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Meet DUSD Difference Makers and Passionate Volunteers Gloria Gregory and Deborah Yamasaki

May 15, 2015

The OneDublin.org series on “Difference Makers” continues by highlighting a pair of individuals that are making their presence felt in completely different ways. This should come as no surprise as the ongoing series of profiles has been an eye-opening experience. We will start at one end of the spectrum and then travel to another. Both individuals are worthy of a spotlight and their contributions are note worthy.

We will begin with a spotlight on Ms. Gloria Gregory. Gloria is the Executive Director of the community/faith based organization, CityServe. This group serves a multitude of civic and school organizations throughout the Tri-Valley. OneDublin.org met with Ms. Gregory in 2014 to discuss her “adoption” of Valley High School – DUSD’s continuation high school. This adoption took shape in many forms – including the establishment of a bi-monthly “Breakfast Club”, the support of a special screening of the film “When the Game Stands Tall” and the support of a Thanksgiving lunch for its students. The relationship established by Gloria and her colleagues at CityServe is special and demands to be recognized. We recently had the opportunity to discuss the nature of this connection between the two groups.

OneDublin.org:  Please help our readers understand the origins of your relationship with Valley High and how it has strengthened over the years.

Dublin Unified School District Difference Maker Gloria GregoryGloria Gregory: “In November of 2013, Dublin Councilman David Haubert contacted me to discuss ways he and the Dublin Rotary could partner with CityServe of the Tri-Valley to identify and meet needs of Dublin residents during the upcoming holiday season. The Dublin Rotary already had an established relationship with Valley High, and I became involved to help increase the assistance given to students and their families who could use some help. We increased the assistance by arranging for the families to receive Children’s Emergency Food Bank Christmas Distribution boxes for the holidays as well as an Adopt- A- Family program through Dublin churches and the community.

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“During that process I got to know Valley High counselor, Liz Buckley, and I asked her if there was a way CityServe could continue to help at the school beyond the holidays. She immediately told me they had once had budget to provide breakfasts for the students on Friday mornings but that budget item had been eliminated. She said those breakfasts increased attendance on Fridays and she felt it would be great if we could provide them; she said it could just be cold cereal and milk, etc. I put together a core volunteer team of 4 to begin providing Friday breakfasts every other week as of January 2014. We had fun planning breakfast casseroles, heart shaped pancakes for Valentine’s Day, smoothies, etc. At first the students were stand offish, but soon they loosened up, attendance grew, and we had even more fun seeing the wonderful way it turned into a great time of community for the students and faculty!

“Through this relationship with the students and faculty at Valley High, I and the CityServe core of volunteers who have been faithful on Friday mornings, Carolyn Wetmore and Janet Songey, developed real caring hearts for them! We have been able to connect community volunteers to coach the gardening club there as well as provide tutoring. Janet established a “CityServe Corner” in the library at Valley High and developed a Youth CityServe Newsletter that features community volunteer opportunities that fit the students’ schedules and abilities. We print it each month for the students and distribute it and talk about how they can help others with their time and talents. The newsletter is posted on our website monthly.

“Last August, after viewing the film, “When the Game Stands Tall” (the inspirational story of Concord’s De La Salle football team), I immediately thought it would be a great experience for the students to take a theater field trip to see the film together. Liz Buckley and the principal and faculty at Valley High responded with much enthusiasm. With the financial partnership of then-Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti and now Dublin Mayor David Haubert, we at CityServe were able to give 70 students and faculty the gift of visiting Hacienda Theaters on a Friday morning in early September to see the film! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the film’s message and the group experience, and the teachers used the relationship and individual responsibility lessons learned from the film in class projects. We have established a special bond with Valley High; the students and faculty are always high on the list in our hearts and minds and we look for new ways to help and encourage them!”

OneDublin.org:  The Friday morning breakfast program has become somewhat of an institution at VHS.  Please explain why CityServe continues to support this initiative and feel free to shine a light on your “army” of volunteers.

Gregory: “In January 2015 the Valley High Breakfast effort reached new levels! In December I had shared in a group some details about the breakfasts, and Jan Kinzel, a Dublin resident, responded that she would be interested in learning more. After the first of the year I called Jan, and I took her to Valley High to meet Liz and the team there. Jan loves to plan menus, cook, and design a beautiful presentation of meals. Before I knew it she had planned all the details for exceptional breakfasts to last through the school year including: potato crusted ham and cheese quiches, potato crusted quiche Florentine, delicious breakfast pizza, McDragon breakfast sandwiches (Valley High’s mascot is the Dragons), and puffy French toast!

“Now, a group of 6-10 volunteers gather every other Thursday at Jan’s home in Dublin to prepare a gourmet breakfast to be served at Valley High the next morning. The group includes folks from St. Philip Lutheran Church as led by Vonnie Carlsen and Denyse Blasdell, friends of Jan’s who travel from Livermore to participate, and Jan’s Dublin friends and neighbors! It is a fun time of fellowship that we all look forward to!”

OneDublin.org: When we last met, it was at the Dublin Blvd. Safeway where you were supporting a food collection effort in conjunction with Boy Scout Troop 905.  Your energy is seemingly boundless.  Kindly articulate how and why you continue to seek out opportunities to support our community.

Gregory: “Over the last seven years since starting the CityServe of the Tri-Valley work, I’ve been given a gift of opportunity to focus on ways to facilitate meeting human service needs locally. The work began through the vision of one church desiring to encourage members to connect with non-profits to community volunteer needs. Through the years it has evolved into not only increasing community volunteer participation among the now 19 supporting churches (over 32,000 hours of volunteer work was logged through them in 2014), but also into a 501(c)3 non-profit serving the Tri-Valley in many ways. Those ways include bi-monthly CityServe Community Meetings that create increased effectiveness and collaboration between the faith-based community, non-profits, schools, businesses, and government agencies, a website (www.cityservetrivalley.org) that is one of the most comprehensive data bases of resources for human services needs solutions as well as listing current volunteer needs in our communities.

“Just as our relationship with Valley High has opened many opportunities to help meet specific individual and family needs, so have our relationships with the Livermore and Pleasanton School Districts, our local cities’ human services and housing focused staff members, as well as numerous non-profits and churches. Our all volunteer staff at the CityServe office is often the hub for connecting several resources to meet the needs of a single mom needing auto repairs, an unemployed veteran living in his inoperable car, a senior woman living part time in motels and part time in her vehicle, or a family in need of help with motel costs due to a bed bug infestation. We are filling a gap not covered by existing services!

“The stories and opportunities are endless! Leading an organization that can serve our communities as a significant resource and will fill such a gap is a wonderful opportunity and one of the best ways I can imagine to use my time and energy. I believe God created each of us to be a help to others. I’m very thankful to be given such an important role in our communities to play a part in doing just that!”

So, this now moves us to explore volunteer Deborah Yamasaki at Frederiksen Elementary School. Deborah attained a B.A in Occupational Therapy, Psychology and Child Development from San Jose State University. She and her family transplanted to Dublin from Albany. She currently serves as an Occupation Therapist for California Child Services at Bay Elementary School in San Lorenzo. She is the mother to a 6 year old (Gavin) and a 2 year old (Declan). As a parent of a kindergartener, Ms. Yamasaki is at the dawn of her school volunteer years. Yet, she has embraced this opportunity and she was willing to share her views. OneDublin.org recently sat down with her and her comments were very enlightening.

OneDublin.org: You arrived at Frederiksen as the parent of a kinder last year and with no previous experience as a volunteer.  Please share how you came to become involved (Talent Show?). 

Dublin Unified School District Difference Maker Deborah YamasakiDeborah Yamasaki: “I began by attending all the PFC meetings to find out about what is happening at Frederiksen and to meet the people who were in charge of the multitude of events that are provided in the school.  I attended a few events such as the Frederiksen Fun Run, Kindergarten Pumpkin Patch and Bedtime Books. I was very pleased with how smoothly events were done and how much enjoyment my son received out of these extracurricular events. I also did a presentation on Japanese culture in my son’s kindergarten classroom and the direct feedback from almost every student in the class was incredibly positive and it showed that I made a direct impact on the students.  It made me want to be part of making kids happy and be proud to be part of Frederiksen School.   I was unsure of how the various events are coordinated until I directly participated. I tentatively offered to be a volunteer for the Talent Show because PFC was asking for volunteers and it sounded like a fun event. I thought that I could be a productive volunteer and share some of my background in the performing arts.”

OneDublin.org: You took on the role of Volunteer Coordinator.  What other events have you assisted with throughout the year and in what capacity?

Yamasaki: “I appointed myself Volunteer Coordinator for the Talent Show because I wanted to best support the gracious, organized, and incredibly selfless person who took on the main responsibility (Melissa Richardson. Melissa is a part-time teacher @ Frederiksen and has twin girls in the 1st grade.)  Since I could not personally attend many of the rehearsals, I wanted to be sure there was coverage for all the jobs/responsibilities and to have smoothly running show/rehearsals.  I offered whatever help I could do, such as designing the program and assigning jobs and logistics. I also volunteered with the kindergarten Pumpkin Patch (leading students from one activity/classroom to the next), blew bubbles for the Frederiksen Fun Run, and was the school mascot for the St Patrick’s Day Parade.”

OneDublin.org: During our conversation, you had mentioned that one of the benefits of volunteering is the opportunity to get to know parents of children in multiple grade levels.  Why is this important?

Yamasaki: “I want my son to be proud to be a Frederiksen Panther. I also want him to see that I am proud of being part of the Frederiksen community.  In order to create a strong sense of community, we have to know each other, have communication, and direction.  A community needs a strong leader and willing participants.  Claire Mognaga is a great leader for our school and I want to support her leadership.  I felt that participating in the talent show was a way to interact with both the leadership and the participants of our Frederiksen community. It was wonderful to participate in the Talent show because there was a great deal of one-on-one interaction between the volunteers and the kids/parents who participated.  That created an amazing sense of belonging and to be part of something that was important.  Not only were the children and parents personally vested in being part of the event, it was also an ongoing positive feedback experience for the students. Many students were recognized as having “talent” or being “famous” at school because they were participants.  Those are the experiences that last lifetimes and create a sense of belonging.”

OneDublin.org: Your personality is one that is very cheery and outgoing. However, there may be other volunteer prospects out there that have a desire to help out, but do not know where to start. How would you advise them to become involved?

Yamasaki: “I would have them get on the PFC website. There are tons of opportunities and even the smallest commitment of time is sincerely appreciated.”

OneDublin.org: As a somewhat recent transplant from Albany, how do you view the rapid enrollment growth at Frederiksen and throughout DUSD?

Yamasaki: “Growth in the Dublin area is almost unbelievable to me. I grew up in a small town with mostly the same kids from elementary to high school.  I just imagine the overwhelming pressure and workload there is for the teachers and administration with constantly full classes. I like to be involved so I will get a heads up as to what to expect for the future. I cannot even picture what it will be like for my son in 9 years when he is in high school.”

OneDublin.org: How can you foresee your role as a parent supporter expanding in the next couple of years?

Yamasaki: “I enjoy being a liaison for parents to ask what to do and for me to delegate from their feedback. Many parents hesitate to volunteer due to time and/or commitment issues. I have found that if the parent only has very limited time available, they will not offer.  Since I work part-time, I understand their predicament. I feel that once people know what is needed and they could help, they step up. Creating those opportunities is key. Because once you are involved, it gets easier to do more activities. And appreciating the effort no matter how large or small, it is important. I hope to learn more and participate in community building volunteer opportunities in the future.”

So, we have shared a profile on two volunteers that span generations. It is a gentle reminder that one can volunteer at any age. More importantly, it highlights the importance of doing so and the positive feeling that is experienced by putting oneself forward. OneDublin.org salutes the continuing efforts by both Gloria Gregory and Deborah Yamasaki. We appreciate everything that you do.

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