Palm Springs Human Rights Commission Honors Volunteers

Individuals, Organizations Recognized For Community Service

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Honorees at a Palm Springs Human Rights Commission awards ceremony Monday paid close attention to Gov. Jerry Brown's announcement on the state's budget.

The organization paid tribute to members of the Coachella Valley for their volunteer work.

Still, many of the recipients were concerned that some of the organizations they work for will lose money and services because of the state's budget woes.

Eleven individuals and organizations were honored for their years of hard work at the annual "Promoting Universal Human Rights Close to Home" awards.

"I am extremely humbled," said Sergio Carranza, an award recipient.

"I feel I don't deserve it," said Sister Gabi Williams, another award recipient.

"By giving to others," said Holly Whitlow, an award recipient, "I get back a tremendous amount."

One local hero after another, after another, after another took the stage, soaking in the applause and recognition from their peers and community.

"Many, many people deserve this kind of award as well," said Carranza. "There's many, many people doing this kind of work in the Eastern Coachella Valley."

Carranza founded Pueblo Unido, an organization dedicated to making live easier for farm working families living in rural areas.

Whitlow was born with polio. However, she spends most of her time assisting others deal with another disability.

She was honored for working with patients at the Stroke Recovery Center in Palm Springs -- she helps stroke victims regain the ability to speak.

Whitlow said she was flattered by the award and alarmed by the governor's decision to cut $750 million from the state's Department of Developmental Services, which supports people with developmental diseases.

"I hope that it wont hurt the Stroke Recovery Center, because they're functioning on a low budget as it is," she said.

Overall, Brown is calling for $12.5 billion in spending cuts, including $1.7 billion to Medi-Cal and $1.5 billion to CalWorks -- California's welfare-to-work program.

"It's very difficult, and I know that they have to do cuts," said Williams. "I think human life and dignity are what we need to be zeroing in on and that's where we need to put the funding -- for human life."

"The good news is that the budget cuts, even thought its sad news, is that it's limited to institutions," said Carranza. "Nonprofits rely on another array of funding opportunities."

Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) responded to the governor's cuts and said, "With the state facing a $28 billion deficit, there is no choice but to make tough permanent spending cuts."

However Nestande also said that health and human services should remain a priority.

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