… And a drumroll, please!

The Town Crier is proud to announce the 2020 Ernie Maxwell Community Spirit Award nominees. They are Robert “Bob” Romano, Mara Schoner and Mark Yardas, and Stephanie Yost.

Please keep the following in mind when you vote: The individual should have demonstrated a tangible, perhaps physical, effect on the community. 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.

Ballots need to be submitted by 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25. To help you decide who to vote for, we compiled all the amazing things that were written about each nominee, in the EMax spirit, of course.

Robert “Bob” Romano
PHOTO BY Norma Romano

Bob Romano: The person who nominated Romano wrote that he “has been the driving force behind the local Forest Service Volunteer Association’s (FSVA) growth and impact. Bob joined the FSVA as a wilderness ranger in 1998 and he became the FSVA wilderness coordinator in 2001. Under his leadership as the wilderness ranger coordinator, the FSVA has grown in the number of active volunteers from three active wilderness rangers to over 30 people.”

He has been a volunteer with the organization for 22 years and been involved with volunteer training, Leave No Trace ethics and education for volunteers and visitors, Tahquitz Peak volunteer and coordinator, preparing agreements between the Forest Service and FSVA, outreach and education programs for the local mountain communities, scheduling volunteer wilderness rangers, monitoring for illegal campfires and helping out at the fire call center in San Bernardino during numerous fire incidents.

In 2010, Romano became the president of FSVA’s board of directors. He received a USDA Special Recognition award in 2005.

Mark Yardas and Mara Schoner

Mara Schoner and Mark Yardas: The individual who nominated Mara and Mark wrote, “In 2017, longtime Idyllwild residents Mark Yardas and Mara Schoner launched the nonprofit Idyllwild Forest Health Project (IFHP). IFHP’s mission is to promote thriving forests in the San Jacinto Mountains through community education, advocacy and researching ecologically sound, financially sustainable forest management practices.

“Following the economic shutdown from COVID-19, Mark and Mara saw community members struggling to feed and care for themselves due to the financial impact of the virus and/or health concerns about safety when going shopping. In response to the growing crisis, they launched the Mountain Communities Mutual Aid (MCMA) group as a project under the IFHP nonprofit umbrella. MCMA provides healthy foods, essential goods and services to our mountain community members.”

MCMA supplies approximately 100 boxes to community members each week. The group has grown to 450 members and distributed more than 1,600 food boxes.

Stephanie Yost

Stephanie Yost: “When Stephanie Yost took over as board president of the Idyllwild Community Center last year in the midst of construction for the Butterfield Amphitheater, she oversaw the project to completion,” the person who nominated Yost wrote. “The amphitheater was unveiled with the start of the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series in 2019. Yost was at every concert making sure volunteers had everything they needed, the stage crew and performers were taken care of, the concerts stayed on schedule and neighbors were on board.

“When the monthly Low Income Commodity Distribution, which had been conducted for many years at the Church of Latter-day Saints, was forced to find a new home, Yost went into action, not only facilitating and coordinating the new Feeding America pickup location at Town Hall, but making sure Town Hall would be outfitted with refrigerated storage to accommodate the deliveries. And who do you find handing out boxes of food during those monthly pick-ups? Stephanie, of course. She’s there making sure everything runs smoothly and everyone is safe.” Yost also brought the farmers market to Town Hall.

In addition to her work with ICC, she is a member of Soroptimist International of Idyllwild and serves as a docent for the Idyllwild Area Historical Society.

That’s a little information about each nominee. Please remember to get your ballot (on page A4) into the Town Crier by Sept. 25. The winner will be announced in the Oct. 1 edition of the Town Crier and their name will be added to a plaque in the Town Crier office. Good luck to all of the nominees!