Says Joe Maddon: “The volunteers are the unsung heroes. Without them, none of our efforts occur.” Every month, the Respect 90 Foundation will salute a distinguished volunteer from the communities of Tampa, FL, Chicago, IL, Mesa, AZ, Southern California, or Joe’s Hometown of Hazleton, PA. Respect 90 will present a $1,000 grant to that volunteer’s charity. Should you have someone who is deserving, please let us know.
Pam Yamane | Caterina’s Club (Anaheim, CA)
Pam Yamane was a Girl Scout for 11 years. Later, she gave her time to assisting with her younger sister’s troop. And while a few years have passed since then, Pam is still, in effect, earning badges: virtual badges with her volunteer efforts at places like Orange County Sertoma Club, Santa Ana College, Helping Farms Feed Families, Surfers Healing directed at kids with autism and the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund.
And one other.
As a part-time concierge at Disney’s Grand California Hotel and Spa, Pam regularly referred clients to Celebrity Chef Bruno Serato’s Anaheim White House. She knew Bruno’s authentic Italian cuisine guaranteed those tourists the top dining experience in Southern California. Then she discovered something else.
“By going to concierge events I found out about how Bruno was feeding kids, many of whom were getting their only hot meal of the day. So I got involved with it,” says Pam.
“It” is Caterina’s Club and it began when Bruno and his mother, Caterina visited the Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim just down the street from his restaurant. Caterina noticed a small boy eating potato chips for dinner because his family couldn’t afford a proper meal. She insisted that Bruno make some pasta for the child. They soon realized that there were many more of these hungry kids, so Bruno began making pasta for 72 children, 5 nights a week, giving birth to “Feeding the Kids in America.” Today, that program is feeding over 25,025 children a week and Caterina’s Club is providing affordable housing assistance, and job training to homeless and low-income families throughout Southern California.
“So I started volunteering with them and I basically help out with some of their bigger events like fundraisers and galas,” says Pam. “I found that Bruno has the biggest heart. He’s going to go feed the children. He can’t say no. For me, it’s knowing how many children are being fed each day and to be able to be there and help with that.”
“Pam has been our number one volunteer for years now,” says the world renown chef. “Her dedication and passion have no limit – she has been a massive asset to Caterina’s Club. She knows us and our way of operations so well, she’s almost like an employee, which I wish she were.”
Growing up in Torrance, a coastal city in the South Bay region of Los Angeles, Pam had her sights set on a career of special education working with the deaf. While life took her down a different path as a computer programmer, her heart remained on her original, personal mission.
“Growing up a Girl Scout gave me a sense of community and giving back,” says Pam, who also has a strong background in language. During her high school and college years at El Camino and Santa Ana, the former basketball and volleyball player studied Spanish, French and sign language. Of Japanese descent, Pam even took lessons in Japanese. All of which has helped her community efforts.
“I don’t have a lot of money but I do have time,” Pam says. Among her volunteer gigs is an affiliation with Sertoma of Orange County. She has helped with baseball and softball camps for deaf youngsters. It was there she served as a sign language interpreter with former Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who was then with the Dodgers. At Santa Ana, she took scuba lessons and later returned to assist the instructors. She also helped with the school’s volleyball classes.
Pam wants to do more with thoughts opening camps or workshops to expose deaf children to sports. “I think it’s so important to give opportunities to children who may have been told they can’t do something,” says Pam. Bruno’s work has served as an inspiration.
“What he’s is doing is fabulous,” Pam says respectfully. “Even during difficult times he is still feeding the children. During COVID when the restaurant was closed for a long time, he was still feeding them. He’s still out there feeding the families. Amazing.”
Rick Vaughn | Executive Director, Respect 90 Foundation