Red Cross honors for Santa Rosa man who helps others, cycles to raise funds

  • Matthew Nalywaiko is the volunteer director of Serve a Little. He also plans on riding 3 different 200-mile bike rides this summer. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Matthew Nalywaiko says every community has needs, but also possesses "the ability to meet those needs."

Nalywaiko is the volunteer director of Serve a Little, a 4-year-old group that encourages people to help those in need, especially single moms.

Help could mean fixing a toilet or replacing a light switch. About 75 percent of the group's work involves repairing and maintaining cars.

A few local mechanics donate their time to fix the women's vehicles. The clients often are referred by social service agencies. Serve a Little may be the county's only nonprofit that repairs cars, Nalywaiko said.

"Our main purpose is empowering the working single moms to keep going and to let them know they're not alone," he said.

Serve a Little has helped more than 250 families in nearly four years, he said. Over that time more than 100 people have volunteered to help others.

Nalywaiko, 31, a videographer, newlywed and graduate of Rohnert Park's Rancho Cotate High, was one of 10 people honored this spring at the Real Heroes Breakfast sponsored by the American Red Cross of Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties. He was selected from among 10 other nominees in the category of adult humanitarians, said Morna Fitterer, a Red Cross volunteer who helps manage the awards program.

In presenting Nalywaiko's award, Siri Nelson, a Sutter hospital administrator, told the breakfast crowd of more than 400 people: "Stories like Matthew's renew my hope in the human race."

Nalywaiko, who lives in Santa Rosa with his bride of eight months, Amanda, set his sights this summer on raising money for a new project: building a school for a village in Haiti.

He has raised funds by riding a series of 200-mile bicycle rides, often with his friend, Dan Sartin of Santa Rosa. The rides include the Santa Rosa Cycling Club's mountainous Terrible Two, which Nalywaiko finished in June in 15 hours, 51 minutes.

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