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It was planned as a surprise event. Luisa Buada, the executive director of the Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto, was about to receive an award on Tuesday, March 26 that would surprise her.
Buada sat at a conference table in the California Room of the Community Resource Center in East Palo Alto with a small group that included a few members of her staff and several of the center’s board members. Everyone in the group knew about the award and they were trying to keep the award a secret from her.
As the group sat talking around the conference table shortly after noon, the door opened and the surprise unfolded as planned. California State Senator Jerry Hill walked into the room towards Buada and told her that he had named her the 13th Senate District’s 2013 Woman of the Year in San Mateo County.
Buada did, indeed, look surprised. In fact, she had tears in her eyes.
In giving Buada the award, Hill cited her 30 years of dedication to the field of health and pointed out the contributions she had made in health care and in dental care and the partnerships she created with Lucille Packard, Stanford and Kaiser on behalf of the Ravenswood Family Health Center.
He said, “It takes a genius and we have one right here, someone who could put it together. I don’t want to say an asset…. She’s more than that….[She’s] the gem of our county.”
As Buada responded, holding back her tears with difficulty, she said, “You know I do this because it is a vocation. People are put on this earth because they have an important role to play in life and I’ve found my role and I’m glad to use my talents for the betterment of the community and for people that need us…. We’ll always be doing great things because we believe in being great. We believe in being great for the people we serve.”
The text of the award Buada was given states that it was "presented in appreciation of your service to our community as executive director of Ravenswood Family Health Center. Your unparalleled leadership at RFHC and intense focus on community wellness ensure that residents of East Palo Alto and Belle Haven have access to the health care services they need. I highly commend your strong commitment to the residents of San Mateo County, and I am proud to name you the 13th Senate District’s Woman of the Year in San Mateo County."East Palo Alto City Council member Larry Moody told Buada, “I do believe in callings and I think there was something very significant about you landing in East Palo Alto. You helped this community emerge… You’ve been able to champion the ideas of good health, quality health for all communities and we have embraced that vision. Right, we’ve rallied around you. We look forward to the expansion of the project here. We want to make sure the community is behind you, the city council is behind you.…You’re a wonderful asset, gift, blessing to our community and I so appreciate you.”
When everything ended, some of us who had arrived at the event, unexpectedly, had to admit to Buada that we knew about the surprise award all along.
Henrietta J. Burroughs, the author of this article, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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