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 paloaltochamber.com.