SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – In the holiday giving season, we’re inspired by the stories of the Bay Area’s quiet heroes.

From little league to special needs, from housing the homeless and health care—the Bay Area Jefferson Award winners never waver in their commitment to community. And they give us endless ideas for ways we can all get involved. Here is a look at some of the people who inspired us this year:

Winner Leslie Noel shares her passion for theatre by coaching East Bay children in acting and singing.

“I said, ‘I want to start an organization that helps young people find the biggest and best versions of themselves,” Noel told us.

The performances the children give through Leslie’s Peter Pan Foundation have raised tens of thousands of dollars for local charities.

Also in East Bay, Corinne Hindes and Katrine Kirsebom smashe the myth of the self-centered teenager, collecting warm winter clothes abandoned at ski resorts and distributing it to homeless shelters.

“I really like to walk down the street and see people wearing the things that we gave them,” Kirsebom explained.

“It’s wonderful to see their eyes light up when they get the clothes,” Hindes added.

Sometimes a service project takes off in ways their founders never imagined.

“It grew to something beyond my wildest dreams,” said Kathy Witkowicki of her non-profit organiation, Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance .

What she began as a reading tutor program has grown big, pairing hundreds of students with adult volunteer mentors.

And sometimes, the simplest ideas do enormous good. Cynthia Kang shares her kitchen skills at a San Francisco senior center, where she’s been feeding dozens of people every week for more than ten years.

“I love cooking, my passion is cooking and it’s kind of therapeutic for me,” Kang said. “When I see seniors being happy when they are served and they want… they come and get a second helping, it just makes me feel so satisfied.”

The drive to help people can draw a willing volunteer into improving lives around the world. For 23 years, Laura Escobosa has led Operation Rainbow, a non-profit organization that provides free orthopedic surgery to needy children in underdeveloped countries.

“In one operation they can change the life of a child,” Escobosa said.

That same drive to help can inspire a Good Samaritan to lend a hand in his own backyard.. or even garage! Herbert Lofton runs a men’s group that meets in the garage of his Oakland home. Dozens of men discuss the tough issues of life and steer younger members onto the right path.

“In this garage, you come with your shirt out,” Loftain said. “You’re free, you’re comfortable, and you can say anything you want.”

So wherever you find inspiration, consider getting involved. Donate, contribute, volunteer, share your expertise or your passion. And join us in the New Year for more stories of the Jefferson Awards for Public Service.

Here are the 2013 Bay Area Jefferson Award winners, with links to their programs, projects, and organizations:

Luby & Andy Aczel – The Specialists Guild
Wanda Alexander – ACT for Mental Health
Dr. Bhupinder Bhandari – 510-796-7796
Rachel Bisaillon – Square Peg Foundation
Sgt. Kevin Briggs – American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Phyllis Cecchettini – Janet Pomeroy Center
Mort Cohen – Golden Gate University School of Law
Keith Crawford – GiveLifeSaveLife
Sheryl Davis – Collective Impact
Betty DeForst – South Hayward Parish
Marge Early – The Thrift Station
Laura Escobosa – Operation Rainbow
Misty Felton & Vanessa Scott – Love Never Fails
Wilma Grant – Tara Hills Elementary School drama program
Erna Grasz – Asante Africa
Linda Gregory – Marin Foster Parent Association
Ann Griffiths – Peninsula Volunteers
Barbara Guidoti – Community Assistance for the Retarded and Handicapped (CAHR)
Bob Hammer – Have A Ball Foundation
Rhonda Harris – Veterans Resource Program email
Ann-Eve Hazen – First Graduate
Tyler Hofinga – National Kidney Foundation Northern California
Stacey Horowitz – Shopping for a Change
Dr. Elouise Joseph – All Stars Project bay Area
George Jurand – The Healing Circle
Corinne Hindes & Katrine Kirsebom – K&C Care:
Angela Louie Howard – Lotus Bloom Child & Family Resource Center
Cynthia Kang – The Doris Krauss Senior Center
Kathy Kramer – Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour
Michelle Lacourciere – Sirona Care
Herbert Lofton – Brother to Brother (website under construction)
Dr. Leticia Márquez-Magaña – Student Training & Outreach
Sylvia McLaughlin – Save the Bay
Zach Martinucci – Relay for Life
Kathleen Montgomery – Teacher Resource Center
Leslie Noel – The Peter Pan Foundation
Vic & Mary Ojakian –  Suicide is Preventable
Gianna Pendleton – 4-H Sonoma
John Perry – Westside Little League
Gail & Richad Pope – BrightHaven Healing Arts Center for Animals
Julien Rey – Bay Area Flash Mob
Daniel Senter – East Bay Children’s Law Office
Chaplain Lee Shaw – Law Enforcement Chaplaincy of Napa County
Mitch Sigman – School of Imagination
Dr. Daniel Tanita – on-campus dentistry for elementary schools
Janet Waring – St. Vincent de Paul and Order of Malta
Sister Ann Weltz – Bay Area Crisis Nursery
Vicki Sims Whitney – Sadie’s Haven
Kathy Wikowicki – Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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