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Smiths honored with Heart of Yuma award
Couple named Philanthropists of the Year
Victor and Karen Smith have been named Philanthropists of the Year by the Yuma Community Foundation.
The Smiths were honored during the 13th Annual Heart of Yuma Awards held at the Yuma Civic Center Tuesday night.
“It is amazing,” Karen said after the presentation.
“I am kind of overwhelmed right now,” Victor added. “To be included in the list of people who have been winners before, it is very humbling and a tremendous honor.”
The Smiths were recognized for their philanthropic efforts throughout Yuma County, including the support of numerous charitable organizations such as the Yuma Community Food Bank and Amberly's Place through monetary donations.
In addition to donations, the couple has also volunteered for numerous non-profits and led the community through organizations including the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation and the Yuma Vegetable Grower's Association.
Victor has also served on many boards for entities such as the Yuma Regional Medical Center, the Yuma County Airport Authority, TGEN Foundation, and Hospice of Yuma.
Recently, the couple pledged $500,000 to the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGEN Foundation). TGEN will be working with YRMC in the future on cancer research.”
“That is what we want, for everybody to benefit,” Karen said.
Several others were recognized during the Heart of Yuma Awards:
• Dunbar S. Norton — Outstanding Volunteer.
• Estrella Fitch — Outstanding Leader.
• Exel Navarro — Outstanding Young Leader.
• Dave Sellers — Outstanding Benefactor.
In addition, KSWT News Channel 13 was honored as the Outstanding For-Profit Corporation of the year while the Yuma Community Food Bank was honored for Outstanding NonProfit Organization of the year.
Dunbar Norton decided to settle in Yuma after retiring from the U.S. Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1974. Since that time he has volunteered for such organizations as GYEDC, the Arizona Association of Economic Developers, Yuma Executives Association, the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce and the Yuma County Airport Authority.
He has also worked to improve medical care and education in the community, and to encourage the development of young leaders. He is also known for his work in the Yuma County Library District.
“I found Yuma to be a small, friendly loving town,” Norton said. “It's no longer a small town, but it is a friendly town. People give, that's the reason why.”
Norton was “thrilled” to receive the honor. He said, “I am truly amazed.”
While working at Victim's Services for the Yuma County Attorney's Office, Estrella Fitch saw the need to help the victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse heal and recover following the trauma of the crime, and the long process of legal proceedings.
She resigned her position and recruited other social workers to found “The Healing Journey,” a non-profit organization providing a place where victims can go to find support and the resources needed to heal from the aftermath and trauma of abuse. Her organization also provides abuse prevention resources for Yuma families.
“I'm overwhelmed because I didn't expect this,” Fitch said, noting the best reward is helping those in need get through devastating moments in their lives.
Exel Navarro is a founding member of the Student 2 Student club at Cibola High School in which she participated in during all four years she attended as a student.
She represented Yuma at the Frances Hesselbein Student Leadership Program in West Point, N.Y., was vice-president of Raider Nation, and a member of both the Renaissance Club and the Interact Club.
She has also served with the Yuma Community Foundation, and participates in the annual Yuma Relay for Life. She currently attends Arizona Western College.
“I was extremely honored and privileged because it is an amazing opportunity,” Navarro said. “I can move forward in life with that, and it is very admirable that I was nominated for this amazing event. I hope to one day be an icon for the world and to be a philanthropist.”
Dave Sellers has helped raise money for philanthropic organizations, served as president for the Boys and Girls Club, president of the YRMC Foundation, and donated to the construction of the Ricky Gwynn Stadium at Yuma Catholic High School.
He has also served the community by volunteering for city of Yuma youth sports programs, and has been involved with the Yuma Leukemia Society, Yuma Special Olympics, the Yuma County Fair, the Silver Spur Rodeo, 4-H and FFA.
“I am proud of him,” said Sue Sellers, who accepted the award on behalf of her husband, who is currently out of town. “He has always been committed to the community. He doesn't do it for the recognition, but he does appreciate it.”
Andrew Wyatt, general manager at KSWT-TV, was pleased his station was recognized as the Outstanding For-Profit Corporation of the year.
“It is a very humbling situation,” he said. “We are pretty fortunate to be able to do this and to have a really, really loud voice. It is great community to live in, to work in and to be a part of.”
Mike Ivers, president and CEO of Yuma Community Food Bank, said receiving the award for Outstanding NonProfit Organization of the year was a reflection of the outstanding nature of Yuma as a whole.
“It feels awesome. I think it is something that so many people” including the employees and volunteers of YCFB “and the community of Yuma take credit for because they have all contributed to make this a victorious war on hunger we are waging in Yuma. We are really excited, honored, and privileged to be recognized in this fashion.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.