Community leaders honored by San Jacinto Rotary

Honorees at the San Jacinto Rotary’s annual community recognition dinner are, from left, Dondi Silvas, Valentin Sanchez, Debra Willis, Dennis Postle, Kevin Walker, Aric Galliano and Richard Tovar. Valley News/Diane A. Rhodes photo

The San Jacinto Rotary Community Foundation held its 14th annual community recognition dinner at a filled-to-capacity dining room at Emilio’s Restaurant in San Jacinto on March 13. Rotary President Vince Record said the awards are the club’s way of saying thank you to those who make outstanding contributions to the community.

Those honored were San Jacinto High School Coach Aric Galliano, San Jacinto Unified School District Classified Employee Valentin Sanchez, Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Postle, Firefighter Richard Tovar, Nonprofit Soboba Foundation and its president Dondi Silvas, Business of the Year Arrow Printing and owner Kevin Walker and Citizen of the Year Debra Willis.

Each honoree was introduced and presented with a plaque. Willis will have her name added to the perpetual plaque that is displayed at the restaurant. John Norman Sr., current SJUSD board president, has a long history with San Jacinto High School and its sports department. He congratulated Galliano for his outstanding season. “To be a coach nowadays is a very difficult thing because you’re working with a very culturally diverse group of young people,” Norman said. “You’ve got to be able to motivate these athletes in order for them to succeed and do a good job. And since Aric has been at San Jacinto, the players know that he truly cares about them, and they play to the highest level that they can because of that.” Galliano said, “Being recognized is both an honor and a privilege, but I am most proud of the kids.”

Valentin Sanchez was recognized for his work at Estudillo Elementary by its Principal Keri Wales. “I’ve always been impressed with his ability to handle multiple tasks, emergency situations that arise, and how well he interacts with his coworkers and our students,” she said. “He’s always a pleasure to work with and he’s always looking for ways to help. He goes above and beyond for all of us.” Sanchez worked throughout the district with Facilities & Operations before going to Estudillo about two years ago. He was also voted by the district as Classified Employee of the Year. Wales said, “He’s a true team player, a great worker and a great leader to our students.”

Lt. Jeremy Harding of the San Jacinto Sheriff’s station said that all sergeants at the station got together to nominate who they felt was most deserving of this recognition and Dept. Postle was chosen. Throughout 2022, he worked the graveyard shift and Harding said, “Because of deputies like him who keep the city safe at night, we can rest easy knowing things are being handled.” Harding noted Postle’s impressive record of responding to 922 calls for service in 2022 and leading the way in DUI arrests at 40-plus. He was Field Training Officer for new deputies “and did a phenomenal job.”

Riverside County Fire Department Division Chief Dan Olson said San Jacinto Battalion Chief Tovar has been with the department since 1998 and has lived in the city for 33 years. Olson said, “He navigated, through leadership and commitment, our firefighters through the COVID time when our staffing levels were critical. His ability to mentor was a huge success. I’m proud to have him as one of my chiefs, one of my colleagues, one of my partners and I consider him a friend.”

Andrew Vallejos, sponsorship coordinator for the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, works closely with Dondi Silvas and the entire Soboba Foundation team. He said Silvas has served on the Foundation board for 10 years and has been its president for the past four. Silvas said, “I am truly honored for being selected as Rotary Club’s recipient on behalf of the Soboba Foundation. We are a board of seven that work together, giving back to our community. I am very humbled to be recognized for the years of dedication I have served on the Soboba Foundation and I’m eternally grateful to have had this opportunity.” Vallejos and Silvas were joined at the event by Soboba Foundation Vice President Catherine “Cat” Modesto, Secretary Antonia Briones-Venegas, Treasurer Julie Arrietta-Parcero and Member-at-Large Daniel Valdez, who is also Tribal Council Treasurer.

Record said San Jacinto Unified School District students have long benefitted from the generosity of the Soboba Foundation and pointed out that Silvas was a graduate of San Jacinto High. As was Kevin Walker, who Record introduced next. Aside from being a third generation owner of Arrow Printing, Walker was deeply involved with the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit which was founded by his father, Walt Walker. Record noted that Kevin is always generous with his time and printing skills while working with many local organizations and businesses. Walker said, “I am reaping the benefits of what my grandfather started, and my dad worked at, and I’m grateful that I can continue their legacy. San Jacinto is my home and always has been. I’m thankful for all the people who are customers, but it’s the relationships I’ve been able to build with those in this community throughout the years that have been the most fulfilling to me.”

Craig Shultz, immediate past president of SJ Rotary, introduced Willis by saying that once her name was put forth to the voting members, there was no further discussion. “Debra is a special member of our small but mighty club,” he said. “We do a lot of charity work and most of that work is led by Debra.” Shultz said she organizes the club’s many food, clothing and book drives. A longtime and tireless volunteer, Willis is always willing to step in and step up when and where needed and serves as Community Service Chairperson. She said, “I love working with the community and touching different aspects of it, from veterans to seniors and children.” Willis herself is a Marine Corps veteran and her late husband was a career Marine, serving 21 years. “When I joined Rotary in 2012, I was trying to find my way living in the valley,” Willis said. “My husband had just passed away so I had no family out here. I was working for Hilton and our jobs were outsourced so I was feeling kind of lost. I just want to thank everybody here because they took me in and we became not just fellow Rotarians but we became family. I’m just so humbled to receive this award.”

Willis was joined at the event by her longtime friend and fellow Rotarian Stacy Fifield, who is a member of the Indio chapter. The two met when both were serving their chapters as president in 2016. Willis, the mother of three, was also joined by one of her daughters, who is a teacher at Monte Vista Middle School in San Jacinto.

Rotary International’s mission is to “provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through our fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.”

The San Jacinto Rotary Club meets every Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. at Emilio’s Restaurant, 2340 S. San Jacinto Ave. Guests are always welcome. For more information, visit www.SanJacintoRotary.org or www.Rotary.com or call Dr. James Roeder at 951-306-0970.

Diane A. Rhodes