Social Services Volunteer Program


The Volunteer Recognition program, sponsored by the Whittier Social Services Commission, annually honors volunteers who provide outstanding service within the City of Whittier.  Volunteers so honored will be invited to a recognition reception at City Hall.    

For more information, contact us at 562-567-9400.

Click here for the 2017 Volunteer Recognition Awards Ceremony and Nomination form


Sponsored by the Whittier Social Services Commission, the “Volunteers of the Year” program annually recognizes the crème de la crème of Whittier’s many dedicated volunteers who serve in a plethora of local social services programs.

Volunteers honored this year are:

Patricia Almada
The Whittier Area Literacy Council nominated Patricia Almada as Volunteer of the Year, describing her as the “true backbone of the Whittier Area Literacy Council.”  A former principal and past president of the Council, Patricia tutors adults and children. She describes the adult English As a Second Language class that she teaches as the highlight of her week. She uses her writing and organizational skills to produce superior grant applications, which result in funding essential to the agency’s operations. If that wasn’t enough, Pat conducts tutor training sessions and helps with the yearly fundraiser. She is admired for her ability to highlight the best in others and her knack for making others feel good about themselves. 

Lorena Duran
The SKILLS Organization nominated Lorena Duran who has volunteered as a board member since 2005.  Lorena has been instrumental in fundraising and in program development.  She played a key role in the development of an anti-bullying program for elementary and middle school students.  She began the discussion of developing programming to complement education’s focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).  As a result of her tireless efforts, SKILLS began offering Robotics to the After School programming and will be introducing an alternative energy workshop in the future.  Her passion has attracted other volunteers to the Board and her dedication makes a true difference in our Whittier community.   

Dorothy Carras
Dorothy Carras is a Board and Guild Member for the Rio Hondo Symphony as well as a member of the Executive Committee of the Rio Hondo College Emeriti Association.  In her sixteen years of volunteering for the Symphony, Dorothy has held multiple positions and worked on various activities such as the Spring Garden Tour, By-laws committee, and Endowment Fund promotion.  She is also chief brownie maker for the concerts .  Dorothy is described as reliable, prompt, creative, innovative, cheerful, focused and organized.  In addition to all of her tireless work for the Rio Hondo Symphony, Dorothy has volunteered for over 14 years for the Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse, and served 10 years as a Commissioner for the City of Whittier Social Services Commission. 

Ron Copley
The Special Olympics Los Angeles (SOLA) Lions Club of Whittier nominated Ron, who has been a leader of this specialty club since its inception in 2009. Under Ron’s steadfast leadership, 50 community members joined; and the organization became the second Lions Club in the world to serve the athletes of Special Olympics. Since its inception, SOLA has created swimming, basketball, and bowling competitions.  Ron was a leader of the Special Olympics World Games.  Ron’s energy and enthusiasm has raised awareness about the Special Olympics and created meaningful opportunities for the athletes and volunteers who participate.  A major highlight in Ron’s SOLA leadership was being a major part of the plans and preparations for Whittier’s opportunity to be a host town for a delegation of 125 Special Olympic athletes from Macau, China.  

Dr. Carmella Franco
The YMCA of Greater Whittier nominated Dr. Carmella Franco, member of the Board of Directors for 19 years and current Chief Volunteer Officer of the Board.  She is also Chair of the Governance Committee and as Chair of the YMCA of Greater Whittier Chairman’s Roundtable has raised over $100,000 for community programs.  Under Carmella’s dedicated leadership, the YMCA has substantially increased the number of community partnerships leading to increased free health education workshops, healthy food demonstrations at schools, and physical activity sessions in the community. Dr. Franco has been instrumental in advancing the Y’s mission of strengthening community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. 

Sara and Victor Guzman
Whittier Area First Day nominated Sara and Victor Guzman, volunteers from Whittier Area Community Church.  Although the Guzman’s were unable to attend today’s ceremony, we wanted to acknowledge them for their outstanding service.  For ten years they (and those who follow them) have helped in every area imaginable – building projects, teaching skills such as computers, budgets, nutrition and meal planning, and being available for prayer and spiritual guidance when requested.  Their good deeds are always accompanied by joyful music, singing and lots of delicious food. They both bring smiles to the faces of people at First Day, as well as hope. 

Leon Lesa
The Whittier Host Lions Club calls Leon “a Lion among Lions” and it’s easy to see why. Leon accepts both leadership and supporting roles for a multitude of projects.  Within a 9 month period, Leon was in charge of tickets as well as set up and take down for the Sight For Kids Banquet, oversaw a crew of Lions Club members for the weekly Farmer’s Market, was the team leader for building picnic tables and benches at the Kaboom Park rebuilding, worked the Whittier Host Lions Club Fireworks stand on the three busiest days of the season, and headed up inventory and distribution at the Sierra High School Sight Fare serving 375 attendees.  Leon leads by example, and does whatever is needed. He is humble and never seeks recognition for his remarkable accomplishments. However, his countless contributions are a critical part of the Whittier Host Lions Club’s ability to provide services to people in need; even our Storybook Zoo animals, have beautiful barns that were built by a team lead by Leon. 

Shirley Oebel
The Whittier Senior Center nominated Shirley Oebel in recognition of her many volunteer roles with the City.  Shirley serves on the Accessibility and Senior Advisory Committees.  Through these committees she advises staff on ways to ensure that Whittier is accessible for people with disabilities, and that the Whittier Senior Centers meet the needs of the community’s older adults.  Shirley also volunteers for the AARP Tax Aide Foundation, which provides free services each year during tax season.  Finally, she also volunteers for the City elections every year.

Greg and Pam Polito
The Boys and Girls Club of Whittier nominated Greg and Pam Polito as volunteers of the year in recognition of their twenty-eight years of supporting the club. Greg is a former member of the Board, and both Greg and Pam are current members of the Gala fundraising committee.  With the support of the Politos, the Gala earns over $200,000 a year to support the agency.  The club is also able to hold an annual Wine Dinner featuring wine from Dr. Polito’s personal collection, special food and an auction. Additionally, the Politos volunteer for special events and are financial supporters of the agency.  The Boys and Girls Club is grateful to Greg and Pam Polito for their generous sharing of time, talent and treasure.  

Carol Reza
Carol Reza has dedicated her life to helping those who have been adversely affected by their time in the child welfare system. Carol founded Bridge of Faith in 1995, an agency which provides emancipated young women with a home, rehabilitative services, a surrogate family and opportunities to accomplish things they once thought were impossible.  She has not had a salary for over 20 years while she serves as mentor, house mom, administrator and activist.  The New York Times praised Carol’s work calling it “a model for the nation.” Carol’s selfless efforts will impact generations to come as these young women become contributing members of the community.


Volunteers of the year recently recognized by the Whittier City Council and Social Services Commission