Peggy Edwards, Suzon Gerstel and Linda Hafizi.
Below are the biographies of three volunteers up for the Man and Woman of the Year award. Each one deserves recognition for the work they do. We will feature three nominees every day this week.
16 Peggy Edwards
Peggy Edwards has been devoted to service clubs and social service in the Santa Clarita Valley for the past 17 years. She has been a member of the Zonta Club for 11 years, where she has served as president, co-chaired the Zonta Roast and the Status-of-Women Community Awards, and worked with the Healthy Kids Club Scholarship and Long-Range Planning. Nominated by the Samuel Dixon Family Health Center, she has been a member of the board since 2002, serving as secretary (2004-06), and has conducted Board Retreats in 2000 and 2003 as part of strategic planning efforts. In the past year, she has served on the board’s executive committee, and is the treasurer. For the Santa Clarita Valley Resource Center, she initiated the Community Facilitator Training, which has provided mentoring to non-profit groups for the past seven years. She has served the SCV Child & Family Center as a Foundation board member for nine years, and served on the "Taste of the Town" committee. She has also donated her time to the Voluntary Mediation Service for 10 years, mediating community disputes. She has been a member of the College of the Canyons Library Associates Executive Committee for 10 years, was program chair of the COC Women's Conference in 1997, and was conference co-chair in 1998. She has been a member of Women-to-Women International where she has been a board member since 1995. She served on the board of the American Association of University Women for nine years (1990-98). She led the AAUW in researching and writing a “white paper” on the negative impacts of the then-proposed Elsmere Canyon disposal complex. Since 1998, she has worked with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and was a member of the Cuba Action Steering Committee. She served as a facilitator for the U.S. Delegation to the International Women's Conference in Havana, Cuba in 1998. In 1999, she became a founding member of the U.S.-Cuba Sister Cities Association. Outside the Santa Clarita Valley, she has been serving since the mid-'70s with P.E.O. (an international women's education and philanthropic organization), and in 1978-80 she served the California Women in Government as its chair.
17 Suzon Gerstel
Suzon Gerstel is doing probably more than any other individual in the Santa Clarita Valley to support America's military troops. Through prayer, cards, letters, care packages and special community events, she generates support not only for troops in battle, but veterans and wounded war heroes. Suzon is the co-founder and head of Prayer Angels for the Military, a volunteer group that supports America's fighting men and women. She founded the group three years ago after working with Blue Star Mothers of America. Suzon is a Marine mother with children still at home, and holds down a full-time job. All her efforts for Prayer Angels for the Military are done in her spare time. She planned the Santa Clarita's Veterans Day event last year at the Veterans Historical Plaza all by herself, making calls during her breaks and lunch hours. She single-handedly organized Santa Clarita's second annual Heroes' Day, a 9/11 remembrance and a thank-you barbecue for firefighters, law enforcement and the military. She includes in her events local schoolchildren, Community Center kids, and Girls Scouts. Over the last four years, she has arranged to have the Boys & Girls Club members make holiday cards and wrap care packages for deployed troops, for veterans and for the wounded in hospitals. Her group has decorated a Christmas tree for the Boys & Girls Club "Festival of the Trees." She organized Operation Popcorn where schoolchildren brought in microwave packs and wrapped them with notes for the troops; and Operation Treats for Troops, where kids shared their Halloween candy with the soldiers; Operation Foot Patrol for citizens to donate foot powder, sock, insoles and Tinactin to the front lines. Next will be Operation Forget-Me-Not, an Easter mailing to the deployed soldiers. She also worked with the L.A. Dept of Water & Power to display a huge board to support troops of employee families. She has also initiated care packages that are sent to family members who have lost a soldier, saying that they are being prayed for and they will not be forgotten. When donations are low, Suzon spends her own money on care packages. She has postponed surgery on herself twice to avoid missing fundraising events. She found time to host the wartime romance musical benefiting the Veterans Historical Plaza. She assists with the annual Marines Toys-for-Tots event at Knott's Berry Farm. And she organized the making and mailing of Valentine cards to deployed troops, wounded troops and veterans, which reached over 2500 American servicemen and women around the world.
18 Linda Hafizi
Linda Hafizi is a 21-year resident of the Santa Clarita Valley and is co-owner and editor of The Magazine of Santa Clarita and of Elite Magazine Santa Clarita. For the past two decades she has contributed her time, expertise and professional skills to help the Santa Clarita Valley. She served six years on the board of the Betty Ferguson Foundation. She is a board member of the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Health Foundation, and is currently on the advisory board of the Michael Hoefflin Foundation. She has been particularly active with the SCV Child & Family Center where she serves as a member of the Center's Foundation board. Along with her husband Moe, she sponsored the gala "Sunset by the Lake" fundraiser last September which raised $127,000 for the Center. In 1998 Linda won the Small Business Award presented by the SCV Chamber of Commerce. She was the recipient of both the "Women of Distinction Award" and the "Advancing the Status of Women Award" from Soroptimist International Santa Clarita. As "Roastee" of the annual Zonta Roast in 2005 she helped raise thousands of dollars for the Zonta Club. Last year was awarded the Betty Ferguson "Woman of Honor" award at a gala fundraising banquet that raised thousand of dollars for the Foundation. She and her husband are corporate sponsors of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, donating $15,000 to the Emergency Room. Apart from her personal volunteer work, she donates through her magazines more than $100,000 in advertising space each year to help more than 25 charitable organizations and service clubs throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.
The official 2007 Man and Woman of the Year will be named at the 40th Annual Recognition Dinner to be held Friday, May 4, 2007, in the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Valencia Hotel. The event will pay tribute to the top volunteers in Santa Clarita Valley and to past award recipients. It will benefit a number of charities and will include dinner, a multi-media presentation and the recognition ceremony.