Christina Nordella, Janice Murasko and Robert Hewitt, and Jerry Holldber
Christina Nordella, Janice Murasko and Robert Hewitt, and Jerry Holldber

The Ernie Maxwell Community Spirit Award committee at the Town Crier has decided on three top candidates for the community to choose among.

The honor is given to an individual or group who represents EMax’s spirit of community and volunteerism. Prior awardees took actions that created a spark sufficient to bring others into the fray just as Maxwell did with his activities involving the environment.

This year, all nominees are individuals who have demonstrated a tangible, perhaps physical, effect on the community. They also were chosen because they have given, without expecting recognition and mostly behind the scenes, for years and years helping improve our community.

The candidates and their accomplishments, in alphabetical order, are:

1. Jerry Holldber’s local volunteering has spanned five decades, beginning with volunteering as a young teenager at the Idyllwild Institute Fiesta. He joined the Jaycees, serving as chair of six Bluegrass Festivals. Part of the proceeds helped start the Friends of the Mt. San Jacinto County Parks.

As a Pine Cove Fire Department volunteer, he served as an engineer, EMT and ambulance driver for 12 years. He volunteered on the Idyllwild Scholarship Committee for two years.

As a 15-year member of the Idyllwild Lions Club, he co-founded and co-chaired the five Timber Festivals that helped support a special needs camp and Guide Dogs of the Desert. He has been involved in the Pine Cove Property Owners Association for more than 25 years, serving as president and other positions some years.

He has volunteered on the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council for more than 10 years, most years as treasurer. He is chair of the CSA 38 Advisory Committee.

2. Janice Murasko and Robert Hewitt: Janice has been involved in the Animal Rescue Friends of Idyllwild for at least five years.

Janice keeps Sadie’s Clinic going where a vet visits the Hill monthly, offering low-cost services without pet owners having to drive off the Hill.

As a licensed dog trainer, Janice uses those skills to make ARF dogs more adoptable. She writes ARF’s monthly newsletter offering helpful tips to pet owners.

She spends endless hours, often single-handedly, keeping ARF going and finding temporary foster homes for animals found or left abandoned on the Hill.

Robert drives his truck around searching for and tracking lost pets when calls come in. He also acts as the Sadie’s Clinic vet assistant and has the scratches on his arms to prove it. He also volunteers as a CSA 38 Advisory Council member and president of the Pine Cove Water District board.

The couple started the Paws for Rhythm and Brews fundraiser for ARF last year. Janice, along with Sheila Boynton, also created the fundraiser to nominate a pet as mayor that raised more than $30,000.

3. Christina Nordella is one of the founding members of Idyllwild School’s smARTS program, a collaboration between the PTA and local artists, begun more than 10 years ago to bring art back into the school after budget cuts. She has been a volunteer coordinator and volunteer artist.

After losing everything in a house fire a few years before the 2013 Mountain Silver fires, she and Ginger Dagnall held an event to raise money for those who were most severely affected in the two wildfires. It raised about $8,000.

In 2007, she re-established the nonprofit Earthwitness Foundation to bring school chidren from cities in the county to Idyllwild to experience the mountain. They learned about Native Americans and ecology, and were given an organic lunch and snack. EWF has taught more than 550 students, and offers a scholarship to a graduating eighth-grade student and teacher. It also raises money for Cahuilla basket weavers and Idyllwild Arts Academy’s sustainability program.

Christina volunteered in the Idyllwild Festival of Cinema. She and Conor O’Farrell created Leg Up Theatre Company to raise money for the ICC project and Idyllwild Middle School sports.

She founded the free Community Caring Lunch every Thursday at St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church. She also offers free community  healing, a 15-minute Japanese accupressure session, once a month.

The four previous awardees were the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council in 2011, Dawn Sonnier in 2012, Robert Priefer in 2013, Annamarie Padula in 2014 and Wendy Read in 2015.

To vote, fill out the form on the back page (no photocopies) and drop it off at the Town Crier office or mail it to Town Crier, Attn: Emax Award, P.O. Box 157, Idyllwild, CA 92549. Or vote online at The deadline to vote for your favorite nominee is 5 p.m. Thursday, June 9.