Hats Off to Volunteers happening at Rancho Bernardo High School

The purpose of the annual Rancho Bernardo Hats Off to Volunteers event is to recognize the wonderful volunteers and volunteer organizations that make our community the special place it is.

In 2008, San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio, having seen amazing volunteerism during and after the 2007 Witch Creek Fire, suggested to each of the communities he served that they hold an annual event to honor their volunteers.

Rancho Bernardo volunteer Nick Anastasopoulos organized a committee to carry out this challenge for Rancho Bernardo. The committee chose a name for the event, a method for selecting the volunteers to be honored, and the format and particulars of the event. They then got to work carrying out those plans.

The first Rancho Bernardo Hats Off to Volunteers was held in April 2010. It was a great success. The event has been held annually ever since. It is held each year during National Volunteer Month.

The Hats Off to Volunteers committee maintains a list of service-oriented community organizations that serve Rancho Bernardo. Each year, the committee asks each of these organizations to name one volunteer to be honored. The organizations can use whatever criteria they like to select their honoree. The event is not a competition. Each organization’s selected member is honored at the event.

Along with the name of its honoree, each organization submits a brief tribute — 25 words or less — telling why the individual was selected. These tributes are read out loud at the event and printed in the program, serving as a lasting memento.

The Committee welcomes suggestions as to additional service-oriented organizations that should be included. Event programs can be viewed by clicking on the “Event Programs” tab in the navigation bar above. The programs show which organizations participated each year.

The event is held at Rancho Bernardo High School on a Saturday morning in conjunction with National Volunteer Month. It is open to everyone, free of charge. It is attended by the honorees, their friends and family, and by anyone else who would like to come.

In addition to seating for the event, there are booths set up by some of the participating organizations and by event sponsors.

About 70 volunteers are honored each year. The honorees are organized into categories, such as volunteers who serve youth, volunteers who serve seniors, and so on. The honorees are called to the stage by category. A different “high visibility dignitary” – such as a political, sports, or TV personality – handles the honors for the volunteers in each category. The dignitary reads each person’s name, has the volunteer step forward, reads the tribute to the volunteer’s work, and presents the honoree with a hat and with certificates of appreciation from state and local politicians. Photographs are taken to serve as mementos.

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