Congressman John Garamendi and his Women’s Initiative Network honored 49 exemplary women throughout the Third Congressional District on Friday, Oct. 25 for their contributions to their community through public service, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement. Garamendi solicits nominations from the community each year to acknowledge local women for their selfless acts within their communities and presents them with a proclamation that will be preserved in the Library of Congress.
“One of the highlights of my year, every year, is hosting this event to recognize the achievements of these distinguished women,” said Congressman John Garamendi in a release. “These leaders come from a variety of backgrounds, but every one of them has made a real difference to their communities and the people around them. It’s a privilege to be able to honor them.”
Six of Colusa County’s finest were honored this year including Rosemary Hicks of Colusa, Roberta James of Colusa, Jen Roberts of Arbuckle, Kim Travis of Arbuckle and Diane Vafis of Colusa. A posthumous tribute and recognition of Natalie Corona – the Arbuckle native and Davis police officer who was killed in the line of duty in January – was also honored.
“Officer Corona was a bright member of the Davis Police Department,” said Garamendi in a release.. Even prior to completing her police training last December, Officer Corona was respected by her colleagues and friends for her commitment to serving her community and dedication to her fellow officers. She selflessly served and protected her community and will be remembered and honored for her dedication to making the city of Davis a safer environment for all.”
Rosemary Hicks was nominated by Barbra Hankins for dedicated advocacy for children and families withing the community of Colusa. For over 40 years, Hicks has been a devoted part of the Colusa Unified School District, first as a para-educator and now as an administrative assistant to the principal at Burchfield Primary School.
“She is known throughout her community as someone who will always find a way to help a family in need,” said Hankins in her nomination. “Around the holidays, Rosemary is a driving force behind countless community food, clothing and shoe drives as well as Toys for Tots Programs.”
According to Hankins, Hicks is also active in several community organizations including the Colusa Little League, the IMPACT Thrift Store, the Catholic Ladies Auxiliary, the Lions Club, the Rotary Club and the California School Employees Association.
“Through her tireless work and dedication to the helping others, Rosemary has become a pillar of support for families and children in Colusa,” said Hankins. “She is known by everyone in Colusa as the heart and soul of the Colusa Unified School District and the community at large.”
Roberta James was nominated by Lucy Morse Roberts for her work in promoting education, reading and a sense of community in Colusa, most notably through the Virginia Yerxa Community Read. When beloved Colusa philanthropist and literacy advocate Virginia Yerxa passed away James started the Virginia Yerxa Community Read in her honor to promote literature, and to give her community a new way to experience books. James was the driving force behind the Virginia Read for 10 years, using the same innovative skills she used in teaching to create meaningful and engaging activities based on each year’s selection. The Virginia Read is now very much part of the fabric of Colusa.
An educator for nearly 40 years, Roberta has made countless contributions to her community. She still teaches part time, but also focuses on her art and quilt-making. She is taking her love of art back to the community by supporting Artist-in-Residence programs. She envisions Colusa as an ideal rural retreat for artists, writers and quilters to work and collaborate, while enriching the community with their craft. This past summer was a pilot year, and very successful. Community members enjoyed several art workshops, a poetry workshop, and some private lessons from the visiting artists over the 7-week course of the program. In addition, two new public murals are now in the town to be enjoyed by all.
Roberta has added to the quality of life in Colusa in many ways through her work, and is deserving of Congressman Garamendi’s Woman of the Year honor.
“While I am incredibly honored to be receiving Congressman Garamendi’s award, the award also belongs to the hardworking committee members who help these events happen every year, and to the people who enrich our community with their participation and generous donations,” said James.
Jennifer Roberts was nominated by Roberta James for her work as founder and co-leader of Indivisible Colusa, a local volunteer organization focused on engaging in progressive political advocacy.
“Jen Roberts has been tireless in developing ways for local community members with little to no previous political experience to develop their voice and make themselves heard in a traditional conservative community,” said James in her nomination. “Her courageous, thoughtful and principled leadership has allowed Indivisible Colusa to rapidly develop from its humble beginnings in 2017 to the lively and visible presence it is in the community today.”
Roberts said it is an honor to receive this recognition from Congressman Garamendi.
“My name is on this award because I’m the most public face and loudest voice within Indivisible Colusa,” said Roberts. “But the honor really belongs to all the people in our group who show up and do the work. They organize events, talk to neighbors, make phone calls to our elected representatives, get out the vote, and fight for progressive policies. Honestly, they’re the ones who deserve a “People of the Year” award.”
James added that as a founding member of the Colusa County Democratic Central Committee, Roberts was integral in establishing a Democratic party committee in one of the few California counties that did not already have one in place.
“Jen is tireless in her efforts to engage others and ensures that those in her community have a place to develop and express their beliefs while delving into the democratic process,” said James.
Kim Travis was nominated by Erica Miles for dedicating her career to guide young athletes to reach for and achieve their goals. Miles said in her nomination that as the girls’ volleyball couch at Pierce High School in Arbuckle, Travis has served as a wonderful role model for each of her students.
“She is a proactive coach who has worked hard to build a successful high school and club volleyball team,” said Miles. “Her coaching style exercises team building by developing their skills and confidence, teaching her players that success comes from failure.”
According to Miles, Travis also started a youth camp program for children between first and eight grade in addition to dedicating her time to several local sports groups including the serving as a board member of Arbuckle and West Side Little League and volunteers for the Pierce Pride Foundation and Dynamix Club Volleyball.
“This was such an incredible honor,” said Travis. “I think it’s good to look up to people and see the things they’re doing and want to be your better self. That’s why I am involved in coaching. I work hard to try and make a difference in young people lives as my coaches and mentors made in mine.”
Travis said that for her, coaching and community involvement is not just about wins and loses it’s about holding yourself to a high standard, learning life lessons both good and bad.
In July, Travis organized a volleyball tournament to remember Corona and bring together her community during the difficult time after her passing.
“To be mentioned with all of these empowering women is humbling,” said Travis. “But to be mentioned with Natalie, my past player and friend, I am honored and will forever be blessed. I am appreciate and thankful for being nominated and recognized.” Diane Vafis was nominated by Jennifer Roberts for her more than 50 years of love and kindness within the county. Currently serving as the co-director of the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church after-school program, Vafis has worked to provide tutoring to fourth graders for 12 years.
“Diane takes extra care to create a healthy and nurturing environment for her students, personally picking up the children after school, providing craft sessions and communicating closely with her students’ teachers to maximize their success.”
According to Roberts, Vafis also serves as the treasurer of the Colusa County Alpha Kappa Chapter of Omega Nu, which provides academic scholarships for local high school graduates, and the civic beautification chair for the Garden Club of Colusa County, which is responsible for planting and maintaining gardens in public spaces such as libraries, post offices and the courthouse.
“Diane demonstrates an unwavering dedication to serving her community and serves as a role model for everyone around her,” said Roberts.
“It really is an honor to be a part of this group that has done such admiral things in the community,” said Vafis.