Sept. 06--Out of 220,000 members and 11 nominations, Gary Davis of the Sunnyvale School District won the 2012 California School Employees Association's William P. Schwartz Humanitarian of the Year award last month.
Named after the association's founding father, the award recognizes people who continue Schwartz's legacy of improving the lives of CSEA members and the community at large.
Davis, who has been with the district for nearly 20 years as a maintenance worker, was recognized at the school district's back-to-school event held at Bishop Elementary School on Aug. 20. To date, he is the third recipient of the award.
The locksmith and carpenter learned he won the award earlier in the month, but what he didn't expect was what happeed when school administration gave him the award.
"I didn't expect a standing ovation," the 53-year-old said. "I was overwhelmed. I just looked up and everybody was clapping. It was pretty weird."
Davis said he is used to being behind the scenes, making himself available to help out in any way he can.
"You don't even have to ask Gary for help," said Mark Mizell, president of the Sunnyvale CSEA Chapter 205 said. "He'll help you out any time you need help. I haven't heard anyone talk bad about him."
Davis keeps very busy and will joke that half of what he does, he doesn't remember doing.
He has done anything from building wheelchair ramps to installing a new car battery for
a coworker in distress. He took vacation time to do electrical work in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina and volunteered his pet Australian shepherd, Gus, to spend time in the classroom with special needs children.
When his mother-in-law lost her leg to diabetes three months ago, he felt strongly about doing something for diabetes research. A diabetic himself, Davis signed up for the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure.
In putting together the nomination, Pat Bradley, SSD secretary of operations, had a hard time narrowing down all the reasons why she felt Davis deserved the award when filling out the nomination form.
"I think it ended up being two pages long," Bradley said. "I just knew, in my mind, that Gary deserved it."
To help guide her, she compiled a list of highlights collected from "thank you" cards Davis would send the district with details from his charity work.
The biggest event he and his wife, Monica, coordinate is their annual holiday/Christmas party at the veterans hospital in Palo Alto.
According to Bradley, if it weren't for Davis, such a celebration would not be held for the veterans.
"If you had nowhere to go for Christmas or Thanksgiving, you were at my parents' house," Davis said. "That's something they did and they always did stuff for people, too. Someone's car broke down and my dad would fix it."
The holiday party was inspired by Davis' grandfather and father, who were in the military. When he asked his father on his death bed what to do to celebrate his life, his father told him to give the guys at the closest VA hospital a party.
Davis has been throwing the party for 15 years.
Fellow district employees donate home-baked goods and clothes and handmade greeting cards by the students, among other things.
"We were very excited when we found out Gary got this award because it was an opportunity for both of us to thank everyone for their support for this event," Monica Davis said. "And what a wonderful way to honor his father. I am just so proud of him."
Copyright 2012 - Sunnyvale Sun, Calif.