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Double the blessing: Interfaith Food Ministry named nonprofit of the year; Says goodbye to executive director

Jennifer Nobles
Staff Writer
Retiring Interfaith Food Ministry Executive Director Sue Van Son (center) learns of the organization's designation as first assembly district’s nonprofit of the year for 2018. Newly appointed Executive Director Phil Alonso (left) and first assembly district director Bruce Ross presented Van Son with the award.
Jennifer Nobles/jnobles@theunion.com

Tuesday was a special day for Nevada County’s Interfaith Food Ministry.

The supplemental food bank saw their Executive Director Sue Van Son into retirement after over a decade with the ministry, and on the same occasion announced the organization was named recipients of the 2018 1st Assembly District nonprofit of the year.

The crowd — largely made up of friends, volunteers and community partners — were stunned when newly appointed Executive Director Phil Alonso announced the designation. The news had been kept a secret, and was a noteworthy way to mark Van Son’s career with Interfaith.

The honor was handed down by 1st District Assemblyman Brian Dahle. The 1st Assembly District covers seven full counties and partials of two counties, from Nevada County to the Oregon border.

“They’ve been doing great work for a long time and the assemblyman wanted to recognize that,” said Bruce Ross, district director for Dahle. “I hope it provides an opportunity to put a spotlight on the good work that’s being done by community organizations and remind people that these organizations need community support.”

Ross said Van Son and Alonso will be welcomed to the assembly floor June 6 in recognition not only of their achievement but in observation of the third annual California Nonprofit Day.

Following the announcement, Grass Valley vice mayor Lisa Swarthout presented Van Son with the key to the city of Grass Valley, while supervisors Dan Miller and Ed Scofield honored her with an official recognition of service from the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

Scofield detailed some of the accomplishments Interfaith Food Ministry has celebrated under Van Son’s leadership: over 920,000 bags of food distributed to over 7,100 families, and the implementation of cooking and nutrition classes.

The organization counts over 450 people as volunteers.

Van Son, who began as a volunteer at Interfaith Food Ministry 11 years ago, was thankful for the many people with whom she has worked over the years and for the support the group has enjoyed from the community.

“Thank you all for the part that you’ve played,” said Van Son. “When I tell stories about Interfaith, it’s about the kids who get dinner that night. It’s about the adults that walk through the door, feeling shame because they can’t make ends meet. Those are the people that every day we all have been able to help.

“That’s where my focus has always been.”

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be contacted at jnobles@theunion.com or at 530-477-4231.

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