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City Residents, Organizations Receive Annual Citizenship Awards

Gaithersburg presented Annual Citizenship Awards to three residents and two organizations at Sunday's 31st Annual Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne festival.

As part of the city's 31st annual Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne festival, the Gaithersburg mayor and City Council honored three people and two organizations with annual citizenship awards.

The city has presented the awards to individuals and organizations that make a positive impact on the Gaithersburg community since 1988.

Distinguished Citizen Award

Former City Council member Stan Alster was presented with the 2012 Distinguished Citizen award by Council Member Henry Maraffa. Alster began serving the city in the 1980s as a member of the Planning Commission. He also worked on multiple committees.

Alster was appointed to the Gaithersburg City Council in 1986, where he served until 2007. During that time, Alster counted among his accomplishments several city advancements, especially in the areas of communications and technology. He continues to serve as an active member of the Friends of Wells/Robertson House Board of Directors. 

Marraffa said Alster's numerous contributions, countless hours of service, unwavering dedication and strong vision made Gaithersburg a better place, according to the city.

Distinguished Friend Award

Paula and Ralph Bunch were selected as the 2012 Distinguished Friend Award winners. The award is presented to an individual who makes significant contributions to Gaithersburg, but who does not reside in the city.

The couple was recognized for its dedication and countless hours of service to the city's Holiday Giving program, according to the city. Council Member Jud Ashman said Paula and Ralph have been the foundation of the program for 14 years, helping make it the county-wide model it serves as today.

The couple also contributes to other local organizations. Paula Bunch serves on the board of the Upper Montgomery Assistance Network, where she has volunteered at least two days a week for more than 15 years. The UMAN provides service to families facing eviction and utility service cutoff.

Ralph Bunch is a board member of Gaithersburg HELP and has been instrumental in bringing in donations and grant funds to the organization for more than 20 years, according to the city.

Outstanding Organization Award

The Outstanding Organization Award had not one, but two winners. Council Member Mike Sesma presented the award to Women Who Care Ministries (WWCM) and the Gaithersburg Police Foundation (GPF).

WWCM is a faith-inspired, community outreach nonprofit that was recognized for its safety net services for those who are low-income and need assistance overcoming hunger, domestic violence, homelessness and substance abuse, according to the city.

Its signature program, "Helping Kids Eat" Backpack Weekend Food Program, provides more than 200 Gaithersburg children with backpacks filled with nutritious food items every Friday to ensure they don't go hungry over the weekend.

The GPF was recognized for its "support of the Gaithersburg Police Department's mission to provide quality services to City residents and for countless volunteer hours spent on programs and activities that promote public safety," according to the city.

The foundation raises funds for education opportunities for staff and community outreach initiatives, enhances recruitment and retention of officers and provides technology assistance and logistical support to officers.

Since its formation in January 2008, the GPF has raised funds for the purchase of two K-9s, sponsored runners in the National Police Challenge, supported numerous department events, established the Police Department Library, and provided city officers with items so they are well-equipped to do their jobs, according to the city.

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