By Shanya Rod/Orange County Tribune
Only the most unselfish and hardworking members of the community are selected for the Garden Grove Man and Woman of the Year award. This year, two such individuals live up to the title.
The Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce has announced that the recipients of the 2022 Man and Woman of the Year Award are Susan Lerma and David Skelton. Both Lerma and Skelton are longtime residents of Garden Grove with a great deal of volunteer experience and genuine passion for what they do.
According to Cindy Spindle, CEO/president of the Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber sends out forms for the community to nominate local non-profit volunteers in the city. After receiving the nominations, the Chamber puts them on a ballot and sends them out to former Man and Woman of the Year recipients who do the actual voting.
Susan Lerma has been a resident of Garden Grove since 1972. For her professional work, she and her husband Ric own an over 40-year-old cleaning service, iClean Commercial Cleaning Services.
Lerma began volunteering around 30 years ago, when her children were going to school, and eventually branched out to projects in the community. She maintains that her husband is a professional volunteer who has inspired her to follow in his footsteps.
“Giving back is something that is dear to my heart, and being able to put a smile on somebody else’s face, that’s the reward right there,” said Lerma. “It’s lovely to be recognized for things that you do and all of that, but in the long run, that’s not why we do that. We do that because it comes from the heart.”
Lerma is very active in the GEM Theatre, the Lions Club, the Downtown Business Association, and the Garden Grove Neighborhood Association. According to a Chamber of Commerce press release, Lerma was also a H.O.P.E. board member or volunteer from 2018-2020 and served as Chairwoman from 2019-2020. Lerma said that H.O.P.E. first began with helping abused women and children and has since turned into caring for those that are less fortunate.
The Lions Club that Lerma works with focuses on the Garden Grove Unified School District. Through this organization, she helps provide eye exams and glasses for children who cannot afford them; the Lions club also gives to the other programs that serve the visually impaired, including service (“seeing-eye”) dogs. Most recently, Lerma did a clothing drive with the Lions Club to send clothes out to people in developing nations.
With the Downtown Business Association, Lerma promotes businesses in the city and ensures that consumers are well-informed. Lerma also works to keep residents aware of what is happening in the city with the Neighborhood Association; the Chamber press release mentions that Lerma chairs raffles and collaborates on various projects like “Meet on Main,” “Adopt-A-Family,” and “Adopt-A-Senior and Veterans.”
Currently, Lerma is working on Garden Grove’s Open Streets project. On April 2, the city will have various activities and live music on Main Street. Lerma and her husband are responsible for getting businesses involved in the project.
“I’m really blown away. I feel like there’s so many wonderful people in our community that do just as I do and give back. I’m just blown away that they actually chose me but I’m very very grateful that they did,” said Lerma. “I can’t wait to see who’s next because there’s a lot of people on that list. It just means the world to me. I’m really humbled.”
David Skelton has been a Garden Grove resident since 1968. He worked for a glass company for over 40 years where he did major repairs, much of which was at Disneyland.
Skelton has said that his devotion to volunteering is largely due to the gratitude he has for his life. As a veteran of the United States Navy, Skelton has been to foreign countries and seen how some people live in less fortunate circumstances.
“To me, it’s just when someone needs help, it’s up to us to get out there and give them a lending hand. I feel fortunate that I have what I have and I can help them where I can help them,” said Skelton.
Much of Skelton’s work is done through the Garden Grove Elks Lodge, which he joined in 1971.
He initially joined to be part of a bowling team and later worked with the bingo organization, which got him more involved in the community. According to the Chamber press release, Skelton became Exalted Ruler, or president, of the Elks Lodge in 2005 and became a District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler in 2013. Currently, Skelton is an officer in the Elks State Association.
Two of Skelton’s major projects at the Elks Lodge are assisting with the Christmas party for children in need and sending out Christmas baskets to approximately 200 families each year. In preparation of the Christmas baskets, local high schools have canned food drives and the Elks pick up and sort out the donations; the schools provide a list of families for the Elks to contact and give food to.
Skelton has also said that with some of the funds the Elks Lodge raises, they provide new uniforms for baseball teams in Garden Grove and give out scholarships to children.
Another Elks project that Skelton mentioned was hiring occupational therapists to assist the families of children with disabilities. According to Skelton, this is approximately a four million dollar yearly program that the Elks State Association conducts and raises funds for.
Skelton also volunteers at the Strawberry Festival through the Elks and Garden Grove Emblem Club. In previous years, the Elks have had a booth where they raise funds for charities by selling tickets for items like cars and bikes. With the Emblem Club, Skelton helps set up and cook in their hamburger booth each year.
“As far as me being honored as Man of the Year, I’m proud that I have been given this honor. I know a number of my friends that have had this honor and I was completely shocked that my name was even submitted for this,” said Skelton. “I am totally blown away by it. I’m just overwhelmed by it and humbled.”
Susan Lerma and David Skelton will officially begin their terms for Man and Woman of the Year on July 1, 2022, and end on June 30, 2023. They will be honored at the Annual Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce Gala on April 23.
Categories: Garden Grove