Kay King, REACH's current board chair, said that while a couple of their board members knew the award secret, she was "completely unaware" when the thrilling surprise was announced.
"REACH has a long history, and one that I often refer to as 'silently successful,' and to be publicly recognized with the Mayor's Award for our 30-plus years of service is a tribute to those few family members who long ago banded together to provide a better and more inclusive life for their loved ones," King told me, adding:
"We are extremely proud of this honor and look forward to working with the city of Pleasanton and providing a level of service that continues to live up to this prestigious award."
Working with the city to accomplish shared goals has been a theme for the 2022 Mayor's Award winner as well.
Garbarino, now president of the Pleasanton Heritage Association, was among the driving forces to help establish the nonprofit in 2008 to coordinate efforts among the city, local developers and homeowners toward the goal of preservation of historic homes in Pleasanton.
"As an owner of two historic Pleasanton homes, our honoree knows the inherent value historic homes bring and how their preservation defines the culture and character of a community," Brown said. "Noticing a slow erosion of historic and vintage homes in Pleasanton, our honoree was driven to do something about it."
"Her commitment and dedication to her family and her community has helped make Pleasanton the very best version of itself," the mayor said.
In addition to her work with the association, Garbarino -- a retired teacher, former union president and district curriculum director in Fremont, as well as an award-winning local artist focused on mixed media -- serves as board president for Museum on Main and as a member of the Pleasanton Art League.
"For me, it's the success created by nonprofits finding common ground through embracing our historic city with programs like PHA or the museum's partnership with the Pleasanton Art League, another nonprofit I work with that expands its reach through the museum by sharing wonderful art created for our citizens by our citizens," Garbarino told me.
"I believe the blending of the goals of these nonprofits has built a strong bond and added visibility and participation that continues to strengthen our amazing community. It's time well spent in my life," she added.
The city event last month opened with Brown and other Pleasanton leaders recognizing the contributions of all residents who serve on city commissions and committees, especially through the pandemic years.
The list includes the Planning, Parks and Recreation, Civic Arts, Housing, Human Services, Library and Youth commissions, and the Committee on Energy and the Environment, Economic Vitality Committee and Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails Committee.
Officials honored members in the room and highlighted their key accomplishments in the past two years "for their time, dedication, commitment and valuable contributions to Pleasanton's outstanding quality of life," Brown said. "It is through your shared passion for service that others are encouraged to follow in your footsteps."
Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division since February 2017. His "What a Week" column publishes on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.