Guild Mortgage, Thinker Toys, Morgan Hill Kiwanis Club will be honored March 7

By Marty Cheek

For their dedication to serving the community of Morgan Hill, two local companies and a service group will be honored March 7 at the 2020 Celebrate Morgan Hill gala to be held at Guglielmo Winery.

Guild Mortgage is the Large Business of the Year and Thinker Toys is the Small Business of the Year. The Morgan Hill Kiwanis is the Volunteer of the Year.

Both companies and nonprofits well deserve the community’s recognition for what they do to enhance the quality of life for everyone in the South Valley region, said Brittney Sherman, chief operating officer at the Chamber.

“Guild Mortgage’s co-managers, Jayson Stebbins and Janene Towner Chernoff, are frequent faces and supporters in the community,” she said. “They lead by example and encourage the entire Guild Mortgage staff to do the same.”

Stebbins recalled how chamber ambassadors and staff surprised him and other employees at Guild in one of the company’s meeting room. “Our feeling was one of joy,” he said. “We love this community and have made the Chamber a part of our plan since day one. To receive this recognition is validating and very humbling.  This is an honor we will have forever.”

Guild Mortgage has had a Morgan Hill office for 12 years. Its “charity of choice” is the nonprofit Community Solutions.

“We love what they stand for and honor the work that they do,” Stebbins said. “For over a decade we have been involved in Adopt-a-Family, with our staff donating personal funds and time. We do an annual Diapers & Wipes Drive for them – the next one is coming up in April.”

Guild’s staff also includes Rotarians, Leadership Morgan Hill graduates, Chamber ambassadors, and many others who volunteer their time.

“We also have a large office space and kitchen that we donate to charities, local boards, and that can be rented out as well,” Stebbins said.

Maintaining any kind of retail shop in Morgan Hill has its challenges so it’s impressive that Thinker Toys has grown over its 10 years in the city, Sherman said. “Not only have they weathered the storm, they have thrived and evolved their store into an all-inclusive space where everyone is welcome to play.”

The staff at Thinker Toys got tipped off before the committee came to the store, said Holly Horner, vice president of the store.  She and store manager Sarah Murillo were still pleasantly surprised with flowers and a certificate.  The toy store first opened in Carmel in 1969 and still has a store there.

“This is a place where toys aren’t for boys or for girls, toys are for anyone who is interested in them, and we have some of the most diverse doll and book selections you will find anywhere,” Horner said.

Thinker Toys often donates custom raffle prize baskets to many local charitable organizations including Community Solutions as well as the  Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center (WERC).

“We are also annual supporters of The Morgan Hill Historical Society’s Mad Hatter Tea Party, through donation and volunteer face-painting,” Murillo said. “You can also look for us on Halloween at Morgan Hill’s Downtown Safe Trick or Treat Night passing out candy. We try to always make ourselves available when the youth of our community are in need.”

“The Chamber chose the Kiwanis as the 2020 Volunteer of the Year because this diverse group of unrelenting volunteers with a passion to support youth scholarships is truly the definition of a service organization,” Sherman said.

Members of the Chamber “crashed” the Dec. 17 Kiwanis meeting to make the surprise presentation.

“We had just started our regular weekly meeting when Mellea McLaughlin, Lori Allen, and Steve Tate arrived unannounced and presented us with the Chamber’s 2020 Volunteers of the Year award,” said Craig Kennedy, the president of the club. “Our club was totally surprised and genuinely honored to be recognized by the Chamber in this way.”

The club’s 53 members work hard supporting Morgan Hill, especially focusing on youth, he said. Programs include the Turn-around Scholarship program, Morgan Hill Parks & Recreation Summer Camperships, the El Toro Boys and Girls Club, Scouting Troops 799 & 2799, Britton Middle School Robotics Club, Live Oak High School Robotics Club, Spirit of Morgan Hill Softball, Morgan Hill Pony Baseball, and Turning Wheels for Kids.

“To raise funds to support these great programs, you’ll see the Kiwanis selling food at the Chamber’s Friday Night Music Series, selling tickets at the Taste of Morgan Hill, Mushroom Mardi Gras, and Fourth of July activities, putting on our annual Cioppino Feast Gala in October, and many more,” Kennedy said. “How cool is it when you find a service club made up of various community and business volunteers focused on supporting youth and making a positive impact on your community?”

Robert Airoldi