Lewis Griswold

Lewis Griswold: Ruiz 4 Kids honors children's advocate

Marilyn Barr of Visalia will be honored Thursday night at the annual Ruiz 4 Kids Fiesta fundraiser at the Visalia Convention Center.

Barr is executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Tulare County, a nonprofit group that helps victims of child abuse navigate the court system.

"Marilyn's compassion for children and their well-being has shown throughout her 18 years working with CASA," said Kim Ruiz Beck, chairman of Ruiz Food, Inc. and president of Ruiz 4 Kids, the company's charitable arm.

She'll give Barr the Danza Community Service Award, named after a Mayan symbol of community.

Barr said she was flabbergasted at being named.

"I said, 'What, are you kidding?' " Barr said. "I'm honored and have nothing but respect for their generosity."

The Danza award is a sculpture of people gathered in a circle, arm and arm.

Previous awardees include Ed Dena, Ernie Hernandez, Don and Shelly Groppetti, Gary and Jennifer Geiger, Skip Nugent and the late Karen Cooper -- all Tulare County volunteers or career professionals in children's welfare.

Barr's group works with the courts by assigning trained volunteer advocates to help children caught up in the court system through no fault of their own.

"You make sure they don't get lost in the system," Barr said. Last year, 450 children had volunteers assigned to them.

Volunteers take an oath and serve as officers of the court. Their job is to visit the child weekly, verify that he or she is clothed, fed and succeeding in school, and attend court hearings. Every six months, the volunteer writes a report for the judge about the child's progress.

Ruiz Foods Inc. is a privately-owned corporation based in Dinuba that makes frozen Mexican foods. It's one of the largest Hispanic-owned businesses in the country.

The Ruiz 4 Kids charity was started more than 20 years ago at the suggestion of employees and has grown into a fundraising champion.

Last year, it distributed a record $270,000 among four organizations. This year's beneficiaries are CASA of Tulare County, Wish Upon a Star, Blind Babies Foundation and Miracle League of Visalia.

The money is raised from a golf tournament and the Ruiz 4 Kids Fiesta. At the Fiesta, there's food, entertainment, casino tables, and live and silent auctions.

Again this year, there will be a pickup giveaway sponsored by Ed Dena car dealership in Dinuba.

Car keys are sold for $50 each, but only one will start the truck, a 2004 Chevy Silverado Extended Cab Sportside Pick-Up. Keys are attached to Teddy bears; 300 will be sold.

Fiesta tickets are $100. Information: (559) 591-5510 ext. 2118, or www.ruiz4kids.org.

PROMOTION: Visalia city employee Leslie Caviglia has been named assistant city manager, a promotion approved last week by the Visalia City Council.

Caviglia most recently served nine years as deputy city manager. She worked at the city from 1986 to 1994, serving as city clerk, and returned in 2004.

She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and is a certified municipal clerk.