A longtime West Modesto pastor, a police officer, a fire department captain and a benefit event promoter will be honored at the 21st annual Christian Public Servants awards breakfast on Oct. 9.
This year’s awards, given to individuals whose faith has sparked their work ethic and community involvement, will be presented during the event at Big Valley Grace Church in Modesto.
The top honor will go to the Rev. Wayne Bridegroom, who will receive the group’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his 40 years of service to residents of the city’s west side.
Others receiving awards include:
• Officer Mark Ulrich of the Modesto Police Department: the Chief Gerald McKinsey Excellence in Law Enforcement Award
• Capt. Gary Skiles of the Modesto Fire Department: the 911 Public Safety Award
• Lonny Davis of Uncle Lonny Presents: the Walter C. “Bud” LaCore Citizenship Award
In addition, the group will present its John L. Hollis Scholarships to Kyle Addis, Elizabeth Berry, Lacey Campbell, Clairene Dotinga, Taylor Haney, Hannah Kellogg, Christine Murphy and Sabrina Richardson, all selected based on academic achievement, community service and participation in Christian ministry.
The keynote speaker at the breakfast will be Cindy Marks, president of the Modesto City Schools Board of Education, immediate past president of the California School Boards Association and organizer of the annual Pray Modesto yearlong communitywide prayer focus.
Bridegroom, who is receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, recently retired as pastor at Central Grace Community Church after spending more than four decades serving the people of west Modesto. Since arriving at the church in 1973 and becoming its lead pastor in 1981, he has been known as a bridge-builder in the increasingly diverse but often underserved area west of Highway 99.
Today his church, once populated primarily by working-class whites, is as diverse as the surrounding neighborhood, and is the home for four congregations serving Laotian, Hmong, Cambodian and Latino residents. Bridegroom has been instrumental in building collaborative efforts among churches, neighborhoods, schools and government – from Christian Challenge Ministries to Harvest of Hope to the federally funded Weed and Seed Program.
He also has worked closely with and serves on the board of the West Modesto King-Kennedy Neighborhood Collaborative and was a founding member of Congregations Building Community, a faith-based nonprofit serving the Latino community.
Earlier this year, Bridegroom was honored with the MLK Legacy Award at the local Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration for work on behalf of the underserved. At the time, he was commended for “his skill in connecting government and the faith community, mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, Catholics and racial and ethnic groups in Modesto.”
Ulrich, the Excellence in Law Enforcement Award winner, is a 13-year veteran of the Modesto Police Department, including the past nine years as a police K9 handler. He spends much of his time building relationships in the community by conducting demonstrations at schools and local events and talking with citizens on the street. In 2012, he was selected to serve as a field training officer, working with officers new to the MPD.
His nomination states that Ulrich, who attends Big Valley Grace Church, “models the behavior he expects from other officers, and has proven his ability to not only ‘talk the talk’ but ‘walk the walk.’ ” The nomination notes that Ulrich’s “personal life is encased with his wife and children. He is a solid family man who is grounded in his religious beliefs that strengthen him daily.”
Skiles’ 911 Public Safety Award nomination notes he “grew up living and breathing firefighting,” as part of a long line of firefighters that includes his grandfather, father and several other relatives. In his 25 years of service, Skiles has held a number of positions, and currently serves in an administrative role with the Modesto department. As with the other awards, he is being recognized for his work both on and off the job. His nomination describes him as “a strong man who follows the teachings of the Bible and lives according to God’s Word” and who is an exemplary husband and father. Active in the German Baptist Church and the Brethren Heritage School, Skiles also is a leader for Christian Aid Ministries, a nonprofit that assists individuals when tragedy strikes. In that role, Skiles spends many of his days off traveling throughout California cleaning up after fires, floods, earthquakes and other devastating tragedies.
Davis, the Walter C. “Bud” LaCore Citizenship Award winner, has a heart for helping individuals in need and the nonprofits that serve them. Davis, whose Davis Guest Home provides transitional residential care for the chronically mentally ill, founded and heads Hope Haven West, a nonprofit that refurbishes and distributes 1,000 or more wheelchairs to the disabled poor in developing countries each year. To raise the needed funds for Hope Haven West, Davis began bringing entertainment acts to Modesto. Based on that experience, and understanding the fundraising challenges of organizations, last year Davis formed Uncle Lonny Presents, a nonprofit entertainment production company designed to benefit deserving local charities. Uncle Lonny Presents assumes all the risks and donates all the proceeds, after basic expenses, to the partner nonprofits. Davis plans to hold six events annually. Past events have assisted groups such as the Redwood Family Center, an addiction recovery center for women; upcoming concerts to benefit Be the Power of One,” which provides clean water; the Global Orphan Project; Youth for Christ’s Ceasefire program, and Hope Haven West. Davis considers his work “a gift to our community,” a result of having been blessed in his business and personal life.