Christmas is the season of giving, but many Valley residents make it their mission to help year-round.
Since 1995, The Bee has spotlighted a handful of these stories in its “12 Faces of Christmas” series, which represents the thousands of residents who quietly contribute to making the central San Joaquin Valley a better place to live. These are continuing examples of selfless people who comfort the grieving and assist the downtrodden.
The “12 Faces of Christmas” series is a tribute to the best in our Valley, such as Cheryl Whisenhunt, a volunteer with Jack and Jill of America and the “Bald and the Beautiful” fundraiser, which supports the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which raises funds to combat breast cancer. Or sisters Ashley and Tamara Franco, ages 13 and 10, who collect clothes, blankets and food for the homeless.
There is Wasan Abu-Baker, an advocate for refugees in Fresno; Charlie Bakker, who helps cook turkeys every Christmas for the Visalia Rescue Mission; and Alice Lovley, who has volunteered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for 18 years.
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Deanna Driscoll volunteers at Catholic Charities and helps organize the Harvest of Hope fundraiser; Judy Gross regularly visits the Sierra Villa Assisted Living center; and Jerry James helps with the Latino Peace Officers Association’s Winter Coat Drive.
Tyler Morgan is a mentor to middle school students in Nebraska, where he attends college, and in the Clovis/Fresno area when he is home for the summer. Rodney Rodriguez is founder of Fresno Skateboard Salvage, which collects used skateboards for kids who can’t afford them.
So cheers to this year’s new list of helpful faces … and to those honored in previous years who continue to work tirelessly to make the central San Joaquin Valley a better place.