Every day in Ventura County scores of faithful Catholic parishioners go about the business of serving others in the community. As they give of their time, these women and men mirror the image of God by their selfless work and dedication.On Feb. 10, 36 such individuals from 18 parishes will be honored at the twelfth annual Partners in Service Awards Dinner in Camarillo sponsored by Catholic Charities of Ventura County. Nominated for the award by their respective pastors, the honorees represent Catholics of various ages and backgrounds who serve in a wide range of ministries both at their parishes and in their local communities.Much of the work done by these volunteers is what can be called “behind-the-scenes” services such as picking up food for the needy and stocking food pantry shelves, cleaning the church or gardening. People like Elpidio “Pio” Alvara of St. Anthony Church in Oxnard. Nearly 91 years old, Alvara visits Costco every Saturday morning to pick up surplus bread for the food pantry and delivers food to some of the families in need who cannot get to the pantry themselves.Gary Romanowski of St. Jude in Westlake Village likewise serves in a quiet but spiritual capacity. A father and caregiver of two special needs sons, Romanowski — an artist and sculptor — brings Eucharist to the sick, food and clothing to the homeless on the streets, and spiritual comfort to those in need through outreach into the community. Some of the other honorees find their call into Christian service from their lifelong careers or from the gifts and talents that they feel compelled to share with their brothers and sisters.Padre Serra (Camarillo) parishioner Helen Shields is a retired school teacher who has been widowed for 20 years, and has “lots of time to be involved,” she smiles.“The very first thing that drew me in was the first women’s retreat in winter of 1995,” Shields recalls. “At the end of that retreat 12 women were called together and asked to begin women’s ministry in our parish. Now we are in our 17th year and average about 20 women at our monthly meetings.” Shields says that over the years, the one thing that women want more than anything else is to grow in their faith and spirituality, and small group faith sharing meets those needs best.“We learn from telling our story and listening to other’s stories,” she explains. “People share from their own life experiences and discover the many ways God is present in our lives.”Shields is also involved in Landings, a program for returning Catholics, where people come together to share their journeys of faith and share a meal. She sees a lot of growth, she says, when people can respond and connect with others through this sharing.‘It was God’s idea’Since the late 1990s, Deacon Brian and Sherry Clements have been serving in a ministry in which, at one time, they would never have expected to be involved. Members of St. Peter Claver Church since the mid-1970s, they currently serve incarcerated youth at the state prison in Camarillo and also work with people dealing with alcoholism and drug addiction.“It was God’s idea,” Sherry says.“In the third year of diaconate formation I did a Kairos weekend at the federal prison in Lompoc and it changed my life,” Brian explains. “Forty or 50 inmates participated in the series of talks and activities. The idea was to surround them with the Christian community in a non-judgmental way, centered around relationships with God, others and selves, with emphasis on forgiveness. Once I completed this, I fell in love with the ministry.”Sherry, who is involved at the youth detention facility in Camarillo doing one-on-one visits, believes restorative justice is essential to healing and ending the cycle of addiction and crime in families.“Particularly with the youth, their problems begin with a series of bad choices,” she says. “It’s not that they wake up in the morning and want to commit a crime. In some cases they have been forgotten by their families or alienated. A set of circumstances may make a difference as to what kind of chance they have, especially if they are poor. It takes a very long time to build trust with them.”“Many of the youth come from broken families and long to have adult role models,” Brian adds. “When they begin to trust they open themselves up to what is true and real. Without that trust peer pressure prevents them from letting in outsiders.”Brian and Sherry have also introduced the “Get-on-the-Bus” Program to Padre Serra, and at Christmas have paired confirmation students from the parish to visit detained youth and bring them “goodie bags” for Christmas. Partners in Service honorees also represent many other parish ministries, including bereavement, St. Vincent de Paul, Knights of Columbus, Safeguard the Children, religious education and Altar Society.“This event celebrates the positive contributions made by so many generous members of our local parishes,” says John Rak, director of community outreach of Catholic Charities Ventura County, adding that it is largely through this work that the mission of the church is accomplished.The annual awards dinner is a fundraiser for Catholic Charities Ventura County, which assists thousands of needy individuals each year through a variety of services. For information on the organization, call (805) 643-4694.Ventura County’ ‘Partners in Service’ recipientsFollowing are the 36 women and men from 18 parishes to be honored Feb. 10 at the twelfth annual Partners in Service Awards Dinner in Camarillo sponsored by Catholic Charities of Ventura County:Helen Shields and Richard Bergman, Blessed Junípero Serra, Camarillo; Carol and Sam McIntyre, Holy Cross, Moorpark; Maria Theresa Jinojosa, Martha Loera and Lilian Santoyo, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Santa Paula; Angelica Zamarron and Jesus Alvarado, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Oxnard; Albert Karian, Our Lady of the Assumption, Ventura; Jim and Theresa Sullivan, San Buenaventura Mission, Ventura; Adela Clayburg and Elpidio (Pio) Alvara, St. Anthony, Oxnard; Scott Lee and Maria Cruz, St. Francis of Assisi, Fillmore; Anna Gaz, Linda Lee Richey and Pete Zegers, St. Julie Billiart, Newbury Park; Gary Romanowski, St. Jude the Apostle, Westlake Village; Deacon George (Jr.) and Sherrie Esseff, St. Mary Magdalen, Camarillo; Sara Jackson and Tim Paulson, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Westlake Village; Robert Jordan and Patricia Picciano, St. Paschal Baylon, Thousand Oaks; Barbara Scroggins and Deacon Brian and Sherrie Clements, St. Peter Claver, Simi Valley; William and Lori Alexander and Paul Friedeborn, St. Rose of Lima, Simi Valley; Walter Gamboa, St. Sebastian, Santa Paula; Daniel Hendrick, St. Thomas Aquinas, Ojai; Ken Henschel, Santa Clara Chapel, Oxnard; and Efrain Sanchez, Santa Clara Church, Oxnard. Additionally, Father Dave Heney, pastor of St. Paschal Baylon and founder of The University Series faith formation program, and Patti Picciano, program coordinator, will receive special acknowledgement.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0208/sbpartner/{/gallery}