Nick Lentini and Gloria Mercado-Fortine were named 2018 Santa Clarita Valley Man and Woman of the Year at the annual recognition dinner Friday evening in Valencia.
This year marked the 54th recognition event for volunteers who have given outstanding charitable service to the SCV.
Lentini and his father, Jim Lentini, become the first father-son duo to earn the SCV Man of the Year title. Jim Lentini was named SCV Man of the Year in 2016.
He said he was very proud of his son.
“I did something right,” the elder Lentini said.
Nick Lentini was nominated for his volunteer work with the SCV Child and Family Center and Rotary Club of SCV.
Mercado-Fortine was nominated for her volunteer work with Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers Inc.
Lentini and Mercado-Fortine were overcome with emotion at earning the prestigious honor, which both said came as a complete surprise.
“This is unbelievable,” said Mercado-Fortine.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Lentini.
Other nominees for 2018 SCV Woman of the Year and their nominating organizations were: Julie Benson, Carousel Ranch; Ann-Marie Bjorkman, Boys and Girls Club of SCV; Julie Creps, William S. Hart Pony Baseball & Softball; Tami Edwards, SCV Rotary; Laurie Ender, Family Promise of SCV; Susan Hayward, Zonta Club of SCV; Pam Ingram, Sebastion Velona Foundation and Soroptimist International of Greater SCV.
Also: Janine Jones, American Cancer Society and Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation; Laura Kirchoff, Circle of Hope; Sue Reynolds-Buckley, Boy Scouts of America; Susann Rizzo, Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment; Lindsay Schlick, JCI Santa Clarita; and Suzanne Stone, Soroptimist International of Valencia.
In the running for 2018 SCV Man of the Year were: Hunt Braly, Bridge to Home and Homes4Families; Steve Corn, College of the Canyons Foundation; Jeremiah Dockray, Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment; Alan Ferdman, Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers Inc.; Neil Fitzgerald, JCI Santa Clarita; Michael Fox, Sebastion Velona Foundation; Michael Keesler, SRD-Straightening Reins Foundation; Taylor Kellstrom, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Circle of Hope.
Also: Brian Koegle, HandsOn Santa Clarita; Ed Masterson, Carousel Ranch and WiSH Foundation; John Musella, SCV Chamber of Commerce; Jim Ventress, Boys & Girls Club of SCV; and Stephen Youlios, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation.
Organizers of the awards said the 14 male and 14 female nominees set a record for nominations.
Emcees for this year’s event, which attracted a crowd of nearly 280 to the Hyatt ballroom, were the 2017 SCV Man and Woman of the Year, Eric Stroh and Laina McFerren.
“It is never easy to choose just one man and one woman from all the volunteers,” said Stroh. “There are so many in this room tonight that have done so much for the SCV. To all the volunteers here tonight, we want to thank you for all the work you’ve done for the people of the Santa Clarita Valley.”
Mercado-Fortine, CEO of Global Education Solutions and a former Hart School Board member, is familiar face at nonprofit fundraisers and other charity events. She has served on the Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers board for 11 years. Her community involvement also includes 23 years working with the SCV Boys and Girls Club, 12 years with SCV Child and Family Center, 20 years with College of the Canyons and numerous years with other nonprofits. She is a 35-year member of the Zonta Club of SCV.
Lentini, managing partner at Lentini Financial Advisory, is a 19-year memory of Rotary of SCV. He has served nine years on the boards of the College of the Canyons Foundation and the SCV Child and Family Center.
After the winners were announced, Lentini and Mercado-Fortine were surprised to see members of their extended families enter the banquet room to greet them.
“I have a big family,” said Mercado-Fortine, as she hugged each surprise guest. “I am so happy to see them here.”
Lentini encouraged guests at the event to become involved with as many organizations as they can.
“There is so much need,” he said.
Repeated standing ovations were given to the winners. Speakers included representatives from the winners’ nominating organizations, as well as government officials and their representatives.
Lentini and Mercado-Fortine were presented with plaques from the SCV Man and Woman of the Year Committee, as well as license plate frames inscribed with either 2018 SCV Man (or Woman) of the Year.
While the Lentinis were the first father-son duo, several mother-son duos have also won the award, some decades apart, including Bobbie Trueblood-Davis (1972) and Fred Trueblood III (1981); Ruth Newhall (1987) and Tony Newhall (1985) and Connie Worden-Roberts (1975) and Leon Worden (2015).
Wayne Crawford (2010) and his daughter-in-law Jeanna Crawford (2007) and son-in-law Eric Stroh (2017) have also captured the award, showing that volunteerism can run in families.
Others with family ties have included several married couples, with only Lou and Rita Garasi (1990) and Don and Cheri Fleming (2004) winning in the same year.
The event dates back to 1964 when A.B. Perkins was selected as “Outstanding Citizen of the Year.” A man and a woman were honored for the first time in 1972 when Bill Millsap and Bobbie Trueblood Davis were selected.
The SCV Man and Woman of the Year Committee, made up entirely of former honorees, votes to select new winners each year.
Criteria for selection include individual volunteer service given to a group or bona fide 501c3 nonprofit community service organization. Volunteer service is defined by long-time community commitment (not work-related); volunteer service includes years of volunteer service, type of service, and the impact of the individual’s service on more than one organization.
This year’s event sponsors were the City of Santa Clarita and Fifth District County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
A monetary donation from funds raised through ticket sales for the evening will be presented to the nonprofits of Lentini’s and Mercado-Fortine’s choosing.
For more information, visit https://scvmw.org.