“If someone asks you to do something, you just go with the flow,” she said Monday.
That attitude pervades her life, leading Cannella, a Ceres Republican, to name Hunter as the 12th Senate District's "Volunteer of the Year."
The district includes the western half of Stanislaus County, including Ceres, as well as all of Merced and San Benito counties and parts of Fresno, Madera and Monterey counties.
Hunter, 54, stood on the Senate floor as Cannella read a proclamation in her honor.
“Juanzette Hunter is a truly remarkable volunteer and member of the Patterson community,” Cannella said in a prepared statement emailed to the Irrigator on Monday. “With her service to Patterson’s children and to the disadvantaged, Ms. Hunter is more than deserving of the 12th District’s Volunteer of the Year. She is a pillar of the community, and I am happy to recognize her selfless commitment to her neighbors.”
Hunter said she was “overwhelmed,” having only learned last week that she was nominated for the award. She also received a VIP tour of the Capitol and had lunch with Cannella.
Hunter grew up on a 32-acre farm in the rural town of Calera, Ala., and moved to Patterson from Fremont in the late 1980s after moving to the Bay Area city after high school.
Since coming to Patterson, she has been involved with schools and various community organizations, particularly those devoted to local youth.
For 22 years, she has volunteered at Sacred Heart Catholic School, where she serves as a mentor advisor. She also volunteered at Patterson High School while her sons Ron Jr. and Dana were students there. At the time, she helped create the Block P program, which honors students for academic achievement.
She led the high school basketball cheerleaders for two years and coached the Pop Warner Patterson Redskins cheerleading squad for more than five years.
She has had a hand in the Miss Patterson pageant as well, serving as coordinator for eight years, and has more recently has taken on the task of purchasing prizes for pageant winners.
She joined local service club Soroptimist International of Patterson in 2006, acting as vice president and president.
In addition, she helps serve free meals in downtown Patterson’s North Park each week.
As if that weren’t enough, Hunter is a youth group leader at the Second Baptist Church in Modesto and previously helped with youth programs at Greater True Light Baptist Church.
Hunter said her faith and family have played a role in her community activism, as has her love for children.
She described herself as a “duplicate” of her mother, retired Alabama schoolteacher Pauline Nixon, who also remained active over the years. Her mother and grandmother were actively involved in church, as she has been.
Hunter enjoys seeing some of the children she has worked with at Sacred Heart Catholic School grow up and later participate in the Patterson Apricot Fiesta’s annual Miss Patterson contest.
“I love kids,” she said. “I believe all kids want to be disciplined and loved.”
In that vein, Hunter and her husband, Ron, have been foster parents to three children.
Jeff Macedo, spokesman for Cannella, said Hunter was “the perfect fit” for the honor, and stood out from a list of 12th District volunteers considered for the award.
Apricot Fiesta Secretary Marilyn Hoobler, who has worked with Hunter over the years, agreed that Hunter was a deserving Volunteer of the Year winner when asked Monday.
“I don’t know how she does it,” Hoobler said. “I don’t think she ever says no.”
• Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26, or email@example.com.