Downtown retailer University Art, nonprofit organization Youth Community Service, local developer Jim Baer, and father/daughter duo William Alhouse and Jane Alhouse Gee are this year's Tall Tree Award winners, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday at a reception at the Garden Court Hotel.
The awards, which recognize community service and civic contribution in four categories, are co-sponsored by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the Palo Alto Weekly.
This year's honoree in the business category, University Art, has been selling art supplies and gifts in Palo Alto since 1948. The Hamilton Avenue store has supported the Palo Alto Art Center and its assorted programs, including Project Look! and Cultural Kaleidoscope, both of which introduce local children to the world of art, noted 2009 Tall Tree Award winner Carolyn Tucher in her nomination letter. The business also provides prizes for local contests, such as the Palo Alto Weekly's annual photo contest and other art shows and competitions. Owner Cornelia Pendleton is the daughter and niece of the store's co-founders.
"Cornelia has been a passionate and tireless fundraiser for our programs and for our renovation project," Palo Alto Art Center Director Karen Kienzle wrote.
Outstanding nonprofit Youth Community Service (YCS) provides volunteer opportunities to local middle and high schoolers, linking them with projects ranging from tree planting to feeding the homeless and visiting the elderly.
Through Youth Community Service, kids interact with peers from different schools and communities, supporters said.
"YCS is one of the few nonprofits that has been able to bridge the divide between East Palo Alto and Palo Alto," Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss wrote.
Nominator Dan Dykwel, whose son has participated, wrote, "The value I observed was their selfless commitment to many of our citizens and environment. Participation also moved them beyond their safe circle of friends and gave them the chance to engage with many other youth."
Eleven-year-old Ellen Goncher wrote that she was looking forward to going on to middle school next year because of the opportunity to join Youth Community Service.
"Once, even though I was in elementary school, YCS let me help cook for the homeless. I felt like I was making a difference, helping people who really needed some help," she said.
Developer Jim Baer, honored in the professional/business person category, has shaped the city through numerous projects over the years, but what makes him really stand out is his commitment to the environment, nominator Walt Hays wrote. Baer's Wave One program helps local businesses achieve green certification and energy efficiency. He's also "contributed to virtually every civic and charitable cause in the community, both with his own funds and through the help of his clients," Hays wrote.
City Councilman Larry Klein wrote that Baer has "learned Palo Alto's rules and regulations inside out and has mastered the market, block by block, lot by lot. He's always been looking for ways to make Palo Alto a better place to live and work."
For the first time in Tall Tree history, the award for outstanding citizen/volunteer will be shared by a father and daughter -- William Alhouse and Jane Alhouse Gee.
William Alhouse has volunteered as a baseball coach for Stanford University, Gunn High School and Menlo School and was previously honored as Realtor of the Year by the Palo Alto Board of Realtors.
"He has been a mentor and role model for integrity and fair dealing in business and in giving back to the community," nominator John King wrote.
Daughter Alhouse Gee has organized an annual symposium on motherhood since 1997.
"Like her father before her, she is the kind of citizen we need to celebrate -- one who humbly gives -- never seeking limelight or title," wrote Megan Swezey Fogarty, another former Tall Tree winner.
Both Alhouse and Alhouse Gee, Steve Player wrote, should be honored for their service and for "making this community a better place to live."
The awards ceremony will be held Thursday, March 31, at the Crowne Plaza Cabana Palo Alto.