Shirl Mendonca: Lake Wildwood names Citizen of the year |

Shirl Mendonca: Lake Wildwood names Citizen of the year

Shirl Mendonca
Lake Wildwood
Bill Yanko

The Lake Wildwood Annual Meeting/picnic held on July 28 at Commodore Park was a big success as evidenced by the large crowd.

It was a beautiful day at the lake that was made even better by the free burgers, hot dogs, wine/beer, and Lazy Dog Ice Cream. The Art Club did a tremendous job of displaying members’ work prior to the meeting … everything from fine art, photography, and 3D artwork … and many of the clubs set up booths to educate and recruit new members. It was a fun and festive atmosphere.

One of the annual meeting highlights is to honor our Lake Wildwood Citizen of the Year which is the nomination and public acknowledgement of residents who spend countless hours making Lake Wildwood, and to a lesser extent Nevada County, a better place to live.

This year’s nominees who have made a significant impact include Liz Alvarado, Jerry and Beth Biagini, Janis Bumgarner, Daryl Maddox, Kathy McLendon, Ken Santistevan, Nan Spier, Cap Wallington, and 2018 Citizen of the Year Bill Yanko.

Bill is our 19th annual award recipient and was nominated for his tireless work as the “science guy” on the Lake Committee for the last 12 years. After a 30-year career heading the microbiology lab for L.A. County Sanitation District, Bill “retired” and joined the Lake Wildwood Lake Committee. Bill developed a digitized, cost effective lake testing and monitoring system that meets EPA standards. After the E. coli problems last July, Bill has been our lake expert and de facto consultant, working both with regulators and as the county’s consultant to help formulate the county’s plan for moving forward. It is unclear where we might be without his tireless involvement.

Also making a difference

Another highlight of summers in Lake Wildwood is meeting guests and family that come to visit. I recently had the opportunity to meet David Emery who was here visiting his parents, Barbara and Bob Emery, who are 18-year residents.

While David did live in Lake Wildwood for a few years and even worked at the clubhouse, he spent most of his earlier career traveling and working all over the world while studying and getting degrees in anthropology, economic geography, and community development. Those years honed his interests in travel, culture, and sustainable development. A true humanitarian, David now lives in Cambodia where he runs an NGO that does community development work in rural areas.

In 2006, David began volunteering with Sustainable Cambodia, an NGO that was run by a Florida Rotarian, Richard Allen. (Some of the money he saved to be able to do this volunteer work came from working at Lake Wildwood’s clubhouse.) Then, in 2009, David started his own NGO with a local Cambodian partner. Their NGO, Bareebo (which means Enough: Water, Food, Ability), is the first NGO in Cambodia to focus on organics and work to minimize the pesticide related health issues that exist there.

Bareebo is currently collaborating with a Pursat City Rotary Club to help provide clean drinking water, teach rain water harvesting and pond digging, and teach skills necessary to market produce grown in local gardens. David is here as a representative of the Pursat City club to fundraise and network with other Rotary Clubs on their behalf and can be reached at

As a former Rotarian, I had worked with fellow members to try to start a water and sanitation project in Cambodia. While that project never got off the ground, it is still an area where I have a strong personal interest. If you are a local Rotarian, check out the meetings to see where David might be speaking.

It is inspiring to hear David talk about his role in participatory development … helping hardworking but poor people become more sustainable by changing their minds and the way they think through their own efforts.

Got a tip about someone or something in Lake Wildwood or Penn Valley? Contact Shirl Mendonca at

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