Chamber, Weekly announce Tall Tree Award winners

Chief of police and local hotel among this year's honorees

Volunteer Cathy Kroymann, Police Chief Dennis Burns, Sheraton-Westin Hotels and Palo Alto Community Child Care will be recognized with 2014 Tall Tree Awards for their outstanding civic service to the Palo Alto community.

Sponsored by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the Palo Alto Weekly, the awards are given annually to a citizen volunteer, professional/business person, business and nonprofit organization. This year, the awards will be presented at a dinner on April 9 at the Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel. The winners were chosen by a committee of past Tall Tree recipients.

Kroymann was selected as "Outstanding Citizen Volunteer" for the depth and breadth of her volunteer work, through which she has advocated for school resources and the health of children and seniors. The list of organizations she has participated in at a high level is long: the Palo Alto Unified School District (where she served as a board member and president), Foundation for a College Education, Adolescent Counseling Services, Avenidas, Association for Senior Day Health and others.

"To label Cathy as a 'tireless volunteer' is not hyperbole. She has advanced our community through contributions of much time, talent and effort," a nominating letter stated.

Burns will receive the award for "Outstanding Professional/Business Person." He began his work with the Palo Alto police department in 1982 and climbed through the ranks, becoming assistant chief in 2007. Later he served as an interim fire chief while the Palo Alto Fire Department searched for a permanent chief, and he still oversees the police and fire departments as the city's public safety director.

Nominating letters praised Burns for his "empathy" and "level-headedness." He led Palo Alto as incident commander during the citywide power outage following a plane crash in East Palo Alto in 2010. He has worked with the Santa Clara County Suicide Prevention Task Force and has made sure his force received crisis-intervention team training, which covers how to calmly and effectively respond to mentally ill individuals in crisis.

"Not only is Chief Burns a professional respected by his peers in law enforcement, but he is a community leader in Palo Alto at large, an ambassador to East Palo Alto ... a builder of a diverse department in a city that is not as diverse as the state it is in, and in all respects I can imagine an exemplary professional and citizen," stated one nominating letter.

The Tall Tree Award for "Outstanding Business" will be given to Sheraton-Westin Hotels of Palo Alto, which has demonstrated continued dedication to local nonprofits and to fostering Palo Alto culture and community.

In recent years, the hotels have provided free rooms to Stanford Hospital, Stanford Lively Arts, the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, Palo Alto Jazz Alliance, the Palo Alto Film Festival and other groups. As part of the Meals for Munchkins program, hotel staff has also cooked numerous meals for families at the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford.

In addition, the Sheraton-Westin has partnered with Lucile Packard Children's Hospital on fundraisers. These include Dine Out for Packard, through which restaurants in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Los Altos donate a percentage of sales, and the Summer Scamper, a 5K/10K fundraiser run at Stanford.

Palo Alto Community Child Care (PACCC) will receive the Tall Tree award as "Outstanding Nonprofit." The nonprofit began in 1974 with the aim of providing quality and affordable child care for residents of Palo Alto. Today PACCC has 19 sites and works with more than 900 families with children from 2 months of age to the fifth grade.

Through its Family Partnership Program, in 2012 Palo Alto Community Child Care was able to provide 143 children from low-income families with quality care while their parents went to work or school. Seventeen percent of families the nonprofit works with today receive some kind of financial aid.

"The agency's ethics inform everything they do," a nominating letter stated. "The staff is well cared for. There are always learning opportunities. The professionalism of the centers is second to none. The quality of the work places is continuously being improved. All to provide the best possible environment for the children."

Tickets to the Tall Tree Awards are available at

Editorial Assistant Sam Sciolla can be emailed at

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Like this comment
Posted by Montblanc
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 2, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Cathy Kroymann has deserved this for decades! Thousands of congratulations, Cathy!

Like this comment
Posted by Lenny
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 2, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Congratulations Chief Burns!

Like this comment
Posted by Lori B
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Congratulations to PACCC. This organization shows true professionalism through its dedicated and very long term staff, having and believing that every child matters, and every child deserves the opportunity to have quality care where they can learn, grow and thrive. My children attended the Sojourner Truth Center and several summer camps. This award is well deserved.

Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm

All 3 of our kids went thru O.K.C. With Susan Dansker the supervisor. The older one would go visit the school after he moved on to JLS
We are a lucky city to have this after school system. Which is ran by the paccc centers.

Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 4, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Cathy this award is well deserved. You deserve this honor.

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Short story writers wanted!

The 33rd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 29. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

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