2023 Volunteers of the Year

The Board of Supervisors would like to thank all our volunteers for their work in our community, for their outstanding service to County departments, and for serving the residents of San Diego County.

In recognition and appreciation of their volunteer service, below you will find this year’s recipients of the Volunteer of the Year award and their accomplishments.

For Fiscal Year 2021-2022, the County utilized 7,670 volunteers providing a value to the County of San Diego of $23,729,006.60. Behind these numbers are volunteers like you who give their priceless gift of time and talent to enhance the services provided to the residents of San Diego County. 


Michael Kirkeby, Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk, District 3

Michael is the longest serving volunteer for the Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk’s Office with over 11 years of service performing civil wedding ceremonies. "Mr. Mike," as the staff like to call him, is known for his upbeat attitude and cheery disposition. The department is very grateful for his commitment and is honored to have him be part of the ARCC team. He was featured in a news story by NBC San Diego for conducting wedding ceremonies during a rainy and windy Valentine’s Day this year. To date, this fiscal year alone, Mike has conducted 126 wedding ceremonies!


Erica Henke, Animal Services, District 2

Erica enhances the lives of the dogs by working with them hands-on every week. By working with dogs outside of their kennels, Erica helps reduce their stress, teaches them manners, and helps staff evaluate the dog’s temperament. She also provides the extra love and care the dogs long for. Erica is one of the Mentor Volunteers and takes great pride in training new volunteers to interact, engage and walk dogs. She is extremely skilled, patient and measured when working with the new volunteers.

This past year, Erica assisted at many county-wide adoption events. She helps with the promotion, set up, clean up and dog handling. She is a dedicated, hardworking, and positive volunteer. She has contributed over 150 hours of volunteer service since July 2022. 


The District 5 Community Planning Sponsor Group Chairs were recognized:  Robert Carlyle, James Chagala, Eileen Delaney, Rebecca Falk, Sandra Farrell, Paul Georgantas, Delores Harmes, Steve Norris, and Hans Peterma.

The Community planning and sponsor groups play an important role in shaping the growth and development of a community. They hold regular public meetings to gather community input, and then provide informed recommendations to County decision-makers on proposed projects and initiatives. Their participation in the land use process is critical to ensure the needs and interests of local residents are taken into account. Community Planning and sponsor groups truly are the backbone of the unincorporated County. Without their efforts, many important projects and other local initiatives would not be possible. Their dedication to public service is making the County a better place and is a testament to each member’s character and values. The community planning and sponsor groups in District 5 contributed to a total of 4,320 hours in volunteer work.


Angie Good, San Diego County Fire, District 2

Angie is a dedicated and knowledgeable volunteer. After completing the 24 hour community emergency response team training, she immediately enrolled in more training, taking courses in communications, animals in disasters, and decision making and problem solving. She continued to grow and expand her knowledge by completing education beyond what was expected of her as a volunteer. She has strong leadership qualities and has become the volunteer program manager for the San Diego County Fire Community Emergency Response Team’s Southern Division. During the Border 32 fire, Angie was working everyday in the evacuation shelter with compassion, empathy and a can-do-attitude. Even when her shifts were over, she would stop by the school and restock supplies for the staff and clients at the shelter. Angie contributed 155 hours in volunteer work while also working full-time and attending college. 


Vicki Driver and Susan Nichols were recognized by the County Library.

Vicki has acted as a docent for the Solana Beach Branch Friends of the Library bookstore, she’s been the bookstore manager, and President and Treasurer of the Friends Board of Directors.

Vicki has valuable institutional knowledge of the Friends of the Solana Beach Library. She is the go-to resource for library staff when looking for support from the Friends. She acts as liaison between the library and the City of Solana Beach and manages the annual donations from the city. Vickie contributed over 2,000 hours in volunteer work.

Susan has been the Chair of the Friends of the Casa De Oro Library since December 2021. She has been diligent with helping recruit new members to the Case De Oro Friends and with bringing in volunteers for the library. Last year Susan, along with the help of the Case De Oro Friends of the Library Board, coordinated a Tea Party-themed fundraiser event that raised over $10,000 for the library. Susan also organized a very successful and well attended “Love the Library” event in February to help grow membership and fund many of the youth services programs planned for this year. The Love the Library event brought in 20 new Friends of the Library members and raised nearly $3,000 for branch programs. Susan contributed 321 hours of volunteer work.


Brenda Wright, District Attorney's Office, District 3

Brenda started her service on the first week that the “One Safe Place Center” opened in July 2022, and has continued to volunteer multiple times a week since then, making the guests and members of One Safe Place feel seen, heard and supported.  Brenda is an “all hands on deck” kind of volunteer. Some days Brenda spends time simply sitting next to victims in the welcome hub on their most broken day, offering them a smile, comfort and reassurance. She’s become so good at this, that the model is now referred to as the “Brenda friend in the lobby” program. On other days, Brenda helps kids participate in social, emotional learning curriculum in the child waiting room. Brenda accompanies victims to the “Dress to Thrive” boutique to help them select donated clothing to wear. In September 2022, at One Safe Place's "Celebrating Diversity Event," Brenda facilitated an art project where she helped guests and members create beautiful paintings using resin art. Brenda has quickly become part of the fabric of a center that exists to provide hope, healing, and justice to those that walk in the doors. Brenda has contributed 120 hours of volunteer work. 


Laurie Mychaels, Aging and Independence Services –Ombudsman, District 3

Laurie is responsible for two skilled nursing homes and eight assisted living facilities. She assists residents and families with advocating to resolve their complaints and concerns, resident rights, quality of care and the overall quality of life of residents in these facilities. She receives and investigates reports of abuse and neglect, inappropriate care, discharges and evictions of the most vulnerable residents in both skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. Laurie is very proactive in her response to the needs of the residents and fiercely advocates for the rights of residents. Among Laurie's many accomplishments, she successfully advocated for a resident to remain in a facility until the entire discharge process was completed and met all regulation requirements. Laurie's knowledge, intervention, and advocacy assured the resident was successfully placed in a lower level of care.


Michael Badger, Aging and Independence Services – Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, District 2

Mike, volunteers for the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in El Cajon, as part of the County’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, or RSVP. He has held a variety of responsibilities and the success of the EI Cajon RSVP Program is largely due to his dedication and hard work. Mike has worked in a variety of administrative capacities, including assisting with watch officer duties. These duties include processing walk-in reports, such as property­damage-only traffic collisions, freeway violence reports, and stolen vehicle reports. He also assisted the pubic with the clearance of enforcement documents and impound vehicle releases. While assisting with watch officer duties, Mike interacted frequently with the public and acted as a liaison between sworn law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. Currently, Mike's most prominent role involves field duty, during which he serves along sworn officers, assisting with traffic control at accident scenes and other emergency events. He monitors the School Safety Patrols at the elementary schools located within the unincorporated portions of east county. Mike has contributed 4,467 hours of volunteer work.


Esmeralda Gomez, Behavioral Health Services, District 1

Esmerelda volunteers in the Behavorial Health Services County-Operated Adult Case Management program on the Institutional Case Management team, or ICM Team. The ICM team provide services to clients managing severe mental illness who reside in long term conservatorship placements. Under the guidance of her manager and lead clinician, Esmerelda is responsible for meeting with assigned clients, documenting the contacts in the electronic health record, and coordinating with the facilities where her clients reside.   She also documents client contacts, makes face to face visits at facilities to provide one on one therapeutic services and evaluates their well-being. Esmerelda coordinates with various residential placements, communicates clearly with other providers and the client's support system. Esmeralda contributed a total of 440 hours in volunteer work.  


Sherman Kwan, Child Welfare Services, District 2

Sherman has been a consistent and valuable volunteer for the Camp Connect Program. This program holds monthly events to reunite youth that are separated by their siblings in the foster care system. Sherman rarely misses a monthly event, and will be the first to arrive, last to leave, and one of the most flexible volunteers when any changes might need to be made. He has attended almost all of the overnight and daily events since he began volunteering in 2017. The team can depend on him to ensure the safety of youth with very little direction, while also making sure they have the best experience. The Camp Connect consider Sherman as family, and one of the most reliable volunteers. He always has a calm and positive attitude and says “it’s my joy” whenever the department attempts to thank him for all the many hours he dedicates to youth and the organization. Sherman contributed 553 hours in volunteer work. 


Nicholas Morelli, Child Welfare Services – Foster Youth Mentor Program, District 3

Nicholas has been a mentor since December 2021 and has consistently mentored the same youth. Nicholas continues to be a part of his mentee’s life as he has developed a close and positive relationship with the mentee and family.  Nicholas has consistently visited his mentee who looks forward to the weekly visits. He is always empathetic and able to set appropriate boundaries to support his mentee through frustrations and fears. Nicholas has demonstrated commitment, flexibility, and empathy during his time as a mentor and made a positive impact on the life of his mentee. He embodies the Agency’s core values by helping his mentee achieve his full potential and develop lifelong relationships. He understands that this takes a shared responsibility and makes concerted efforts when building relationships with his mentees, families, and the Agency. Nicholas contributed 300 hours in volunteer work. 


The Medical Care Services Division is recognizing three volunteers: Dr. Cynthia Robertson, District 2; Camille Fitzpatrick, District 3; Dr. Lillian Harvey, District 3. 

Each of these volunteers, Dr. Cynthia Robertson, Camille Fitzpatrick, and Dr. Lillian Harvey, all participated in the Academic Detailing by Zip Code program by reaching out to healthcare professionals to inform them of the constantly changing guidelines for COVID-19, flu, RSV, and mpox and provided available resources and information on testing and treatment.

Dr. Cynthia Robertson provided consultation to healthcare professionals in practices which asked for additional support that required specific clinical expertise such as vaccine hesitancy. Dr. Cynthia regularly summarized clinical information for the health professionals telebriefings and newsletters so they are effectively communicated. She also responded to inquiries from the COVID-treatment inbox, providing the public with life-saving information about COVID-19 treatment and where to access pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis for immunocompromised individuals or individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19. She was also integral in mentoring new staff and volunteers due to her long-term commitment to the team, institutional knowledge, and expertise

Camille Fitzpatrick was part of a pilot program which assesses perceived barriers by frontline staff in eight different Senior Nursing Facilities and assisted in setting up COVID-19 bivalent vaccination clinics at different facilities.

Dr. Lillian Harvey created and edited the different scripts required for the Academic Detailing by Zip Code calls. She contributed to calling healthcare practices and providers throughout San Diego County to inform them of COVID-19 guidelines, resources, testing, and treatment.

Together, they contributed over 1,900 hours of volunteer work, with: Dr. Cynthia contributing 1,052 hours; Camille contributing 227 hours; and Dr. Harvey contributing 678 hours. 


Robert Jacobs, North Central Mental Health Center, District 4

Robert is extremely reliable. He has been leading the Peer-to-Peer group since its return to being in-person. He keeps the weekly group running and engages clients in the Peer-to-Peer service. He regularly meets with interns, develops group materials, and creates a safe space for clients to discuss important topics related to mental health.  Mr. Jacobs has a long history of volunteering at this clinic and was a huge part of the Morena Activity Center when it existed. There he oversaw several routines and many special events. 


Susan Elliot, Parks and Recreation, District 3

For nearly a decade, Susan has been an outstanding volunteer supporting the San Elijo Lagoon Reserve and Nature Center environmental health and education programs. As a retired biologist, she expertly leads children and adult nature program hikes and provides information and assistance to visitors to the nature center. You can always rely on Susan to provide essential support on the center’s busiest day of the week on Saturdays and special events. Susan has regularly contributed between 20 and 40 hours a month over nearly nine years. Susan contributes to numerous San Elijo Lagoon community events, including “Wings over Wetlands” and two countywide cleanup days with “I Love a Clean San Diego,” and the Creek to Bay, and Coast to Creek events. Susan contributed 2,429 hours of volunteer work. 


Patrick Brown, Planning and Developmental Services, District 2

Patrick has been a member of the Julian Community Planning Group since 1986 and a member of the Julian Historic District Architectural Review Board since 1987.  For many years, he has also served as the Chairperson of the groups.  As Chair, he prepares the meeting agendas, researches projects, conducts the monthly meetings, and handles the groups’ administrative tasks.   With over 37 years of service, Patrick has attended hundreds of meetings and spent countless hours to learn about projects and other land-use matters, consider community input, and make recommendations to the County.  He has been instrumental in preserving the community character and historic qualities of Julian.   Patrick contributed 2,220 hours of volunteer work. 


Steve Gonzales, Probation Department, District 2

Steve serves as the Mentor Program Coordinator in the program established in partnership with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs.  Steve helps lead youth in reaching their full potential through weekly meetings. Program participants can relate to Steve’s life story, as a troubled youth and recounts how he overcame the challenges he faced. During the holidays, Steve helped support the Juvenile facilities, by engaging with families and helped support families through the difficulties that the holiday times present. Steve contributed over 60 hours of volunteer work. 


Bianca Wilson, Child Support Services, District 4


Bianca has assisted the department attorneys in all aspects of the child support litigation process. This includes preparing ex parte applications, preparing cases for daily court calendars, preparing, and filing petitions to revoke probation, researching and preparing memoranda of law, researching and preparing points and authorities, drafting and filing responsive declarations to motions, communicating with parties, and attorneys on child support cases and observing court hearings and settlement negotiations. Bianca contributed a total of 328 hours during her volunteer internship.


Nyla Sammak, Public Defender, District 4

Nyla has shown dedication to the office mission of supporting the indigent accused. She has been a hard worker, very professional, and a team player. She continues to volunteer for more than the minimum and often goes above and beyond in her duties. Nyla has assisted criminal investigators in various active homicide cases by supporting investigators in the field, reviewing and organizing evidence, and all with a positive attitude. Nyla's efforts have assisted in seeking justice and favorable outcomes for the many clients represented by this office. Nyla contributed over 400 hours of volunteer work. 


Shelly Pinomaki, Chaplain, Sheriff's Department, District 2

Shelly is an outstanding volunteer that operates quietly in the background, providing support and encouragement to the department. While serving the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, she volunteered to support the RESPECT Project which is an outreach program for at-risk-youth. She also serves on the Wellness Team Board, Field Liaison Officer Unit, and is a crisis response specialist for the department.

Shelly’s expertise in trauma and crisis fields have led her to become an instructor with The Innocent Justice Project, teaching wellness and trauma informed care for law enforcement across the country. Her additional volunteer work included the San Diego Trauma Intervention Program, a transformation speaker in trauma management and crisis-related incidents and as a crisis chaplain. Shelly contributed 1,393 hours of volunteer work.


Carol Graham, University of California Cooperative Extension, District 3

Carol was in the San Diego Master Gardener program when it launched 40 years ago. During the past four decades, Carol has demonstrated the epitome of a trained Master Gardener. Carol strives to keep herself up to date on the latest scientific horticulture information. She has been a leader within the organization since the inception, running one of the most important outreach committees. At the San Diego County Fair, Carol makes certain the “Ask a Master Gardener” event booths are fully stocked with materials vital to answering questions. In addition, she has found time to teach elementary aged students, visiting the education center at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad. Carol attends all in-person monthly General Meetings and is a wealth of information for any Master Gardener needing assistance. Carol contributed 6,527 hours of volunteer work.