Individuals, orgs among Tall Tree awardees

Winter Dellenbach, Jim Shelby, Presidio Bank and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital to be honored for community work

Four dedicated individuals and organizations that have focused on affordable housing, community health, educational excellence and helping those who struggle will be honored at the 2017 Tall Tree awards on May 16 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Palo Alto.

• View a photo album from the May 16 awards ceremony here.

The 38th annual event, which is sponsored by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the Palo Alto Weekly, recognizes the outstanding contributions and service to the community by two individuals, one business and a nonprofit organization. This year's awardees are Winter Dellenbach, Jim Shelby, Presidio Bank and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. In addition, a Global Impact Award winner, honored for work that has made a lasting impact beyond Palo Alto, will be announced on March 24.

Dellenbach, a longtime Barron Park resident, is receiving the award for Outstanding Citizen Volunteer. She has been instrumental in advocating for the preservation of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto, home to nearly 400 low-income residents, including many children and Latino immigrants.

As an attorney, she previously worked in public interest law for Legal Aid and the Midpeninsula Citizens for Fair Housing. To help Buena Vista's residents, she founded Friends of Buena Vista to rally Palo Alto residents, community organizations, school and church groups on the mobile-home park residents' behalf.

"Winter worked tirelessly to preserve the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park since its potential closure was announced in 2012," Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian wrote in a letter supporting her nomination. "She has been indefatigable and effective."

Gail Price, former Palo Alto City Council and Palo Alto Unified School District school board member, complimented Dellenbach for being "focused, well-informed and persuasive."

"Twelve years ago, I met Winter when she was educating the Palo Alto school board about the negative health and environmental impacts of using herbicides/pesticides on school sites. She advocated for stopping such practices," said Price, who also worked with Dellenbach in different capacities through the years.

Dellenbach's activism dates back to early protests against the Vietnam War and helping draft resisters. In addition to her efforts on behalf of Buena Vista and school campuses, she conducted a two-year study of the city's use of planned-community (PC) zoning and public benefits, which resulted in a call to reform both. She also led a successful effort to save Deer Meadow in the Palo Alto foothills from development, noted Judith Steiner, who nominated Dellenbach.

This year's recipient of the Outstanding Professional/Business Person award is longtime Gunn High School drama teacher Jim Shelby.

At Gunn since 1983, Shelby is known for drawing out the creativity and professionalism in his students and productions. Many of his students have continued in professional theater, Dev Rose, a longtime colleague, said in a nominating letter.

"He is a thoughtful, caring and inspiring teacher. Jim is a tireless individual who leaves me in awe at his ability to encourage his students to constantly grow in new directions," she wrote.

Former student Ella Cooley said Shelby constantly challenged her sense of possibility.

"I was a young high school girl, and Shelby cast me as the grandfatherly shepherd in Shakespeare's 'The Winter's Tale.' I was a young mixed-race brown girl, and he cast me as an old English patriarch in a scene from Pinter's 'The Homecoming.' I was a young girl searching for answers as to what it meant to be female in our society, and he cast me as Petruchio in a scene from 'The Taming of the Shrew'; he cast himself as Kate.

"He challenged assumptions and invited you to do the same by creating conditions within which you were free to lose yourself in exploration," she said.

Jenni Putney, a former student and professional actor in New York City, named a theater group, The Shelby Company Theatre, after her former teacher.

"My classmates and I were empowered to dive into the arts and figure out how we could have an impact on the world for good. ... I have never had a teacher like Shelby, who created such a positive and inspiring environment in which students could thrive," she said in a nominating letter.

Helping children thrive has been the mission of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, and this year's award for Outstanding Nonprofit coincides with the organization's 25th anniversary and the completion of its expansion this year.

In fiscal year 2016, Packard Hospital provided nearly $206 million in community-benefit services, including more than $185 million in under-compensated medical costs to government-covered patients and $2.8 million for community health-improvement services such as an adolescent mental wellness conference, child-safety programs and community health education.

The hospital is a founding partner of the Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto and a contributor to Palo Alto's Mayview Clinic, both of which offer services to low-income individuals and families.

Packard developed a medical coalition, the HEARD Alliance, after the suicide clusters in Palo Alto schools and offered free services to help with community efforts through Project Safety Net. It has also created bike helmet and child-passenger safety programs to prevent pediatric injuries.

Presidio Bank, this year's Outstanding Business award winner, supports many local nonprofit groups.

Committed to working with charitable organizations, the bank has introduced its nonprofit clients to shareholders at its annual meetings, featured the organizations in advertising and donated through its Community Values CD, according to Julie Jerome, vice-chair of development for the Palo Alto nonprofit Environmental Volunteers, who nominated the bank.

The bank has donated to Abilities United, Achieve Kids, Adolescent Counseling Services, Children's Pre-School Center, Mid-Peninsula Boys and Girls Club, the Palo Alto Housing Foundation and other organizations. All branch employees serve on local boards and subcommittees, noted Philippe Rey, executive director of the nonprofit Adolescent Counseling Services, in a nominating letter.

"Their passion and dedication to all residents of the communities they service set them out as an example to the business community. ... The entire personnel cares and spends time learning about what is going on in the community and how they can help personally or advocate on behalf of nonprofits or private citizens who might be struggling," he said.

More information about the Tall Tree Awards, including ticket information, can be found at


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2 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2017 at 1:11 pm

[Post removed.]

8 people like this
Posted by Congratulations, Jim Shelby!
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Jim Shelby is extraordinary. Gunn's shows are always high quality. He consistently draws the best possible performance from every member of his cast and crew. More importantly, he builds a community within the theatre group that is thoughtful and caring. Deep friendships grow there. He teaches the values of hard work, consideration, tolerance, etiquette, kindness, and the discipline of being a true friend...the list is endless. His passion for theatre is powerful and inspiring. His theatre is an exciting and friendly place for actors, writers, and theatre tech artists to work, take risks, and flourish creatively.

Hurray, Mr. Shelby! It is so good to see your great work recognized. And thank you (and your tech partner, Kristen Lo) for an exceptional theatre program. YOU are a gift to Gunn students!

Like this comment
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2017 at 8:59 pm

[Post removed.]

5 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2017 at 10:51 pm

I've never had the pleasure of meeting Winter Dellenbach, but definitely had the pleasure of Jim Shelby as a fellow teacher at Gunn, and he richly deserves this award--not only as a colleague who loaned me his little theatre as a classroom one spring, created a role in a play I'd written, joined several other teachers and my E Period kids one semester for a weeklong reading of "Death of a Salesman," and loaned me props and costumes for classroom projects, but as someone who has chosen daring material for school productions, shown a tireless commitment to Shakespeare, taught his fellow teachers classroom ice-breakers to do with students, regularly given his all to the choir show, and has done all this with a warmth that draws people to him and generates excitement around his projects. Maybe most important of all, Jim has given decades of "theatre rats" or "misfits" or "gypsies" or whatever you want to call them--including "delightfully creative kids"--a sense of haven and belonging on campus.

2 people like this
Posted by Kevin Rains on The Parade
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2017 at 10:57 pm

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Lydia Kou
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2017 at 11:37 pm

Congratulations to ALL! Thank you for all the great work you have done, your passion shows and this award is very deserving.

1 person likes this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 18, 2017 at 10:15 am

Congratulations to Winter and the other awardees.
While many are aware that she has played a lead role in the initiative to protect the families at Buena Vista, fewer know of the tireless extent of those efforts over the past four years and of her career as a legal and social advocate for affordable housing. As our region struggles to maintain social and economic balance, the need for more of us to support that work has become increasingly important.

3 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2017 at 11:36 am

What a wonderful thing to read. This year's recognition is going to inspirational people and organizations.

Congratulations especially to Winter Dellenbach and Jim Shelby on their personal tenacity and contributions.

1 person likes this
Posted by Wonderful people doing good work. So nice to see them recognized..
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 18, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Jim Shelby is extraordinary. My daughter loves the theatre program at Gunn. It has been a highlight of her Gunn experience. Thank you, Jim, for creating a first-rate program and for making it so warm and welcoming!

I also want to thank Winter for her important work on affordable housing. It takes a village...

It is very nice to start my weekend with news that these good folks are being recognized. Thanks PA Weekly for shining a light of Palo Alto's bright spots.

3 people like this
Posted by Enid Pearson
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Congrationlations to two very deserving people for the Tall Tree Awards. I have known Winter since I was on the
Council during 70's when as a young woman she stood before our council and testified eloquently for her cause.
She continues to be a force in Palo Alto. Jim Shelby is an outstanding teacher in Palo Alto whom I have also known
for a number of years. His positive influence on children is outstanding and his presence makes our school district
one of ther best.

4 people like this
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2017 at 12:18 pm

What we have here are PA liberals congratulating other PA liberals. If it were only that, no problem. However, it is also about pushing a liberal agenda, directed by Bill Johnson, not just applause. Winter could care less about the property rights of the Jissers at the trailer park they OWN. Why? Because she has her 'cause', which trumps such rights.

12 people like this
Posted by Don't State Opinion as Fact Kevin
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 19, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Kevin - Winter didn't write the law that dictates the process for closing mobile home parks. Winter didn't play any part in the adoption of the laws. Winter hasn't said the Jissers don't have rights as the property owners and Winter hasn't said the Jissers aren't entitled to profit off of their investment.

So what did Winter do? She helped the residents of the mobile home park organize (the Jissers were organized as a businsss). She helped the residents obtain legal representation to advocate for their rights (just like the Jissers did with their attorneys). She brought visibility to the issues surrounding the potential sale and she forced a conversation to take place that took everyone's rights and desires into account.

Do you believe a property owners has the right to trump (no pun intended) state law? Do you believe that people shouldn't be allowed to to use any/all legal means at their disposal to ensure that their rights are taken into account?

I support the Jissers right to sell their property for as much as they possibly can through following the process for closing the park. I also recognize that the residents have rights and I applaud their effort in sticking up for themselves.

2 people like this
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2017 at 2:02 pm

@ Don't State: You simplify a long story, in which the Jissers complied with relevant state laws, and the City hired a legal opinion, which set a settlement. That settlement didn't satisfy Winter, so she and several other liberals with causes (like Joe Simitian) forced their way into the mix with ethereal pots of money to force the Jissers into a public taking of their property. Didn't work.

So now, Winter gets her applause, and Bill Johnson gets to look like he is saving poor families. Neither of them like to mention how much money this has cost our City, including loss of property taxes, and how much more we will be forced to pay going forward.

The bottom line is that the 'Tall Trees Award' is political theatre, directed by Bill Johnson. Pretty clever, on his part. But some of us can still see through the fog.

Like this comment
Posted by Tania Goldszmidt
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 19, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Congratulations Jim Shelby and Thank You for your talent, heart and hard working dedication as a teacher and Theater Director. The outstanding community of Theater Students you have nurtured and inspired are the best testament to the quality of the work you, and of course your Tech partner Ms K Lo, do every day.

As the conversations continue around the need for SEL, the value of going beyond STEM and supporting alternative avenues of success, your work with the Gunn Theater Program is the best example for what truly makes a difference and how to do it well. Your students are given the opportunity to work together creatively bringing to the stage complex, big and small productions; where you empower them to try their hand and explore so many different facets: Directing, Writing, Constructing Sets, Publicity & Marketing, Managing the Logistics of a Production and developing characters by going deep into the humanity behind the written words.

Having observed the challenging conditions under which you and your students work with an aging, crumbling infrastructure and a poorly funded program, I think you may also be deserving of the "Magician Award".

Looking forward to enjoy your Music Man at the amazing new Paly PAC this April 19-23

5 people like this
Posted by Truth Teller
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 19, 2017 at 3:52 pm


You may want to research a bit before you speak. The Tall Tree Awards are selected by a committee made up of all the previous winners, which works hard to solicit and vet the nominations that are made. In your rush to attribute some type of liberal conspiracy to them, you might also consider that Richard Peery received a Tall Tree Award last year. His conservative political views are well-known. You really shouldn't just make up stuff to meet your own agenda.

5 people like this
Posted by Don't State Opinion as Fact Kevin
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 19, 2017 at 5:32 pm

Kevin -

The story of Buena Vista is still being written. It's a story that's taken many twists and turns and we're now building to the dramatic ending. Will the owner ride off into the sunset with his bag of money and bruised ego? Will the residents overplay their current position and pursue a course that turns public opinion away from them? Will the money and special interests on both sides continue to push this up through the courts? We'll need to stay tuned to see how it ends.

You tell us that the owner put together a settlement package. You also tell us that the city accepted it. What you fail to mention is that the residents (not just Winter and Joe Simitian) didn't agree with the settlement so they chose to take the matter to court. You also failed to mention that the court ruled in favor of the residents. Was it wrong of the residents to take this to court? Was the presiding Judge part of the liberal conspiracy? Could it be possible that maybe the only fog that needs clearing is the fog you've created to hide the half of the story you choose to ignore?

Like this comment
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2017 at 1:29 pm

[Post removed.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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