Williamson couple chosen as Sonoma Valley Boys & Girls Clubs’ Sweethearts

For their legacy of giving back, Cathy and Chuck Williamson will be honored as the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Sweethearts at its annual gala and auction on Saturday, Feb. 11.|

Cathy and Chuck Williamson met on a blind date and have been sweethearts ever since. And now, as they celebrate their golden wedding anniversary, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley is joining in the love by naming them its official 2023 “Sweethearts.”

They will be honored at the Sweetheart Gala & Auction on Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Maxwell Clubhouse.

“Sweethearts aren’t just chosen because they write big checks,” said Michael Irvine, vice president of development and marketing for the club. “Most Sweethearts also give generously of their most valuable asset — their time. Cathy is a regular volunteer in the garden, both at our Maxwell Clubhouse and Teen Services. Cathy and Chuck also have generously hosted our teens for pizza parties at their home.”

Chuck said he is “surprised and delighted” by the honor.

“We are honored to be named Sweethearts and be associated with the BGCSV,” he said. “We are impressed with the leadership and commitment of [the club], making our Sweetheart recognition even more meaningful to us.”

The couple, who met while attending Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, moved to a home near Bartholomew Park in Sonoma in 2005. They soon volunteered to help Teen Services Sonoma, which provides job training, career resources, academic support, leadership, volunteerism and postsecondary preparedness for teenagers.

“We felt that teens needed a welcoming and constructive environment, and meaningful programs during their formative years,” Chuck said. “We initially supported the organization’s Ready to Work program and the build-out of the kitchen at the new facility.

“The Ready to Work program prepares students for their first job and has been terrifically successful. We feel strongly that the first job is so important in a teen’s life to build confidence and assume responsibility.”

In 2018, the couple was named the first Champions of Teen Services Sonoma for their continuous support to the organization’s leadership team. Chuck, who received a doctorate in geology from the University of Texas at Austin, had a long career in the oil and gas industry, and served as chairperson and director of several boards. He has applied his experience by providing coaching and mentoring as an informal adviser to the teen center and club’s leadership teams.

“I find that being an informal adviser and mentor is less threatening and more free-flowing than being a board member,” Chuck said.

Doug Hanford, a past teen services board member and current club board member, said Chuck and Cathy like to work behind the scenes to support “the less-noticed underdogs.”

“They quietly supported Teen Services for years, through its challenges,” he said. “I don’t think they ever declined a request for financial support, and preferred to remain anonymous. They also showed up to volunteer and came to all the events that recognized and honored teens.”

Teen Services merged with the club in March 2021 to improve the effectiveness of their programs.

“We are so pleased with the merger,” Chuck said. “We believe that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley is an essential part of the fabric of this community. Their programs reach so many kids and provide growth opportunities for all ages. As longtime supporters of Teen Services, we welcomed the merger and are so pleased with the expanded programs for teens at such a formative time in their lives. Both organizations are stronger for the combination.”

Chuck says he and Cathy are “all in” with helping the Boys & Girls Clubs since the merger.

“One of the most significant contributions they made to the club right away was to install a fence around the back perimeter of our garden,” said Cary Leigh Snowden, president and CEO of the club. “Obviously, their passion to expand the farm-to-table experience for our younger population was important to them. With the garden being open to the public and wildlife, it could not be sustained until now.”

Snowden says that the fence also helped to make the area safer.

“We had wanted a fence for years, but had not had the funding to install one,” she said. “It was truly a win-win all the way around. The children can now move around more safely out back in the enclosed area, and we can now have a garden so we can share the experience of growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables.”

Cathy, a Master Gardener and recipient of graduate degrees in nutrition, is providing support both on site and at her home.

“My background in nutrition inspired me to focus on growing food,” she said. “I grow hundreds of vegetable plants from seeds in my greenhouse, donating about half of them, including some to the [club].”

For all her efforts, she received BGCSV’s Star Volunteer Award this year.

Cathy and Chuck also assist the Sonoma Valley community by housing at least eight visiting performers with the Transcendence Theater Company each summer and by sponsoring the annual Authors on the Plaza event to extend to reach of the Sonoma Valley Authors Festival to those who can’t afford tickets.

Described by several friends and associates as soft-spoken and modest, they are particularly gratified when seeing the positive impact of their help.

“I think Chuck and Cathy like to smile,” said Judy Scotchmoor, a former Sonoma Teen Services board member and friend of the couple. “When you watch them at RTW graduations or at the Cowboy Cab fundraisers [the signature BSCSV events], they are watching the teens interacting with others and exhibiting a newly gained self-confidence. Seeing the success of our youth makes them smile.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley Sweetheart Gala & Auction

The Sweet & Savory Gala & Auction has been held annually since 1986 and is the Boy & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley’s main fundraiser, bringing in an average of $660,000 per year. This year’s auction items include a stay at The Stavrand Russian River Valley, recently named one of the 100 Best Hotels in the World by Travel & Leisure magazine; a three-night stay at Fairmont Mission Inn; and a 400-bottle collection from a local wine collector.

Date: Saturday, Feb. 11

Location: Maxwell Clubhouse, 100 W. Verano Ave., Sonoma

Program:

5 p.m.--Cocktail, reception and silent auction

7 p.m.--Dinner, Sweetheart presentation and live auction

9 p.m.--After-party with dancing plus sweet and savory treats

Sponsorships: Start at $1,500; for more information, contact mirvine@bgcssonoma.org

Tickets: $350 per person, available through BGCSV starting Thursday, Dec. 1

Reach the reporter, Dan Johnson, at daniel.johnson@sonomanews.com

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