The members who make up the California School Employees Association have dedicated their careers and lives to making positive impacts for students and families in the chapters they represent across the state. And their generosity knows no bounds.
Wednesday, more than 1,600 delegates attending conference raised a new record of $57,593 during the Humanitarian Bucket Pass, plus more than $14,000 in additional donations. Monies raised will go to the Dorothy Bjork Assistance Fund, which relies solely on donations. The fund was established nearly 36 years ago at the urging of Past President and Life Member Dorothy Bjork to provide financial help for disasters, emergency relief, and humanitarian assistance to CSEA members and staff.
Last year was a particularly difficult time for many CSEA families, who were impacted by horrific wildfires and other disasters. Conference attendees watched a video about the devastating fire that affected over 200 members in Paradise Valley last year.
“What a powerful video,” said Past President Allan D. Clark. “I’ve watched this video half a dozen times and I still choke up. This was a devastating fire that affected over 200 members in Paradise Valley, and unfortunately it was just one of many natural disasters to impact our members this past year.”
Over the last year, CSEA has provided some $350,000 in assistance to 550 members.
“You know giving just seems to be in the blood of CSEA members,” Clark said. “But I know today that your generosity knows no bounds—that you will dig deep and give to this most important fund. The ripple of your donations will reach every corner of this state. Thank you for being the pebble of hope that started the wave. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Clark proudly announced that the CSEA fund has attained its 501(c)(3) status, after years of work, and moving forward contributions made to the Dorothy Bjork Assistance Fund will be tax deductible.
Today, we asked a few attendees why they give to the Humanitarian Fund.
James Jarrard, Technical Support Specialist III, Simi Valley Chapter 310
Donnell Fassler, Library/Media Assistant, Franklin-McKinley Chapter 502
Not able to attend conference but still want to donate? Do so online today.
Wednesday was a day to pay tribute to some of the outstanding members of CSEA. After Tuesday’s recognition of the Members of the Year, delegates on Wednesday inducted a member into the CSEA Honor Roll and recognized this year’s Activist of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Unity Award winner.
Isa Wiechmann, who retired from Sylvan Chapter 73 and currently belongs to Retiree Council 5010, has proven her dedication to CSEA for nearly 30 years. On Wednesday, delegates voted to place her on the CSEA Honor Roll, which is one of CSEA’s most distinguished recognitions.
“To those who have given much, much is expected,” Wiechmann said. “It is my belief that CSEA has given me many countless good things in my lifetime, not just during my active time, and now as a retiree, that I want to pass this along to others. This honor is a great privilege that gives me more reason to continue doing the service I love doing—advocating CSEA’s mission in ensuring that all members are treated with respect, fair representation, and always well-informed.”
The Richard C. Bartlett Activist of the Year Award recognizes a member who advocates politically for issues that are important to the core of CSEA. This year’s award recipient is David Kong from Monterey COE Chapter 35. In addition to his classified job as Operations Specialist, Kong serves on the Greenfield School Board. He is also active with the SAFE Schools Coalition, which lobbies against the use of harmful pesticides on school grounds.
“I’m really learning as a school board member to be a good advocate for classified employees, and I can strongly tell you: Please work hard to elect classified-friendly union members on school boards. It’s so important,” Kong said.
The William P. Schwartz Humanitarian of the Year Award honors the compassion and generosity of one of our founders. Kerry Woods of Fullerton High Chapter 82 is the recipient of this year’s award for helping her community, both locally and globally. She connects underprivileged students with gently used clothes and supplies for prom and has led youth groups and mission trips abroad to build homes and a learning center.
“Kerry, your brothers and sisters wish to extend our gratitude for your service, commitment to your community and never-ending kindness,” said Awards Committee Chair Hortensia Benner.
The Laurence Twoaxe Unity Award was presented to Area C Director Machelle Kessinger. The award recognizes the
legacy of uniting classified employees, and Kessinger is regarded as a champion of organizing campaigns and is passionate about bringing members together.
“She is a mentor to many members,” said Association President Ben Valdepeña. “Recently, she attended a chapter meeting that had no executive board in place and was falling apart. By the time she left the meeting, there was a full executive board in place and trainings scheduled to empower the new leaders.”
CSEA’s Membership Unity Program (MUP) trains teams of chapter leaders on how to build the power of their chapters by applying organizing skills to increase member participation in crucial chapter activities. Each year, the chapter participating in MUP that has done the best job of strengthening their chapter and building the union with better informed and more active membership is selected as the MUP Prize winner.
This year, 19 chapters participated in the program, each of them making giant strides to help build strength in their chapters. The MUP Prize was awarded to Murrieta Valley Chapter 223 that worked to create connections within its chapter and community.
“The whole training was about engagement,” said Chapter Vice President Anna Leos. “What do we do to engage parents, our community, our children and the staff – it was what MUP was about.”
Chapter Communications Officer Mercy Olivier says the program has made a difference with their chapter members and their relationship with the district.
“Our voice was so stagnant before. It was so small within the district, and now it’s just gotten so loud that they cannot stop but to hear us.”
Keeping members informed and engaged is a critical task for chapters. This year’s Communication Awards recognized some of the outstanding communications work done by local CSEA chapters.
Awards of Excellence were awarded as follows: Best Print Publication to Kenneth Fry, Santa Maria Elementary Chapter 129; Best Flyer to Kenneth Fry, Santa Maria Elementary Chapter 129; Best Website to Ivannia Ramirez, Ontario-Montclair Chapter 108; and Best E-Newsletter to Roger Dormann of College of Marin Chapter 196.
Awards of Distinction were awarded as follows: Best Design (Print) to Kenneth Fry, Santa Maria Elementary Chapter 129; Best Design (Web) to Ivannia Ramirez, Ontario-Montclair Chapter 108; Best Design (Flyer) to Kenneth Fry, Santa Maria Elementary Chapter 129; Best Design (E-Newsletter) to Roger Dormann, College of Marin Chapter 196; Best Use of Photography (Print) to Kyle Miller and Chris Yin, Irvine Chapter 517; Best Use of Photography (Flyer) to Ivannia Ramirez, Ontario-Montclair Chapter 108; Best News Article/Story (Print) to Ivannia Ramirez, Ontario-Montclair Chapter 108; Best News Article/Story (E-Newsletter) to Regina Reese, Santa Barbara City College Chapter 289; Best Column/Editorial (Print) to Monica Han, Chaffey College Chapter 431; and Best Column/Editorial (E-Newsletter) to Sally Gill, Santa Barbara City College Chapter 289.