La Luz Center joins local luminaries such as Becoming Independent and the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance by earning a local Jefferson Award. The award, given for excellence in community leadership and civic engagement, will be presented during a countywide event on Nov. 5.

“I felt humbled and honored,” said La Luz Center’s Executive Director Juan Hernandez. “I reflected on what this award really means. What it means is the work and vision of Ligia Booker, which began back in 1982 to serve the community, has finally been recognized throughout Sonoma County and the Bay Area. It is an honor for our board and staff to be able to continue the vision and work in the Springs and Sonoma Valley community.”

The national Jefferson Award for Public Service was launched in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Sen. Robert Taft, Jr. and Sam Beard, to recognize unsung heroes for their contributions as public servants or volunteers. Over the years, national Jefferson Awards have been presented to the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Walter Cronkite and Bob Hope. Shortly after the national award was established, 90 communities created their own, local versions of the award. Here in Sonoma County, anyone can nominate a person or organization that deserves recognition, recommendations that the Board of Supervisors reviews before selecting each year’s recipients.

“La Luz has garnered an excellent reputation for both the quality and quantity of the services provided as the primary resource in Sonoma Valley for disadvantaged families,” said First District Supervisor Susan Gorin, whose district aide, Jennifer Gray, nominated La Luz for the honor. “The positive impact they have made as the ‘go to’ place in the community for help in managing and improving their lives is remarkable. It is my pleasure to support La Luz and an honor to work beside them.”

Other local recipients included Jesús Guzmán, who works with the Graton Day Labor Center to protect fair wages and safe working conditions; the Northern California Center for Well-Being, which provides health resources; Russian Riverkeeper, which promotes the protection of the ecological health of Sonoma’s largest river; and the Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which fundraises for a diverse range of special needs in the Russian River area. All of the local award winners will go on to the regional competition in January, which will include recipients from all over the Bay Area. Hosted by CBS San Francisco, one regional Jefferson Award winner will be selected to compete against all other regional winners in the country for a place as a national Jefferson Award winner.

La Luz Center offers and organizes a wide variety of resources for Valley residents, from healthy cooking classes and English language lessons, to legal assistance and help with citizenship documents. Several members of the board and staff at La Luz will attend the Nov. 5 awards ceremony.

They then plan to display the award in Booker Hall, Hernandez said.