Chandler honored volunteers at annual Recognition Awards breakfast

April 20, 2023
2023 Volunteer Recognition Award honorees

Volunteers recognized during National Volunteer Month

CHANDLER, Ariz. – Eight individuals and one Chandler business were honored for their volunteer service from January to December 2022, during Chandler’s annual Volunteer Recognition Breakfast held on April 12.

The City of Chandler’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Division joined with the nonprofit For Our City-Chandler to recognize the contributions of time and dedication made each day by committed volunteers. Organizations, including the faith-based, nonprofits and schools that rely on volunteers, were encouraged to nominate individuals with service primarily in Chandler for one of nine awards.

Below are this year’s award recipients with a brief recap of the nomination:

  • Innovation Award: Felisa Gilley
    This nominee brings especially creative and unique solutions to the volunteer assignment.
    Volunteers with: AZCEND
    Preferring to work behind the scenes at two AZCEND programs, Felisa is a quiet yet highly talented, detail-oriented volunteer with an eye for organization and efficiency. Felisa’s an instrumental member of the Volunteer team, particularly as AZCEND rolled out a new volunteer database called Volgistics. She jumped right in to learn the software program, which in turn, led her to sharing her knowledge and acquired skill set with the rest of the team. Her support and assistance twice a week (up to 16 hours) has been invaluable to AZCEND’s team.  

  • Longevity Award: Roger Hyles
    This nominee has worked for an organization for many years, and provides a commitment and dedication to their service that is awe-inspiring.
    Volunteers with: Chandler Police Department
    Roger became a Volunteer in Policing (VIP) on Sept. 12, 2001. For 21 years he has supported various teams and officers within the Chandler Police Department (CPD). Over the years, he has consistently responded to the call for assistance and worked the DUI task force. These assignments are long and can last into the early morning hours. He has assisted the CPD Audio Visual team and captured footage using his drone. These videos have contributed to the production of marketing videos, social media posts, and have documented the funeral processions of fallen officers.

  • Makes It Happen Award: Cindy Ratliff
    This nominee works for many organizations, with the goal of contributing anywhere and everywhere.
    Volunteers with: Arizona College Prep Middle School, Paz de Cristo, Feed My Starving Children, Hackett House, Phoenix Children's Hospital, Treasures 4 Teachers, Special Olympics, Operation Gratitude, Children's Cancer Network, Childsplay Theater
    As demonstrated by the incredible array of organizations that she donates her time, Cindy's activity benefits innumerable people. For the past two years, Cindy has spearheaded Arizona College Prep (ACP) Middle School's Dig Pink event. Her organizational skills and passion inspired the other parents to contribute as well. As a result of Cindy's activity and leadership, ACP Middle School has raised more than $9,400 for the Sideout Foundation in the past two years. The diverse organizations that Cindy volunteers also is demonstrative of her impact both locally and globally.

  • Mayor’s Choice Award: Melissa Sutton
    This award is not subject to nomination, but instead is selected by Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke.
    Volunteers with: Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, National Drowning Prevention Alliance, PTO for Aprende Middle School, Child Fatality Review Team, and others
    Melissa has volunteered for over a decade with the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona (DPCA), and almost as long with the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA), in which she served as President for both of these organizations. She has put in countless hours at water safety events throughout the Valley and has worked closely with Chandler Aquatics on their own drowning prevention events. Melissa has worked tirelessly to inform parents and communities about the dangers to prevent drowning deaths in all age groups.

  • Multitasking Maestro Award: Dr. Sakina Raza
    This nominee is someone who takes on a diverse array of multiple assignments, jobs or objectives at the same time and can juggle them effectively, while accomplishing all of them successfully.
    Volunteers with: American Muslim Women's Association of Arizona (AMWA-AZ), ICNA Relief Arizona, Islamic Center of Northeast Valley, 100 Angels, YMCA Scottsdale, IRC Welcome Center for Asylum Seekers
    Dr. Raza is a retired pediatrician and has a compassionate heart to help others whenever and wherever she can. As a survivor of a brain tumor and breast cancer, not even undergoing chemotherapy could stop her from her numerous volunteer work that includes being a case manager and board member of AMWA-AZ, packing and distributing food at the ICNA Relief food pantry during the pandemic, sorting clothes for Afghan evacuee refugees, organizing and serving food at the IRC Welcome Center for asylum seekers, going on a mission to El Salvador with 100 Angels to bring needed food and medical supplies, and leading a group of women hikers to explore AZ trails.

  • Strong Arms Award: Mike Amato
    This nominee is not afraid to take on any volunteer assignment, no matter how “down-n-dirty” it may be. This nominee also may be called the jill/jack-of-all-trades in an organization.
    Volunteers with: Neighbors Who Care (NWC)
    For Mike Amato, becoming a volunteer with Neighbors Who Care is about fulfilling his calling to help seniors. Mike started volunteering with the organization in June 2021 after recently retiring and moving with his wife Debbie (who is also a wonderful NWC volunteer) to Sun Lakes. He ramped up quickly and has since logged more than 30 hours of service and driven well over 3,200 miles while serving clients. His greatest contribution continues to be his service as a transportation driver where he’s taken various clients to medical appointments in excess of 130 times.

  • Sunbeam Award: Okechukwu (Oke) Ogba
    This nominee is the most cheerful person in the place! They have the best personality, attitude, and they are always smiling and helpful.
    Volunteers with: Frye Elementary PTO
    This is the first year that Frye Elementary School has had a PTO in a very long time. Oke Ogba is a parent who stepped up to take on the role of PTO Secretary. Oke has given hours of his time creating social media posts, marketing the PTO, and coming up with ideas to improve the school. He also has helped create lasting relationships with businesses in the community. Frye Elementary has been in need of a PTO for years, and its students and staff are finally benefitting from what the PTO offers.

  • Working Together Award: Edwards
    This award is for a group (in any organization) who completed a group volunteer project in Chandler.
    Volunteers with: For Our City-Chandler
    Edwards Vacuum became engaged with For Our City-Chandler in summer of 2022, looking for ways to be involved in the community. They quickly connected with the community and jumped right into supporting the annual Operation Back to School event. Not only did Edwards come in with a $10,000 sponsorship of Operation Back to School which helped underwrite many of the costs associated and ensure the committee had enough backpacks and supplies to meet the need in the community, they also showed up for planning meetings and on the day of the event, where they handed out burritos to volunteers. After their incredible support of Operation Back to School, Edwards sent a team out to participate in For Our City Day, doing work on home improvement projects and landscaping for community members. The support in terms of time, talent, and financial contributions received from Edwards has made a significant impact in the last year, and their willingness to work together to get support to Chandler families is inspiring and very appreciated.

  • Youth Award: Daniel Johnson
    This award is strictly for youth, 17 and younger. The volunteer is dedicated, positive, and hardworking or somehow stands out among others.
    Volunteers with: Life Link Church, Perry High School - Sparrow Club, LEO Club, Student Council Boy Scouts of America Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) American Heart Association
    Daniel Johnson is active on his high school campus participating in many clubs. He currently serves the Perry High School Student Body as the Treasurer for the school. Daniel is active in several on campus clubs that have a volunteer aspect to them. From a community perspective, Daniel is active with Life Link Church, with Boy Scouts of America and through volunteerism at large and specifically with the American Heart Association. Daniel was one of 10 teens selected to help with the inaugural Teen of Impact Campaign for the American Heart Association in the Phoenix market. Daniel has actively volunteered for about 300 hours in the past four years.

Also, during the event five individuals were inducted into the 1,000 Hour Club for serving more than 1,000 hours of volunteer work to Chandler organizations. Congratulations to Rhea Dias, Mindy Jones, Ross Lemire, Karen Thompson and Joseph Yang.

For more information about awards program, or to read more about each award winner, visit Chandler Volunteer Awards.

Media contact:
Stephanie Romero
City of Chandler, Public Information Officer