by Nathan Duckworth | Patterson Irrigator
Jul 31, 2014

Local champions of volunteerism, including a group of Kohl’s Cares volunteers, fill the tables set inside of City Hall’s council chambers for the first annual Center for Human Services Breakfast of Champions.—photo by Elias Funez/Patterson Irrigator

The Center for Human Services (CHS) Westside Champions hosted the first annual Breakfast of Champions in City Hall on July 24. The event was put together to honor volunteers in West Stanislaus county who give back to their community.

Bread and Butter personal chef Susi McMahan prepared the breakfast, which included decadent baked hash browns and a wide variety of quiches. Representatives from Grainger, Walmart and Wells Fargo briefly explained how their companies give back to local communities and commended employees who volunteered in their off-time.

The better we work together, the stronger we are,” said CHS Director of Fund Development Monica Ojcius, “and the better the needs of the community are met.

To top off the morning, CHS honored these volunteers with certificates and the title of Champion.

The woman who kicked the wasp’s nest

Elaine DeLash was the morning’s keynote speaker. Preferring to work behind the scenes in her day-to-day life, DeLash was honest about only begrudgingly agreeing to speak. She is well-known throughout the community for her tireless volunteer work over the years.

“We all start volunteering before we even realize it,” said DeLash during her speech.

Most notably, DeLash volunteers her time with Soroptimist International of Patterson—a club that works to improve the lives of women and girls—in putting together such events as the cancer survivor breakfast during Relay for Life and the Apricot Tea and Fashion Show. Soroptimist is also one of the groups that helps organize the Patterson Recognizing Individuals Determined to Excel (P.R.I.D.E.) dinner auction, a nonprofit organization formed in 2002 to award scholarships to graduating students of the Patterson Joint Unified School District.

“I love the feeling of getting home late from a fundraiser, and you’re dead tired, every bone hurts, but you go to bed feeling like you’ve made a difference,” said DeLash.

DeLash remarked that she never walks away from a job she has started until it is done. She illustrated this with a story about her run in with a wasp’s nest while pruning her daughter and her son-in-law’s lemon tree. After being stung repeatedly, she ran her arms under cold water and got back to work.

Surprising her after she concluded her speech, CHS recognized DeLash as the the first Westside Champion of the Year.

Honoring employee’s community work

Michael Schneider of Grainger was the first corporate speaker of the morning, and he talked about his company’s involvement with the Hammon Senior Center’s Thanksgiving Dinner, Relay for Life and the current shoe drive his employees are engaged in. Any slightly-damaged products Grainger receives are donated to those in need.

Walmart’s Troy McMahan took to the podium and spoke about the almost $300,000 of food Patterson’s Wal-Mart alone donated to food banks last year, as well as the $30,000 in donated school supplies. Employee Kayla Cole was nominated to be a Westside Champion by McMahan for her work with the community.

Oscar Cabello from Wells Fargo recognized the volunteer work his employees have done, which includes hosting free financial literacy classes and helping others get back into the job market through mock interviews.

The 2014 Westside Champions

The breakfast closed with a recognition of Champions as nominated by the various organizations they work for. Manuela Danforth, a long-time volunteer who was recognized for her work with the elderly community, was completely surprised by her nomination. “I didn’t even know I was going to be nominated,” said Danforth. “They told me this morning to come to the breakfast.

“I guess I kind of identify with what Elaine said when she went up,” continued Danforth. “I’m a little selfish. It feels good when you help people. Just knowing that it makes a difference in people’s lives … knowing that your little visit or whatever it is that you did truly made a difference, that’s what keeps me going and keeps me coming back.”

Read the full article on, which includes a list of CHS Westside Champions for 2014.