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OBannon Named Young Woman Of The Year
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Kelli O'Bannon

Kelli O’Bannon was one of 17 women recently honored at the Stanislaus County Commission for Women (SCCW) annual dinner hosted by Stanislaus County Commission for Women — and she’s a teenager.

The Oakdale High School senior was among 10 women and five “young women” who were honored as Outstanding Women, along with two other special awards. Oakdale’s Doris Wanty, featured in the March 10 issue of The Leader, was honored as the 2010 Living Pioneer by the organization.

“When the President (of SCCW) called me I was, at first, shocked,” O’Bannon recalled, “and then I became very happy. I felt like I was following in my mom’s footsteps. My mom got Outstanding Woman of the Year 10 years ago (2001).”

Her mother, Karen O’Bannon, who is the Director of Family Support Network (FSN), is a great inspiration and role model to her, she said.

“I strive to be like her every day,” O’Bannon said. “I volunteer my time whenever I can. I help people before I help myself with any community service I can do, just like my mom.”

Being honored with the award has made her feel like she’s being a good person — like her mom, she said, and like she shares the same qualities as her mother. She added that someday she hopes to achieve all that her mom has achieved.

“It was exciting… We were all just proud… Being in the audience that night and watching her speak — it was the first time I’d heard her speak,” said Karen O’Bannon of her daughter’s night in the spotlight. “I can’t tell you how touched I was to see how she’s grown up in that way. When you hear someone speak from their heart, it’s such a difference… She clearly was speaking from her heart. And then it hit me: that’s my daughter.”

Oakdale’s Mickey Peabody nominated the younger O’Bannon for this year’s honor and described her as having “a heart for community service.” She said that O’Bannon had a spirit of generosity from a very young age that has grown over the years.

“It was a great honor, especially being nominated by someone who’s active in our community,” O’Bannon said. “It made me feel like I was being recognized for my achievements.”

O’Bannon is involved with the Spirit of Oakdale committee for the Thanksgiving Day dinner — one of her favorite volunteer opportunities. She said that she likes giving people a warm meal that they may not have otherwise and it makes her feel good to see them smile. She said her family — her father is Brian O’Bannon — has been involved with serving the public for as long as she can remember.

Another of her favorite activities is to donate blood because it makes her feel good to know she’s helping to save people’s lives. At school, she’s involved in Link Crew, ‘S’ (Service) Club, participated in ‘Every 15 Minutes’ anti-drinking and driving event, Renaissance, softball and tennis, and more. She’s also helped with the political campaigns of women who’ve run for City Council and the Board of Supervisors, and with the campaign of the current Sheriff.

As well, O’Bannon has volunteered her time alongside her mom at FSN for 10 years, making her the non-profit’s longest serving volunteer. Karen O’Bannon said that her daughter has “always been there and been helping.”

“She’s done everything from setting up tables, to painting faces, handing out T-shirts to completing surveys,” Peabody wrote in the nomination letter. “While her help with the FSN was alongside her mom, all of her other activities have been Kelli’s own achievements and accomplishments. There is no doubt that Kelli will continue with her community minded service as she enters adulthood and it will be a joy to watch what she does. With her giving heart, enthusiastic spirit and innovative ideas, the possibilities are limitless.”

She is also involved in the ROP program and helps in a Kindergarten class at Magnolia Elementary School. O’Bannon has been accepted to CSU Stanislaus and will pursue a degree in Liberal Studies, with a minor in Child Development. Her dream is to become a first grade teacher and come back to teach in Oakdale.

She sees her recent honor as possibly opening a door for her to be able to provide more service to the public.

“It may give me more opportunities to volunteer more time, not just in Oakdale but throughout Stanislaus County,” she said.

“Kelli has that ‘gift’ we hope that our teachers have: the gift of teaching, patience, joy and genuine love of children,” Peabody wrote.

With the award, O’Bannon received certificates from elected officials in the county, along with a plaque and scholarship check of $500 from the Stanislaus County Commission for Women. She and her mother are now part of a very small group of the organization’s “mother-daughter” honorees.

The Stanislaus County Commission for Women is an organization whose goal is to promote awareness within the community about issues that concern women.