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Rivermark Moms’ Club and Kirk Vartan are Honored as Local Heroes by Senator Bob Wieckowski

At his State of the District Address & Awards Ceremony, held at California State University, East Bay on Sept. 15, State Senator Bob Wieckowski spoke about the bills he has authored, including SB 680, which would enable the City of Santa Clara to construct affordable housing for senior citizens, veterans and families on limited incomes. The bill was recently signed by Governor Brown. After his district address, Wieckowski hosted an awards ceremony to recognize local heroes in California’s 10th State Senate district.

“Bob does a really good job reaching out to the cities he represents to acknowledge people who are deserving of this Local Hero award,” says Kathy Watanabe, Santa Clara City Councilmember.

A former recipient of Wieckowski’s Local Hero award, Watanabe nominated the Santa Clara-based Rivermark Moms’ Club for one of Wieckowski’s Local Hero awards this year. The Club was founded in 2003 by Ciara Balagot as a playgroup for neighborhood children, a social club for parents and a discussion forum. Today the organization has about 1,500 members and hosts year-round community building events, such as the Easter Party, National Night Out, and weekly summer play dates with food trucks and kid-run booths. In addition, the group has participated in a number of philanthropic causes, including efforts to assist victims of the Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004) and Hurricane Katrina (2005).

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“We raised about $75,000 for relief efforts for both the Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in support of the Red Cross,” says Maureen Medeiros, a Rivermark Mom and one of the lead organizers of the neighborhood’s community building events. “Annually, we work with Hope Services to facilitate a clothing and household item drive.”

Other Rivermark Moms attending the awards ceremony included Maureen Chu, Elizabeth Morris and Cynthia Cheng.

Also receiving a Local Hero award from Wieckowski was Kirk Vartan, a community activist and pizza shop owner. Vartan led the effort to help design the Win6 Village agrihood on Winchester. This piece of land, owned by the City of Santa Clara, is across the street from Valley Fair Mall.

“The exciting part about this project is an urban farm-based housing community that is mixed income and intergenerational,” Vartan says. “The city, the Core Companies and the community will work together to create an inspirational and extraordinary place that focuses on the future needs of our region. I’ve been working on this piece of property for 13-and-a-half years in an advocacy role for the property’s use. I was nominated by my wife Marguerite Lee because we both share a collective interest in furthering a sustainable community. Go to Win6village.org for more details.”

Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor, accompanied by Santa Clara City Councilmember Debi Davis, introduced Vartan. Gillmor talked about Vartan’s housing community project and his pizza shop, A Slice of New York, with locations in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.

“Believe me, the pizza’s awesome,” Gillmor says. “[Kirk Vartan and Marguerite Lee] are going progressively through the process of transitioning this small business into a worker-owner cooperative. They want to lead by example and show the strength of an empowered work force in the South Bay by bolstering the community and providing opportunities to their employees who might not otherwise have a chance at business ownership.”

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