PHOTOS: The 29th Annual Joint Community Volunteer Service Awards

Hatched during a drive to Sacramento by a City Council member from Los Altos and a Town Council member from Los Altos Hills, the volunteer luncheon has grown and thrived as the biggest stage to thank those who make things happen.

Richard L. Henning was the lucky keynote speaker at the annual Joint Community Volunteer Service Awards held Friday, who was charged with telling why volunteerism is so important here. In two minutes.

The founder of Foothill's Celebrity Forum Speaker Series could easily do it in less than that. Think of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills without volunteers, urged Henning, looking over the packed banquet room at the . Would they not be worth living in?

Imagine the community with no . No . No . No Fine Art in the Park. No . No . No ... then, he intoned: "And therefore, no Santa Claus."

Yes, unthinkable.

And so, for the 29th straight year, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills feted nine individuals who were nominated for recognition for all the work they do, often toiling in the background at institutions or events for the greater enjoyment of all.

It wasn't always this way. Los Altos Council member and emcee Ron Packard recognized Mary van Tamelen and Jane Reed for starting the joint volunteer luncheon. Twenty-nine years ago, van Tamelen and Reed came up with the idea on a drive to Sacramento together, said Reed.

Van Tamelen, who was on the Los Altos Hills Town Council, and Reed, who was on the Los Altos City Council, talked on the drive about what they could do to bring the communities together. They wanted to honor the unsung heroes.

"There are a lot of people who work between our two communities, borders don't matter to them," Reed said after the luncheon. "They are just quietly doing their work."

By the time they got back from Sacamento, they had it all figured out. "We came home. We appointed so many people on the committee."

There were many honorees the first years because the committees felt there was a "backlog" of people who needed to be recognized, Reed said.

They held the first awards luncheon in the Garden House at Shoup Park. Nearly 30 years later, it was at the Fremont Hills Country Club. Van Tamelen could not be at the awards luncheon, however, because she was called away for family duties. 

"For me, the most rewarding thing is that it is still going," Reed said. 

The award winners are:

Ruth Buneman

Dru Anderson

Paul Auerbach

Bob Simon

Diane Claypool

Sam Harding

Darwin Poulos

Claudia Coleman

Matt Cuson

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