Modesto residents Nick and Els Blom are among six honorees at this week’s Bishop’s Awards dinner.
Similar to last year’s awards, each winner is selected for his or her lifetime of service. Saturday’s dinner, which benefits Catholic Charities and Seeds, a tuition assistance program, will be held at the Church of the Presentation.
The Bloms were born in Holland and immigrated to the United States – Nick as a young man after graduating from college and serving in the Dutch Army and NATO forces, and Els as a 12-year-old. They have family backgrounds of helping others. Els’ grandparents participated in hiding Jews during World War II. Nick’s father was a politician in Holland who encouraged his children to be active in civic affairs.
“My dad always told us to vote, so you can explain why you voted yes or no,” Nick said. His father, during one Modesto visit, asked Nick why he wasn’t attending community meetings in Modesto. Nick later attended plenty of meetings, serving on committees concerning air quality, federal transportation and agriculture, among others.
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Nick began his agricultural career working on a dairy and later set up his own farming operation of trees and vines. A former volunteer firefighter, he served on the Paradise School Board and later was a Stanislaus County supervisor for 20 years. The Nick W. Blom Salida Regional Library was named for him in 2003. He also served on a hospice board and bank board and was a charter member of a Rotary club.
He was vice chairman of the capital fund-raising committee for St. Stanislaus Catholic Church on Maze Boulevard and helped with fund-raising to build Central Catholic High School. Els also served on the Paradise School Board, as well as volunteering for the American Heart Association, Scenic Hospital Foundation, the Catholic Professional Business Club and Modesto Sunrise Rotary.
“Our Catholic faith is part of our lives, and I don’t know what we would do without it,” she said.
Monsignor Harmon Skillin is another award winner. At age 13, the San Francisco native decided to become a priest. His father was a criminal attorney, and in the early 1960s, Skillin was asked to become the first canon lawyer for the newly created Diocese of Stockton. He also served at various parishes in Lodi and Stockton, then later became vicar of priests for the diocese. He retired in August.
Skillin helped to start the hospice program in Stockton and served on its board of directors. He also was a member and served on boards of the Downtown Rotary of Stockton, Lodi Arts Commission, Stockton Arts Commission, Women’s Center of San Joaquin and the Canon Law Society of America, among other groups.
“My Catholic faith brings me face to face with a personal God, an incarnate God and a spirit of God who grounds me in life itself,” he said.
Other honorees are Marie Shane, Virginia Wallace and George Rojas, all of Stockton.
The event begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday with cocktails, followed by dinner at 7:30 at the church, 6715 Leesburg Place, Stockton. Tickets are $150. For more information, call (209) 546-7646.