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On Tuesday, at the Citizen Hotel in downtown Sacramento, a benefit reception was held for the UFW Foundation Joe Serna Civic Participation Fund. The event was a salute to the life and work of former Mayor Joe Serna, Jr. and honored Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg for his work on behalf of farm workers.
In addition, the event was held to recognize and support the work of the UFW Foundation. The UFW Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Its mission is to empower and improve the lives of farm workers and other low-income and migrant workers through civic engagement, community education, research, and implementation and enforcement of equitable public policy. The original funding for the UFW Foundation came from leftover campaign funds Serna bequeathed to the United Farm Workers Union.
Attending the event were many members of Serna's extended family. Also in attendance were many veteran supporters of the United Farm Workers Union who had worked side-by-side with Serna. Many members of the State Legislature and Capitol staffers were also in attendance.
Among the speakers participating in the program was civic leader and developer Angelo Tsakopoulos. He reminisced about meeting Serna for the first time when they were teenagers working in the fields harvesting peaches in Acampo, near Lodi. He went on to say, "How great this country is where the son of a farm worker can become a college professor." A humorous moment ensued when Tsakopoulos added, in deference to Mayor Kevin Johnson who was in attendance, "Excuse me if I say this Mr. Mayor, but I think to be a professor is a higher calling than being a mayor."
Also addressing the audience were Serna's son Phillip Serna, future candidate for the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and his daughter Lisa Serna-Mayorga, a member of Johnson's staff. A video tribute to Serna was also shown.
Following the video tribute, Arturo S. Rodriguez, Board President of the UFW Foundation, spoke about the support Serna gave to the Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union. Next, Rodriguez praised Steinberg for continuing Serna's work. Steinberg was honored by being presented with the UFW Foundation Serna Civic Participation Award. The award celebrates the principles of social justice, community activism, visionary leadership, and cultural diversity that Serna embodied as a community activist, teacher and local elected official. In his remarks, Steinberg said, "Receiving this award has special meaning to me because 17 years ago, Joe Serna was my mentor."
The Serna Civi Participation award presented to Darrell Steinberg was specially boxed bottles of United Farm Workers Union wine, Black Eagle. In accepting the award, Steinberg stated he will not drink the wine until his bill, SB 789, California Employee Free Choice Act for Farm Workers, is passed.
For more information about the UFW Foundation, please visit the web site at UFWFoundation.org.