The 2023 Women of the Year are Cathy Welch (District 1), Jewels Farmer (District 2), Shawn Sorensen (District 3), Amalia De Aztlan (District 4) and Virginia Cervantes (District 5).

Earlier this month, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors recognized this year’s five Women of the Year.

“We [just] started Women’s History Month, and I just think it’s wonderful that we are recognizing the accomplishments and the contributions of women, whether it’s in our local communities or on a national stage or an international stage,” Supervisor Chuck Washington said. “I think for too many years, they’ve gone unrecognized for all that they do.”

The 2023 Women of the Year are Cathy Welch (District 1), Jewels Farmer (District 2), Shawn Sorensen (District 3), Amalia De Aztlan (District 4) and Virginia Cervantes (District 5).

“Cathy’s heart and passion is to ensure underserved families receive the help they need by serving food to the community,” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “Cathy supervises the distribution of food to 200 cars in the community of Mead Valley — it’s quite a line in the morning, let me tell you — putting food in homes which total over 800 Riverside County District 1 residents each month.”

Welch, in receiving her award, thanked God for her “gift of service,” and thanked those who have supported her work over the years.

“I don’t feel it’s about me today, I feel it’s about us,” she said. “We’ve done our part and we pray that God will continue to allow us to keep going.”

Farmer, who was out of state at the time, was represented by friend and business partner Lisa Green during the ceremony.

“She is the epitome of what it is to be a mentor and a role model for every woman,” Supervisor Karen Spiegel said of Farmer. “She has just been one of those persons who has created a much better community and not only gives of herself but lifts up others and I think that is the turning point of what all of our success should be, is lifting others up.”

Green said that it was an honor to represent Farmer and that she could not wait to surprise her with the framed proclamation.

Sorensen, who was recognized for her unwavering commitment to the Temecula Valley region, said her mission in life is to “spread kindness and to spread love,” something Washington said she does through both her professional and volunteer work.

“Shawn is an innovative and inspirational leader with a bold vision to ignite volunteerism in everyone she meets,” he said.

In accepting the honor, Sorensen thanked the board, her husband and son, and a few of her fellow volunteers. 

“In a district full of some of the most amazing women to be receiving this, I’m just absolutely blown away,” Sorensen said of the award. “And to be receiving it from one of my most favorite politicians ever, is just such an honor.”

Supervisor V. Manuel Perez recognized De Aztlan for her decades of civil rights work — especially on behalf of farmworkers in the Coachella Valley.

“Amalia De Aztlan has fought for civil rights throughout her life, as a labor organizer, community organizer, coalition builder, an advisor, a spokesperson and a leader for women, but also a leader for all individuals, including myself, a mentor for me as well,” Perez said. “Amalia, in her own way, in her own right, is a superhero, and I really appreciate what she has done for me, my family, for our community, and for those that are not even born yet, for those who maybe one day will read about her, because of what she has been able to do.”

In accepting the award, De Aztlan thanked Perez and the board for the honor.

“My love for justice, equality, democracy, all those things keep me going,” she said. “And at times, because I’m 72, that I think about retiring, I see things that need to be done, and they have to be done, and they, we just do it, we just jump in and do it.”

Last up was Supervisor Yxstian Gutierrez who recognized Cervantes for her continued service to and advocacy for her community.

“She’s an advocate in her community, the Sun Lakes community, and she does a lot of good work with the seniors there and educating them and providing them resources,” he said.

Cervantes said that much of her work has been done to help people, even as she herself was struggling, but that she was always honored to help those in need.

“So my thing now is for the communities to rise up, teach your children, love your children, and give them honor and grace always because they will be your legacy, and you will be their ancestors,” she said.

In other board news: The Riverside County Board of Supervisors also recognized local Cal Fire Director’s Award Winners — including Medal of Valor recipients Tyler Williams, Omar Desiderio, Alfonso “Al” Moreno and Robert Rubalcava. You can watch a replay of the entire meeting here.

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