gmhTODAY 30 gmhTODAY April June 2020s | Page 19

E laine is a gentle woman with a soft voice. She sits comfortably back and smiles readily. She ex- udes the mild-mannered confidence and patience required to teach middle and high school stu- dents in a teaching career that earned her recog- nition as the 2009-10 Educator of the Year for California Middle Schools of the Central Coast. The same confidence, patience and teach- ing skills carry over into all aspects of her life, including her service as a volunteer and on committees. “As a teacher, you have to be able to work with people, be organized, and persuade people to join in and work together,” she said. “I try not to be the ‘teacher’ in a group. I’d rather try to get everyone to work with me.” Coming from a large family of Swiss-Italian and Italian heritage, it’s no wonder that Elaine’s interests embrace food, youth, and families. It started with food: “My mom and grandma were excellent cooks. Sometimes they worked from recipes, put a pinch of this or that—it’s always an art.” Elaine has been associated with the Garlic Festival Recipe Contest, been the Associate chair for Garlic Braiding, assisted with the Gilroy Sunrise Rotary cooking tur- keys for St. Joseph’s Christmas dinners, helped with the Gilroy Senior Center Valentine ice cream sundae social, and helped with the Wheeler Manor BBQ. “One of my favorite pas- times is cooking. I enjoy taking food classes. Sometimes I enjoy cooking just by myself—it’s quiet time.” But, often, she cooks for others. Her work with youth and families includes stints with Arts for Kids, as Coordinator for Back to School shopping, the Garlic Queen Pageant, and Christmas shopping for adopted families. Community service hours required for graduation has brought Elaine into contact with many teenagers seeking volunteer oppor- tunities. The benefits to teens of community service hours are well documented, and with Elaine’s guidance, these young people often find personal rewards from helping others. “Mentoring students, teaching them about giv- ing back to the community and teaching them to do it because they want to, is very satisfy- ing. Some student volunteers I’ve worked with have become friends. Some that I’ve met as teens are now grown with kids, and now their kids are volunteers,” she said. How can people get involved with the com- munity? Anyone who is interested in making a difference should “join an organization num- ber one and see what it’s about, and then do little steps,” she said. “Small volunteer things first; you don’t have to head a committee or be the lead. You can always do something, offer an extra set of hands. Volunteering for one group becomes an entry into being invited to do other things by different groups—before long, you’re a member!” she laughed. “I’ve made some very good friends volun- teering —not just local people, but profession- als because you never know who you’re going to be introduced to while you’re volunteering.” What’s the most pressing thing that needs to be addressed in Gilroy right now? “Whatever makes things better for the community. When I’m doing things, I’m not looking for the rec- ognition. I was honored by the Woman of the Year Award; humbled, appreciative, embar- rassed, and shocked that I received it.” According to Elaine Bonino, “I just think, if you see what needs to be done, give a helping hand to make it a better place.” GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN SPRING 2020 "I feel very honored to live and grow up in South County the number of years I have and that my family’s been here over a hundred years. I participated in 4H and learned to swim at the old Gilroy High School. We had a tab at Rocca’s in San Martin. My mom would send me with a list of groceries, and sometimes Grampa Rocca would look in the basket and say, ‘This isn’t on your list.’ But that didn’t happen very often.” 19