Santa Rosa’s Los Cien creates ‘bridge builder’ and other awards

Latino Life

Read more stories celebrating the local Latino community


Nohemi Palomino is the “go-to” leader in Roseland, one of the “Mamas con Ganas” known for persevering and fiercely focusing to bring an idea into action. Among them was the Mochilada en Roseland, a backpack giveaway she helped spearhead that over the past four years has dispersed 400 backpacks full of school supplies, as well as 200 bikes and helmets, to needy kids in the southwest Santa Rosa area.

In her capacity as a community leader, Ana Lugo has frequently bridged critical gaps between the immigrant community and local government. During the October 2017 firestorms she drove a Spanish-language town hall meeting pushing for federal, state and local governments to provide appropriate services to immigrants who didn’t qualify for fire relief resources because of their immigration status.

Sandra Valencia, client services director for the Community Child Care Council of Sonoma County, for years has worked one on one with families to help them access state subsidized preschool or child care voucher programs.

All three of these women have been tenacious bridge builders between the Latino community and the broader community in Sonoma County. They are finalists for the Puente or Bridge Award, a new community service award created by Los Cien of Sonoma County to honor people who have served and advocated for the Latino community.

The organization will also confer a Ganas Award recognizing extraordinary effort on behalf of the community and a Campeon or Champion award for an organization or individuals who have been exceptional champions of the Latino community.

“There are a lot of community members and organizers reaching out beyond themselves and their day-to-day normal activities, and we wanted to really recognize their work,” said Magali Telles, the new executive director for Los Cien, Sonoma County’s leading Latino advocacy group. The organization is dedicated to encouraging civic involvement among Latinos by providing a platform for discussion of pressing issues as well as facilitating communication with political, civic and business leaders.

The new awards program furthers that with a show of recognition, encouragement and example, she said.

Los Cien will hand out the three new civic engagement awards at a special community “Puente & Ganas Awards” breakfast on Friday at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. The public is invited to attend the event, which includes an authentic Oaxacan breakfast catered by Sonoma County restaurateurs by Pedro and Octavio Diaz, who specialize in the fresh flavors of their home in the Valle Central along the base of the rugged Sierra Madre. Word is their mother, Juana Ramirez, who inspired their love of cooking, will be on hand making fresh, handmade tortillas and salsa.

There will also be mariachi music provided by students of the Luther Burbank Center Mariachi Ensemble, a group of 31 students that performs locally under the direction of Jose Soto. Tickets for the 7-9 a.m. event, which Los Cien hopes to do on an annual basis, are $50 or $750 for a table (

Nominations for the Puente and the Ganas awards came in from the community at large, said Paco Cano, who is one of the founding volunteers with Los Cien and who is on the committee that selected the finalists from the eight to nine submissions that came from the community at large for each award.

The Campeon award will be decided by the 13-member Los Cien board of directors headed by founder Herman J. Hernandez.

Cano said he believes it is important to acknowledge people’s efforts to make a difference in their community, particularly volunteers who may never receive special notice. And Telles said Los Cien hopes it will also serve as an inspiration and example to other people in the community.

“Some people want to become involved, but they don’t know how,” she said. “Hopefully this will serve as a motivating platform, especially for younger people just getting started out in their communities, showing how they can get involved and make a difference.”

Selected as a finalist for the Puente Award were Valencia, Lugo and Palomino.

Valencia, who has worked 23 years for the Community Child Care Council of Sonoma County, was picked to serve as an Outreach Specialist under a two-year Santa Rosa Violence Prevention Choice Grant.

She proactively targeted potential families in person in culturally appropriate ways using their home languages, with the goal of enrolling low-income children in preschool programs and connecting high-need families with resources. Her efforts led to increased enrollment of Latinos in “4Cs” schools. She also helped form partnerships with the health community and among the youngest students, parents and teachers at Roseland Elementary School.

Lugo worked with the Recovery & Resiliency to bring local leaders and organizations like Los Cien together with government officials to ensure that there would be equity within the plan.

Palomino, a mother of four, has served as a role model for parents, both Latino and non-Latino, for her volunteerism and civic engagement. Seeing the need for school supplies, she marshaled support from a small group of local parents and elected officials to raise funds for backpacks and supplies in 2016. The group expects to give out more than 300 this August.

Nominated for the Ganas or Effort award are Jenn Del Rosario, community relations coordinator for Roseland Collegiate and University Prep schools; Gabriela Bernal Leroi, CEO of Santa Rosa Community Health, and the organization ?10,000 Degrees, a group that aims to help students and families from low-income households advance to college through advising and scholarships.

Finalists for the Campeon or Champion Awards are: KBBF Radio, the Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County and Tony Crabb and Barbara Grasseschi.

Latino Life

Read more stories celebrating the local Latino community


UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine