Honoring those who have served selflessly

Jun 24, 2021 | Crestline


By Mary-Justine Lanyon

The members of the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club did not let continuing COVID-19 restrictions deter them from holding their 19th annual recognition of folks from the community who have offered “selfless service to the community.”

As they did last year, the Rotarians invited the community to join them on Facebook Live for the event, held on June 17. The honorees logged in to be recognized.

In his invocation, Bill Mellinger noted that “even with the challenges of the pandemic, there were opportunities to serve.”

President Karl Drew led everyone in the Rotary 4-Way Test, noting that they “emphasize the values we try to live by.” The three Rotary clubs on the mountain, Drew said, are made up of “people committed to serving and making their community better.”

Mellinger, the emcee for the evening, announced that five individuals and one organization were being honored.
The first award went to Neva Hidajat, who was nominated by Mountain Counseling & Training, where she has served as an intern.

On a trip to Indonesia to visit her grandparents, Neva visited the Helen Keller Orphanage, where she learned the importance of human connections.

Her many accomplishments include being the concertmaster for the Mountain Top Strings; participating in the American Legion oratorical contest, advancing to the state level of competition; earning gold medals as a U.S. figure skater and skating her way to the national championship of Indonesia.

Prior to the pandemic, Neva volunteered at both the Skilled Nursing Facility at Mountains Community Hospital and at the Lake Arrowhead branch library.

Neva took her musical skills to several long-term care facilities, playing her violin for the residents. And, recognizing the impact of the pandemic on mental health, she started a podcast called “Alphabet Soup,” which focuses on spreading positivity and encouraging learning.

When she spotted the Mountain Counseling booth at the Running Springs farmers market, Neva said was taken by their focus on mental health. That inspired her to apply for the high school internship.

“I am happy to contribute to the community that has helped me grow,” Neva – who will be a junior at Rim High in the fall – said in virtually accepting her certificate.

Thacker Whyte was nominated by the Lake Arrowhead Mountain Sunrise Rotary Club for the many ways he has worked behind the scenes.

For years, Whyte has prepared the spaghetti dinner for the Rebuilding Together Mountain Communities meal held at the end of Rebuilding Day for the volunteers and the homeowners whose homes have been made safe and dry.

He has also helped with the meal preparation for the Mountain Meals on Wheels fundraising spaghetti dinner.

Perhaps his biggest recent accomplishment was overseeing the demolition, redesign and reinstallation of ramps at Mountain High School, which was accomplished with the help of several other members of the Mountain Sunrise club. He also helped build desks for students who had no suitable place to do their schoolwork during the time of distance learning this past year.

Jack Cooperman, president of the Mountain Sunrise Rotary Club, said that “Thacker enjoys doing things anonymously. It makes him feel better about himself.”

Cooperman accepted the award on behalf of Whyte, who was unable to attend.

“Service above self would be the best description I can give of Thacker,” Cooperman said. “There was no one to help an Eagle Scout with a project for special athletes at Snow Valley so Thacker stepped in. He’s always there when needed.

“Thacker represents what Rotary stands for.”

Daniel Pensabene, nominated by Mountains Community Hospital, was described as “always having had a giving heart.” While he was in college, he developed a program for troubled teens. In 2018, he received the Respect Award from his peers at the hospital. He has been president of the Mountain Homeless Coalition for the past two years and is very involved with AYSO soccer.

“Danny is a team builder, an encourager and a source of stability at MCH,” Kim McGuire and Abby Savich wrote in their nomination. They added that, with the Mountain Homeless Coalition, he has helped provide housing navigation for the at-risk and homeless populations on the mountain.

“I’m just a name and a face compared to what my people do,” Pensabene said, referring to his work with the homeless coalition. “We’re all volunteers. I couldn’t do what I do without them.” And, as for the hospital, Pensabene said thank you “to everyone at the hospital who allows me to be the person I am.”

Dawn Selleck, nominated by the Lake Gregory Yacht Club, came to the U.S. as a young woman from the U.K. After meeting her husband, Art, they settled in Crestline and Dawn started looking for a job where she could give back to the community. She has worked for Mountain Counseling & Training and Hearts & Lives and has volunteered at Wildhaven Ranch, helping with the animals and giving tours.

Selleck is a past fleet captain at the yacht club and continues to encourage and support the club’s philanthropic efforts.

“I’m at a time in my life where I can give back to the community,” Selleck said. “I don’t like to see anyone struggling or suffering. I would encourage everyone, if you have some time, volunteer. Make our community a better place to live. Get out and know your neighbors.”

Becky Beavers was nominated by the Mountain Homeless Coalition for her work in achieving the coalition’s nonprofit status and her continuing work in helping the homeless find housing. She answers the hotline so her voice is the first one people calling for assistance hear.

Beavers was described as providing “warm and effective leadership for the Mountain Homeless Coalition staff, board of directors and clients.”

“It is not always easy and not always popular to take a stand for the homeless and almost-homeless in our community,” Beavers said. “We are seeing lives that are being turned around.”

Mellinger added that the work being done to help the homeless is important work. “What you are doing is vital,” he said.


While the Mountain Hero award has typically been given to a person, this year, Mellinger said, “as we thought about mountain heroes, people who have a special place in our community, we decided to recognize an organization.”

Michelle Murphy, the superintendent of the Rim of the World Unified School District, wrote about the many contributions of the Rim of the World Educational Foundation to the district and what those contributions mean to the staff and the students.

“Community support and engagement is a valued asset for any school district,” Murphy wrote. “Rim Ed donates thousands of dollars each year to support our students and programs.”

She named those programs: AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), ROP (Regional Occupational Program) and Partnerships with Schools education grants.

“Members of Rim Ed (all of whom are volunteers) serve as a positive role model for our students,” Murphy wrote. “They participate in school activities, attend school board meetings and assist the district in applying for grants. They visit school sites to see how their support impacts teachers and students.”

In addition, Murphy noted, volunteers from Rim Ed interview high school seniors as part of the senior portfolio process, they share their backgrounds ad Career Day and they read to elementary school students.

“Overall, Rim Ed provides outstanding support of our schools, our students and our community, even in the midst of a pandemic,” Murphy concluded.

“Rim Ed is a treasure,” Mellinger said. “The board members are a wonderful gift to our school and our community. We are privileged to have with us, representing the Foundation, President Jo Bonita Rains.”

Rains thanked the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club for this honor and further explained some of the work Rim Ed does. She encouraged viewers to log on to the Rim Ed website, www.rimedfoundation.org, where they can watch video testimonials from students who have benefited from the programs.


The evening was not quite over. Mellinger called Drew back up to the stage, thanking him for stepping in as president part way through the year when the previous president moved to Tennessee.

“The board decided no one else stepped up like you have,” Mellinger told Drew, “and felt you are the one they wanted to recognize as our Rotarian of the Year.

“Everybody stepped up to make things happen,” Drew said. Next year, he added, the club hopes to hold its awards banquet in person.

“I encourage anyone who wants to honor someone in their organization who has gone above and beyond to bring their name forward,” Drew said.



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