Each of this year's nine Avenidas Lifetimes of Achievement honorees has gone beyond the call of duty year in and year out for decades to create positive changes in the community by donating countless hours of hands-on service to local organizations and programs aimed at improving education, health care, the environment and services for seniors, among other areas.
From launching an innovation center aimed at providing cutting-edge resources for teachers and students, to raising millions of dollars for cancer research, to initiating programs to foster diversity and social justice in and out of the workplace, Fran Codispoti, Betsy Gifford, Gay and Bill Krause, Alma and Jim Phillips, Stephen Player and Eliane and Armand Neukermans have distinguished themselves as deeply committed to making their communities a better place.
To honor them, the senior-serving nonprofit Avenidas and the Palo Alto Weekly will host a virtual celebration on Sunday, Sept. 26, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Zoom.
"While the date and venue may have changed a few times due to COVID, the spirit of coming together and celebrating will carry on as we will all raise a glass to toast this outstanding group of achievers," said Kari Martell, Avenidas VP of Marketing and Communications.
Tickets for this public event are $75 and gifts may also be made in honor of one or more of the honorees, with proceeds benefiting Avenidas' programs for older adults throughout the area.
Ticket holders may choose to have a box of savory snacks, dessert and a bottle of wine delivered to their home before the event. There also will be live guitar music, the chance to meet and welcome new Avenidas President and CEO Amy Yotopoulos and the opportunity to learn about the honorees' contributions, as presented by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian.
To reserve a Zoom link for this festive online party, visit avenidas.org by Sept. 17. For more information, call 650-289-5445.
Los Altos Hills philanthropist Fran Codispoti isn't one to shy away from life's unexpected challenges. After recovering from Hodgkin's lymphoma, she decided to turn her attention away from a lucrative career in tech to focus exclusively on improving the well-being of people young and old who might be experiencing hardships.
Among Codispoti's many talents are her formidable fundraising abilities, often the least popular duty in charitable or political campaign work.
She credits her political awareness, dogged determination and large reservoir of empathy for others to her parents.
From being a Palo Alto Community Fund director emerita to being a 30-year member of the "Dirty Knees Brigade" at Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden, tending the flower beds, Gifford isn't shy about one thing: rolling up her sleeves. With privilege comes responsibility, and that's how she was raised, she said.
Her mother and father were active in their community in Aurora, Illinois; son Peter is past president of the Palo Alto Community Fund and has been involved with the East Palo Alto Charter School; son Jonathan volunteers with Canopy and Gamble Garden.
For both Krauses, most of the other "giving back" flows from their shared passion for education. They've funded the Krause Innovation Studio at Penn State University — Gay's alma mater — and the Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics at The Citidel, Bill's alma mater.
An early agenda for the Krause Center at Foothill College sprang from Gay's observation, as a local school principal in the 1980s and '90s, that computers and printers in many classrooms were gathering dust because teachers didn't know how to use them. She set about helping educators master the new machines to improve student outcomes. Today's young teachers are well-acquainted with technology, and the focus of the Krause Center for Innovation has shifted.
Together and individually, the Neukermanses' philanthropic work takes a stunningly broad scope, from complex social issues such as education and accessibility to the gnarliest of environmental challenges, with projects aimed at mitigating climate change.
The Neukermanses came to the Bay Area in the early 1960s after a short time in Arizona, and Armand, an engineer and physicist, worked for early Silicon Valley companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Xerox. He went on to create his own consulting firm and also founded a company based on a revolutionary optical switch.
From the get-go as a fresh law school graduate, Palo Alto attorney Stephen Player spent much of his 30-year career lending his skills to help local nonprofits get off the ground all while working full-time representing some of Silicon Valley's biggest tech names.
Player was among those who helped form the Senior Coordinating Council of Palo Alto, which later became Avenidas. He also assisted with the launch of Center for a New Generation, an afterschool enrichment program in East Palo Alto, and Foundation for a College Education, which helps students in underrepresented communities pursue college.
Looking back on his accomplishments, Player, now 80, describes his life trajectory as a series of serendipitous moments, with one thing unexpectedly leading to another.
As Avenidas Lifetimes of Achievement honorees, the Phillipses' contributions to the Palo Alto area have been broad, spanning education, diversity, housing, civic affairs and services to seniors. Their impact also has been deep, helping people in ways that have changed lives.
They've had a lifetime of joy, built on mutual support and service to others.