On Saturday, May 20, Ladera Ranch Community Services (LARCS) and Ladera Ranch Maintenance Corporation (LARMAC) hosted the annual volunteer appreciation event at the Terramor Aquatic Park, where the 2023 volunteer service award recipients were named. Volunteers had the opportunity to enjoy a day at the water park with their families.
Volunteers are nominated by Ladera Ranch residents and award recipients are selected by a committee of peers.
Ranch Hand Volunteer Recognition
The Ranch Hands is a volunteer organization in Ladera Ranch comprised of resident volunteers who volunteer at LARCS community events. The following recipients were recognized for their years of service:
- Joya Celik (5 years)
- Emre Celik (5 years)
- Kim Diaz (5 years)
- Corey Gibson (5 years)
- Samantha Talley (5 years)
- Jim Finken (10 years)
- Jill Lau (10 years)
- Heidi Anne Duerr (20 years)
It’s exciting to see families create a legacy of service to others and serve their community. When families volunteer together, it brings them together in positive ways that are unique to each family.
Family Volunteer of the Year: Kelly and Mark Hallbeck
The Hallbeck family volunteer as individuals and as a family. They make a positive impact on the Ladera Ranch community throughout the year. Kelly and Mark have lived in Ladera for 20 years and have spent the majority of those years volunteering for LARCS. They have volunteered at almost every event in some capacity, from setting up to judging contests, handing out eggs scramble passes, and everything in between. Kelly is in her ninth year as a Girl Scout leader and is an important member of the Girl Scout Valley Service Unit Team. Kelly has given countless hours of volunteering in her community. Although they may not have invented the wheel, they have helped to strengthen it, and they make Ladera Ranch an amazing place to call home.
Community Group of the Year: Ladera Ranch Ladies Pickleball Group
The Ladera Ranch Ladies Pickleball Group is comprised of enthusiastic women who enjoy playing pickleball, laughing, and having fun. The group was started by three residents, including Denise Frank and Jill Lau. These ladies have inspired others to actively participate in the sport of pickleball with the purpose of connecting women through the sport. Their leadership and positive and inclusive attitudes foster a fun and enjoyable playing experience for all.
They have initiated round-robin and holiday tournaments in the community resulting in the sport's rapid growth. Their enthusiasm and positive energy have encouraged other ladies to get out on the court and learn how to play. Their Facebook group page has over 400 members.
Ranch Hand Volunteer of the Year: Jim Finken
Jim has consistently demonstrated leadership and commitment to the community. Whenever needed to ensure a LARCS event is the best, Jim is there and does whatever it takes. Over the past 10 years, Jim has volunteered in excess of 15 hours per year, helping to plan, coordinate and implement LARCS events as a member of the Event Planning Committee, As an active committee member, Jim can be found helping at each event in various capacities: judging costume contests, supervising egg scramble areas during Spring Celebration, or taking the lead in the July 4th Celebration Parade judging.
As a devoted member of the community, Jim listens to residents and makes sure that their feedback is considered when working to continually improve and evolve LARCS events.
Teen Volunteer of the Year: Connor Mai
Connor has developed his leadership skills through his volunteering at many of the LARCS events and also through serving as an active member of the LARCS Teen Leadership Council since 2022. Connor donates his time to helping at the Nature Reserve and school organizations. This past year, Connor has written three articles on LaderaLife, with one being included in the summer issue of Roots and Wings magazine (see page 7). Connor has surpassed the record with the number of hours he has given this year.
Adult Volunteer of the Year: Jessica Geyer
Our Ladera Ranch community has been blessed by a volunteer superstar who works day and night to improve the quality of education, grow access to programs for our youth and educational workforce, and connect our public school community to leadership on a county, state, and federal level.
Jessica has served on the Legislative Advocacy team since 2014 and became the Chairperson in 2022. She also took on the role of PTSA President at San Juan Hills High School from 2021-23 and continued to run the legislative advocacy team. In her work with legislation, Jessica has served on multiple committees throughout the Capistrano Unified School District in support of our Ladera schools and all of the schools within our district. Raise the Base is a highly successful initiative that Jessica founded and built from scratch as a means to advocate for better funding and resources for our schools.
The work that Jessica has done in our community has made a significant impact on the lives of our children and their futures. She has paved the way for our schools and district to become a strong voice and representative for the county and state. She has developed relationships with key legislative and educator leaders. Because of her diligent efforts, she has essentially put Ladera Ranch on the map when it comes to education.
For over 22 years, the spirit of volunteerism has been an integral part of the Ladera lifestyle and fabric of the community.
The community is fortunate to have these and many other worthy residents who give generously their time to benefit their fellow residents and our community.