Presentation of certificates took place during the post’s annual Christmas dinner Dec. 19.

By Robert Airoldi

Robert Airoldi

Kudos go out to the Morgan Hill police and fire departments for quickly reacting to four fires set the evening of Dec. 25, along the Monterey Road corridor and arresting a suspect several days later.

The first incident was reported at 7:16 p.m. at the Safeway gas station, 100 Tennant Ave., where officers found two garbage cans on fire that were successfully extinguished. As officers were investigating the first fire, several callers reported a garbage can on fire at the Chevron gas station, 15865 Monterey Road. Fortunately, an employee extinguished the fire, preventing it from spreading to the nearby structure or the fuel tanks. Then, about 8 p.m., fire and police personnel responded to a third fire at the Community Cultural Center, 17000 Monterey Road. It was extinguished before causing significant damage. About 9:41 p.m., police and fire responded to the report of smoke in a stairwell of the Crossings apartment complex, 16800 Monterey Road. In this instance, the fire self-extinguished prior to arrival; however, it did cause minor damage.

Detectives arrested Juan Mendez, 29, from Morgan Hill, Jan. 1 on several felony violations of arson and booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail. The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information may contact Det. Adrian Sapien at (669) 253-4995 or email [email protected].

We got word from Jesse Rizzo, the chairman of the VFW Post 6309 Youth Activities Committee, that the post formally recognized local middle and high school student winners of the Patriot Pen and Voices of Democracy Essay Competition.

The competition is conducted annually nationwide by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. One winner from each state competes for the national scholarship prize of $5,000 for middle school and $35,000 for high school winners.

The middle school VFW Post winners are Amari Johl, $400, Kayla Seth, $200, and Sophia Lona, $150, all from South Valley Middle School. The high school winners are Giovanni Nitis, $400, Alexis Silveira, $300, and Gabriel Heredia, $200, from Christopher High School.

The VFW also recognized three outstanding educators who were selected as Teacher of the Year and each won $1,000. They are Lindsay Hock, Gilroy High; Dana Wolfe, South Valley Middle School; and Heather McPherson, Paradise Engineering Academy.

The recognition and presentation of certificates took place during the post’s annual Christmas dinner Dec. 19.

Congratulations to the winners and all who participated.

The community reading engagement program, Silicon Valley Reads, is back in 2024 with the theme, “A Greener Tomorrow Starts Today.” The program will focus on environmental sustainability with a selection of books and programs that explore the challenges and opportunities of creating a more sustainable future, not only in the county but worldwide.

Registration is now open for the event. The kick-off  takes place Jan. 31, at the Visual Performing Arts Center at De Anza College at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. It will be simultaneously live-streamed by the Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley.

Register any time by emailing [email protected]. Details: visit

The Rotary Club of Morgan Hill continues its philanthropic work. The club recently completed its second 2023 grant program in December, bringing the total of grants provided to local nonprofits serving the Morgan Hill community in the year to $45,000. The December grant program, awarded $25,000 in grants, followed an earlier program which issued $20,000 in grants. Applications for the next grant cycle are expected to be available July 1.

The club offers its grants to area philanthropic organizations for projects and activities that benefit the residents of the Morgan Hill community, said David Allen, who chaired this year’s grant selection committee.

The 37 local organizations selected in 2023 to receive grants were:

All Animal Rescue & Friends, Alma Bonita Animal Rescue, BookSmart Community Advantage, Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley, city of Morgan Hill, Community Solutions for Children, Families and Individuals, DreamPower Horsemanship, EAH Housing, Edward Boss Prado Foundation, El Toro Health Science Academy, Explorer Post 811, Friends of the MH Steve Tate Library, IASC – Circle of Giving, Jackson Academy of Math and Music Home and School Club, Leadership Morgan Hill, Live Oak High School Athletic Boosters, Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen, Martha’s Kitchen, Morgan Hill Community Law Enforcement Foundation (C.L.E.F.), Morgan Hill Grange #408, Morgan Hill Historical Society, One Step Closer Therapeutic Riding, Operation Freedom Paws, PA Walsh STEAM Elementary, Reach Out Food Pantry, Rebekah Children’s Services, RotaCare Bay Area, Inc., San Martin Gwinn School Home & School Club, Santa Clara County Library District Foundation, South County Cal-SOAP, South Valley Civic Theatre, Susan and Charles Berghoff Foundation, The Grateful Garment Project, The Particular Council of the Society of St. Vincent De Paul – Morgan Hill, Town Cats, Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Center, and Wings of History Air Museum.