2009 Classified Employee of the Year

May 7, 2009 2:17:19 PM PDT
She's a woman who never saw a project she couldn't handle, or an event she couldn't organize. And she did it all with a smile. Now, as this South Valley woman takes on a huge personal struggle, she's being recognized for her commitment and dedication."So much of what happens at Reedley College revolves around the work that Lori has done," says Teresa Patterson, Executive Director of Public & Legislative Relations at State Center Community College District.

For eleven years Lori Bonilla was known as the 'go-to' woman at Reedley College. Her job title was Public Information Officer, but her former boss and now chancellor at SCCCD, Tom Crow, says Lori did so much more.

"Whenever you thought you had something set ready to go, there was always a little extra touch to try to make it a nicer and better event; more meaningful for people."

Planning and organizing school and community events was Lori's specialty.

"If I need help with something I know I can call Lori," says Patterson. "She's the type of person that says what do you need and when do you need it."

That's why when Lori needed her friends and colleagues they were there for her, too. A year and a half ago Lori was diagnosed terminal brain cancer. She can no longer walk and has difficulty speaking.

"Reedley is not a place where she goes to work, it's an extension of her family", says Patterson.

And it was her dedication to that extended family that won Lori the 2009 Classified Employee of the Year-- the first in the district to receive this high honor.

Chancellor Tom Crow nominated Lori for the award-- despite having been the target of a few of her good natured pranks. Crow recalls the time he was away at a conference. "She got our women's basketball coach, traded him up to some new clothes some suspenders like what I wear quite a bit and she developed a 'Tom Crow' mask that coach Tessler put on. They walked around the campus together to assure people that I was still on campus. That got quite a laugh around the campus."

"I think she misses the students, the activities." says Lori's mom Mary Creed.

Lori's husband Danny says she also misses her friends, and of course those never ending projects, for which they both ended up volunteering. "Every time they had an event, for some reason she was in charge of the centerpieces for the tables and for some reason she would wait until last minute. And guess who would help do it? I'd help her do it"

Lori was one of only five community college district employees to receive this state award from thousands of nominations.

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