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Rancho Cordova Independent

Volunteers Honored with DOVIA Awards

May 23, 2024 02:56PM ● By Ornella Rossi, photos by Bill Taylor

Riya Janardhan, center, Youth volunteer of the Year, accepts her awards alongside Miss Sacramento County, Helen Dang, left, and Miss Capitol City, Nicole Vicks. 


SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) – The nonprofit Directors of Volunteers in Agencies (DOVIA) honored 23 volunteers from communities throughout Sacramento County and Yolo County at its annual awards ceremony on May 16.

Since its inception in 1978, DOVIA Sacramento has played a crucial role in connecting professional volunteer managers and leaders. It serves as a hub for exchanging ideas and resources among those who oversee volunteers in different organizations. Additionally, it collaborates with various groups to raise awareness about the importance of volunteering in the community. By fostering communications between member agencies, institutions, and the public, it aims to create a more supportive environment for volunteerism to thrive.  


Patty Estopinal, center, winner of the Individual Volunteer of the Year accepts her award alongside Miss Sacramento County, Helen Dang, left, and Miss Capitol City, Nicole Vicks. 


“We are committed to honoring exceptional people in our community and training volunteer program managers from a variety of local service-organizations,” said DOVIA board member Twyla Teitzel.

DOVIA has a variety of agency members ranging from hospices to food banks and local government organizations. It covers Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba, El Dorado and Placer counties.

The May 16 reception held at the Girls Scout Heart of California office honored the 23 nominees and winners of the Youth Volunteer of the Year, the Individual Volunteer of the Year and Volunteer Manager of the Year awards.  

“The DOVIA executive board focuses on executing events such as this awards ceremony,” said communication chair Jacqueline Ramirez. “Volunteer events broaden the awareness of volunteerism and the critical role volunteers play in helping meet local needs required for the community to function at its best.”

Among the nominees, seven volunteers were nominated for Youth Volunteer of the Year, 13 were nominated for Individual Volunteer of the Year and three volunteer coordinators were nominated for Volunteer Manager of the Year. The evaluation was conducted by a panel of three judges: Barbara Fitzwater, retired volunteer manager at Kaiser Permanente; Tiffany Maese, volunteer coordinator at the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office; and Janice Wagaman, formerly associated with the Front Street Animal Shelter.

The Margaret Einspahr Youth Volunteer of the Year award acknowledges a youth volunteer under age 21 who has shown exceptional dedication to community service, having contributed a minimum of 25 hours of service between January and December 2023. Recipients of this award receive a $500 scholarship funded by the Margaret Einspahr Memorial Fund to honor Margaret Einspahr’s legacy as a dedicated leader in the field of volunteerism.

The 2024 winner of the Youth Volunteer award was Riya Janardhan, a high school junior, nominated by WEAVE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting safe and healthy relationships and support survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and sex trafficking in Sacramento. Janardhan was nominated for her dedication to advocating for women’s rights and gender equality.

“Being a girl myself and having to experience different stereotypes, I don’t want to have to experience this at such a young age,” Janardhan said. “It’s something I strive to want to fix.”

Other nominees for this position included Kevin Leach, nominated by Meristem in Fair Oaks; Kai Nakaoka, nominated by Scouting America in Sacramento; Maximum Truong, nominated by the Sacramento Tree Foundation; and Kristy Yu, Flynn Ng, and Cara Taylor, nominated by the Sacramento Public Library

The Individual Volunteer of the Year award is presented to a volunteer over age 21, who has dedicated a minimum of 25 hours of service. The award recipient receives a $100 award for their organization.

The winner for this year’s award was Patricia Estopinal, nominated by Court Appointed Special Advocates Sacramento (CASA), an organization focused on ensuring support for children in the foster care system through volunteer advocates.

“This award means so much because for the past 14 years being able to have a relationship with foster youth, to have a relationship where you know that you’re the one constant, no matter what is going on in their lives, it’s just such a meaningful relationship,” Estopinal said.

The nominees for the positions included Beatriz Bueno and Jane Shapiro, nominated by the Sacramento Medical Serve Corps in McClellan; Anne Marie Christian, Daisey Maldonado and Karina Villanueva, nominated by Dignity Health Methodist Hospital in Sacramento; Mary Kay Edson, nominated by the Sacramento Public Library; Ron Hills, nominated by Vitalant in Mather; Marissa Honey-Plate, nominated by the Miss Sacramento County Scholarship Organization in Antelope; Rodney Horton, nominated by the American River Parkway Foundation in Carmichael; Nicky Smolter, nominated by the Lavender Library in Sacramento; Matthew Tran, nominated by the Sacramento Tree Foundation in Folsom; and Kristy Venrick Mardon, nominated by Only Sunshine Sanctuary in Fair Oaks.

Volunteer Manager of the Year honors a volunteer manager who demonstrated outstanding leadership and dedication to supporting volunteers. The winner received a $100 award for their organization, along with a one-year complimentary DOVIA Sacramento organization membership.

The 2024 winner was Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater nominated for her work with Joshua’s House and Health Communication Research Institute located in Yolo County. She has spent the past decade building Joshuas House, a hospice facility for terminally-ill homeless individuals. Von Friederichs-Fitzwater has raised $2.5 million and created a volunteer organization to provide high-quality care.

Other nominations included Marissa Honey-Plata nominated by Miss Sacramento County Scholarship Organization and Justin Rubio with Sacramento Tree Foundation.

During the ceremony, several guest speakers talked about the importance of volunteering and the work they have done throughout the years. Lynn Pesely, winner of the 2023 DOVIA Volunteer Manager award, talked about her work with the Sacramento Medical Reserve Corps. Helen Dang, Miss Sacramento County, and Nicole Vicks, Miss Capitol City, winners of the Miss Sacramento County Scholarship program, mentioned their work with advocacy and action for the houseless and Stomp Out Bullying respectively.

“One second, one minute, one action can change someone’s life,” Dang said. “All it takes is one good dead to build the foundation of lasting change.”

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