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50 Jan. 22 - Feb. 4, 2011


Three outstanding citizens making a difference in Chandler were recognized for their volunteer work with a Dedication to Service Award announced at the city’s recently held 16th Annual Multicultural Festival. The Dedication to Service Award was created to honor Chandler volunteers for their commitment to service and diversity in the categories of Community, Education and Neighborhoods. The following individuals were recognized:


Neighbors Chandler honors volunteers Melinda Gunther


The Dedication to Service in Neighborhoods Award Winner is Melinda Gunther, who “exemplifies a commitment to diversity through her work with Live Love Inc., a nonprofit organization created to fuel a movement of people committed to changing the world around them by living lives of love.”


For the past four years, Live Love Inc. has organized an annual Live Love Day event in Chandler. This past year, more than 1,000 volunteers came forward to assist five neighborhoods, a senior housing site, two nonprofits and a tree-planting project at a City Park. In addition to Live Love Day, Gunther works alongside the Live Love Inc. team leaders on a monthly basis in downtown Chandler neighborhoods by assisting residents in need with yard maintenance and small home repairs. She embraces the social diversity that exists within each community by seeking out neighborhood leaders. Every year as Live Love Day approaches, Gunther empowers residents to take leadership roles in their own neighborhoods. Many residents have said because they have been blessed with assistance, it is now their time to give back.


Alberto Esparza Patricia Collins


The Dedication to Service in Community Award Winner went to Alberto Esparza. As President of the Si Se Puede organization, Esparza runs various programs that include after-school tutoring, ESL classes, Ballet Folklorico dance, Robotics program, Intramural Soccer and a newly formed Scholars Program. He also organizes community events such as the Cesar Chavez Teacher Education Recognition Dinner and Awards and the annual Chandler Cinco de Mayo celebration. Through these programs, Esparza promotes an acceptance of other races by challenging students to work together to accomplish goals. His dedication to diversity goes beyond culture. In order to increase the number of college graduates in historically underrepresented demographics, he created a Scholars Program in conjunction with local area high schools. This program provided 14 scholarships to students who would not have normally gone to a university.


Sponsorship funding, finding a full-time facility for his programs and being a one-man show are just some of the challenges Esparza faces on a daily


basis to ensure Si Se Puede remains successful. Throughout these challenges, he has created many successful programs and volunteers his time to many endeavors throughout Chandler. The Dedication to Service in Education Award Winner is Patricia Collins. As principal of Seton Catholic High School, she embraced the history of Seton and its roots, which are embedded in the Hispanic and Native American communities. Under her leadership, diversity has come to include not only persons of different races and creeds, but also those with physical disabilities. Collins is “committed to enriching the Seton experience by promoting diversity in admission policies and by ensuring that Seton pursues avenues to make a quality education available to any family that desires it.”


Collins also promoted and developed polices that assist Seton to live out its mission to “provide leadership and loving service to others.” Seton students perform more than 10,000 hours of community service. Graduates are not only prepared for college academically, but leave the school with a moral compass and firm grasp on the mandate to “pay it forward.”


Under Collins’ leadership, Seton was the only Catholic high school in Arizona to be named to the Acton Institute’s National Catholic High School Honor Roll, which lists the best 50 Catholic secondary schools in the United States. Thanks to Patricia’s guidance, leadership and care, Seton continues to nurture students who care passionately about their future and the community.


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