2011 Person of the Year
05/03/2011 11:04AM ● Published by Style
Photos by Dante Fontana
Philanthropists, activists, heroes, survivors and downright good people – these are the folks in our community who we unknowingly cross paths with daily, but this month Style raises them to their deserved pedestals and shares their award-winning stories.
Allow us to introduce to you the nominees and winner of the 2011 “Person of the Year” award as voted by you, the readers. So, without further ado, the winner is…
Don Pritchard, Pastor
ABOUT THE WINNER, DON: At 19, Don Pritchard was already a heroin addict. He might have gone on to waste the rest of his life had he not decided one day that he was meant for something better.
He never shot heroin again, but his ongoing struggle with drugs cost him everything, including a marriage and his son. At age 25, he found himself in California with a duffel bag, 10 dollars and nothing else.
That was 1978. Over the next 11 years, Don would find God, become a pastor, remarry, have three children and go on to co-found the Solid Rock Faith Center (SRFC) in Diamond Springs. For the next two decades, and counting, SRFC would be a positive influence in the lives of untold numbers of people – leading people to Christ and putting a special focus on reaching the youth. “Our young people are worth any investment,” says Don. “There’s great potential in all of them, all they need is a little encouragement and to know that someone believes in them and their future.”
He uses his own story as a case in point. In his words, if God can take a kid with 10 dollars and a duffel bag and make him the pastor of a church, imagine what more he can do if all our kids were encouraged to reach their fullest potential. “It’s amazing how many kids tell me they didn’t think anyone believed in them,” Don says. “Any one of them could be the one who finds an answer to one of the world’s biggest problems.”
SRFC’s mission for youth culminated in the building of Lord’s Gym of El Dorado County in Diamond Springs in 2006, fulfilling a seven-year dream. For just five dollars a month, any teen in the county can join and use its facilities, participate in a variety of sports programs, and get unlimited mentoring and tutoring support. The whole purpose is to provide a safe, alcohol- and drug-free place where kids can gather and find encouragement.
“When I look at what God did with me and think of how he can turn a 25-year-old man with nothing into a pastor of a church with so much passion for young people, it’s both humbling and exciting,” Don says. “If we can keep just one kid from sticking a needle in his arm or winding up on the wrong end of a gun, all of this will have been worth it.”
For more information about Solid Rock Faith Center, visit solidrockfaithcenter.com or to learn how to get involved with local youth or more Lord's Gym of El Dorado County information visit lordsgymedc.com.
>> READ ON FOR THE OTHER NOMINEES...
ABOUT MACHELLE: It’s really not about Machelle. True, she’s been through more in the past 16 months than most people experience in 10 years. A wife, mother and county employee, her world began to turn upside in December 2009.
Her son was diagnosed with a chronic illness while in college. He moved home and got better, but the dominoes were already falling. Over the next several months, Machelle would experience a series of family crises involving her mother, father and mother-in-law, who ultimately died in her arms.
When it seemed the worst had passed, Machelle’s husband Bob was in a horrible accident. He was in the hospital for six weeks, and Machelle practically lived by his side. They spent their 23rd anniversary together in his room. Then, there were six weeks of rehab. Bob came home a few weeks ago, but still needs constant care.
It would be easy to devote an entire award ceremony to Machelle’s perseverance and sacrifice, and how her faith, compassion, love and commitment to her family could be an inspiration to any of us. But the real story here isn’t about one person’s ability to endure. It’s about the community around her that made it possible.
“It’s not me who deserves this award, it’s the people who rallied around me and lifted me up emotionally and physically – who made it possible to cope and to survive,” she says.
That support was mind-blowing, from her friend Janet who stepped in and “directed traffic,” to the people who brought meals, mowed lawns, and did the grocery shopping. As the bills mounted and Rae returned to work, the lesson she learned was not that the human spirit can gut through anything, but that it has an amazing capacity for grace, if we would just learn to accept it.
“As people offered help at first, I was either too proud or too private; I couldn’t be more of a burden,” she says. “But I came to realize that within all of us there’s a very real need to help others in their darkest times. My desire to believe I could manage was getting in the way of that, and blocking me from the amazing blessings this community had to offer. If I’m to be given an award for anything, I hope it would be for realizing that, and for wanting to pass that truth along to anyone who’ll listen.”
Randy Robinson, DVM
ABOUT RANDY: Randy Robinson says there are two kinds of pet owners. There are those who want the animal to do something for them, and those who want to do something for the animal. “My philosophy is you should get a pet because you want to make a difference in their lives,” says Randy, himself a veterinarian and owner of the Missouri Flat Pet Clinic. “Everything you give them they give back to you twofold.”
Providing that voice to the voiceless goes well beyond the four walls of his home or his clinic. He’s very active in several animal rescue organizations, including Best Friends, the largest no-kill animal shelter in the world. One of Best Friends’ founders, Gregory Castle, is in fact one of Randy’s personal heroes.
Closer to home, Randy is involved with Chako, a pit-bull advocacy group in Sacramento, Bad Rap in Oakland, and People for Animal Welfare (PAWED) in El Dorado County, which just built a “beautiful” brand new spay and neuter clinic near Randy’s office. One Sunday a month, you’ll find him at the PAWED clinic donating his time and just “spaying and neutering away.”
“There’s just so much senseless death happening every day in animal shelters,” Randy says. “By encouraging people to adopt a pet, and by helping prevent unwanted pets by spaying and neutering, I’m hoping to curb [senseless death].”
That might explain why Robinson currently has eight dogs at home and several cats. As a true animal lover, giving a voice to those who can’t tell you where it hurts has always been a passion. As a result, his extraordinary compassion and service to the animals and people of El Dorado County has been widely noticed. If there’s an animal in need, it’s usually Robinson who gets the call.
“I once got a call about an elderly pit bull that was scheduled to be euthanized in 90 minutes unless I came and got him,” Robinson says. “I don’t get those calls often, but when I do, well, what choice is there?” Rarely does Robinson take an animal in with the intent to become its new owner; usually the objective is simply to provide foster care until a good home can be found. “Unfortunately, I’m really bad at foster care,” he says. “I have a bad habit of falling in love with these animals.”
ABOUT PAT: When Pat Barron’s sister Kacie was murdered in 2006, a victim of domestic violence, it would have been easy for his life to take a very dark turn.
Instead, through easier paths, Pat found a way to turn tragedy into triumph. “Crying and whining wasn’t doing nothing for nobody,” Pat says. “I was just inclined to act.”
Act he did. Three months after Kacie’s death, Pat started “Kacie’s Ride for Hope” – a motorcycle rally and ride to raise money to help bring an end to domestic violence. That first year, more than a hundred riders participated and raised $4,500. A healthy start, and word spread fast. In the event’s fourth year it raised $20,000, and all together, it has raised more than $50,000.
The money goes to the Center for Violence-free Relationships (The Center) in Placerville, where it helps cover costs for counseling, legal advocacy and other services. “My sister got help there and I know a lot of other people get the help they need at the Center,” Pat says. “I guess there’s part of me that wishes she’d gotten more help. If places like this get the resources they need, maybe no one else will end up like my sister did.”
It’s not just about money; the event’s real mission is to open the public’s eyes to the reality of domestic violence and make it stop. Pat says, “We need to teach our sons to learn how to communicate, and how to rely on something other than power and control.”
Before the ride starts, Barron gets on the PA and, in his own unique style, takes advantage of a captive biker audience to “throw a little education at ‘em.” “I tell MY family’s story, because Kacie and I grew up in a home affected by domestic violence,” Barron says. “Then I tell everyone, especially the men, that it’s time to stand up, change our behaviors, and teach our boys that knocking someone around is not the way to settle an argument. We need to teach our sons to learn how to communicate, and how to rely on something other than power and control.”
“Pat has provided education into the biker community at a level no one has ever been able to accomplish in the history of our county, if not our state,” says Matt Huckabay, The Center’s executive director. “He really gets young men’s attention and is one of the most credible witnesses to changing behavior and what real masculinity means.