Choi, a Palo Alto Medical Foundation Urgent Care doctor and medical director of local nonprofit Jordan International Aid, is receiving the Outstanding Professional award. In addition to being a physician, Choi has become a medical missionary over the years, delivering aid to victims of global national disasters.
Just days following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Choi led a team of volunteer doctors and nurses into the country to provide life-saving treatment and care. The following year, after the Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster hit, Choi was on-site within one week with volunteers and emergency relief supplies in tow. His international work led to the formation of his own nonprofit organization, the Enoch Choi Foundation, which raises funds for medical supplies for these devastated areas.
"Enoch's generous spirit in sharing his medical expertise is unequalled," said Carroll Harrington, who worked closely with him on his missionary projects for Haiti and Japan. "He also inspires others to contribute in many ways."
On a local level, Choi has been involved in a number of organizations, including the Peninsula Healthcare Connection (PHC) — the nonprofit, state-licensed medical clinic that operates at the Opportunity Center in Palo Alto. The organization provides medical and mental health care to homeless and formerly homeless people and coordinates outreach and support to high-risk homeless individuals. Choi previously served as the clinic's medical director and has remained an active volunteer, providing advice and support to PHC clients on nights and weekends.
"I sat on the PHC board with (Dr. Choi) for a few years and I found him to be an outstanding individual," said Jeff Jarvela, who nominated Choi for the Tall Tree award. "He works really hard, and every time he opened his mouth, what he said made sense."
Outstanding Citizen award recipient Paula Collins has dedicated more than three decades of service to Palo Alto youth who come from low-income backgrounds. She has volunteered countless hours of her time with the YMCA, Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship Foundation, Parent Advocates for Student Success (formerly Parent Network for Students of Color) and Friends of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre.
Raised and educated in Mexico City, Collins learned English and Spanish as a child. Her fluency in both languages has been valuable to the organizations she's served with. She uses her bilingual skills to translate for parents during meetings and events as well as to help her young mentees feel more comfortable.
One of Collins' mentees said in 2015 that speaking with Collins in her native language made her feel at ease. "I am able to express myself more freely and I feel there's a connection between us," she said.
In addition to her direct service with youth, Collins has previously volunteered in administrative roles, including as treasurer and president of the Children's Theatre friend group and co-chair of the Parent Network for Students of Color. She is described as a "pillar in our community" and an "absolute go-getter" by Lupe Garcia, a retired Palo Alto Unified School District principal and past Tall Tree Award recipient.
"She steps up to the table with a singular focus; she's so highly committed, knows no bounds, she just wants to know what's the next step, what has to be done," Garcia said of Collins.
Since its founding in 1972, Outstanding Nonprofit award recipient La Comida de California has
operated the only subsidized lunch program in Palo Alto dedicated to fulfilling the social and nutritional needs of seniors over 60, many of whom are low-income. The organization functions almost entirely on volunteer labor, with the exception of three kitchen staff members and a site manager. Over the past four years, La Comida has distributed more than 41,000 meals annually, according to the nonprofit.
In 2017, La Comida faced adversity after having to leave its site downtown at Avenidas senior center due to a multiyear renovation project. But La Comida moved to Stevenson House in south Palo Alto, which has become the nonprofit's permanent home, and it has expanded back into downtown, now serving meals in the Palo Alto Masonic Center. Even with its recent growth, La Comida has managed to keep costs low, asking diners to contribute as little as $3 per meal.
KEEN Garage shoe store, located at 278 University Ave., has earned the Outstanding Business award for its work with the nonprofit organization Downtown Streets Team, which provides support and resources to the homeless.
KEEN donates roughly 200 pairs of new and gently used pairs of shoes per year to homeless men and women through Downtown Streets Team, according to Assistant Store Manager Sonja Jurgensen.
KEEN has also donated more than 9,000 pairs of socks to the organization to date.
"KEEN's generosity has made a huge impact at Downtown Streets Team in our outreach and recruitment efforts," said Logan McDonnell, director of development for Downtown Streets Team. "A fresh pair of socks is one of the most appreciated gifts when the person receiving them doesn't have access to a washer or dryer or the funds needed to purchase a new pair," he added.
More information about the Tall Tree Awards, including ticket information, is posted at paloaltochamber.com.
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