Redwood City's Hotel Sofitel will be a-glow Thursday night as the annual Sequoia Awards banquet takes place.
The annual awards honor local business, individual and student volunteers who make a difference in their local communities.
The awards were co-founded by Paula Uccelli and local attorney Ted Hannig.
Winning Volunteer Program: 'Rocket Fuel Gives Back'
Kiwoba Omiya-Allaire said, she feels amazed, ecstatic and blessed that the Redwood City digital marketing company's employee volunteer program has grown as much as it has.
Omiya-Allaire said it all started out just a couple short years ago with her just grabbing colleagues by the arm and encouraging them to go out with her and feed the homeless or collect clothing for local shelters in their downtime.
What has grown from there is a program so huge and successful here on the Peninsula, that executives are now giving her an official job title and budget, and asking her to take the program nationwide, to all of the company's U.S. offices.
Someday, she hopes it will also go worldwide, as the company has offices in several other countries.
"I'm pretty passionate about Rocket Fuel Gives Back, and I get a lot of support from the executives," she said. "It has really taken off."
She added, companies that are blessed to have the success that Rocket Fuel does owe it to their communities to do what they can for the less fortunate.
"This is something really important that any successful cpmpany should be doing and should be really excited about," she said. "I want to make a big deal about it, and lift up the communities we're in."
The Peninsula program of Rocket Fuel gives back partners with InnVision Shelter Network and the First Step for Families family shelters, collecting toys and clothes and bringing lunch to the shelters regularly.
Whenever at one of the shelters, Omiya-Allaire said Rocket Fuel's volunteers make a point of hanging around, talking to the residents and trying to make the lunch as festive and upbeat as possible for them.
"We just really try to treat them with compassion, dignity and love," she said.
Omiya-Allaire said she is overjoyed that the program will be recognized with the Sequoia Award this year, and also looks forward to giving a talk at this month's Good Morning Redwood City breakfast with the Chamber.
"I feel so blessed to be able to put in this position at such a successful company, and to be able to lead our outreach and charitable giving programs," she said.
Winning Volunteer Citizen of the Year: Richard Imperiale
The Chamber said, Imperiale has been an integral and invaluable part of the reading program at Redwood City's Hoover Elementary School for roughly 20 years.
"'Mister I,' as the youngsters call him, is beloved by the kindergarteners and first- and second-graders. He donates his time and energy - every morning - and gives financial support to the school's many events. He has become a key part of the school's bilingual program," the Chamber said.
Imperiale also serves on the Redwood City School District's financial advisory committee.
A friend of Imperiale's said, "Dick Imperiale is an inspiration to us all, showing us how one individual can make a difference in the community."
The Sequoia Awards also recognize outstanding student volunteers in the community. This year, 25 local students will receive a total of $135,000 in college scholarships.
The top student winners this year are Sofia Duenas and Jeremy Smith.
For more information, visit www.SequoiaAwards.org.
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