Jim Hart didn’t grow up in Hollister, but he certainly considers it home. A longstanding volunteer in the community, Hart owes just as much a debt of gratitude to Hollister as the town has to him.
Just college student in at San Diego State University in 1970, Hart didn’t know it at the time, but the science class he just enrolled in would change his life.
“I met Kathy,” he says of the woman who would become his wife. “We met in chemistry—so you could say we just had chemistry.”
Little did Jim know at the time, through meeting Kathy, his fate was sealed: The Massachusetts native would one day call Hollister (Kathy’s hometown) his home. After exchanging vows in Hollister in 1974, Jim and Kathy briefly lived in Nantucket, Massachusetts. But after two years, and not seeing much of a future for themselves there, they decided to head back to California.
After an ill-fated attempt of job-searching in San Diego, Hart found work in Hollister at Teladyne McCormick-Selph, where he became a lab technician. Jim and Kathy have since lived in Hollister for 41 years where they also raised their son Brian Jim went on to work for Whittaker Ordinance and the City of Hollister, as well, before retiring three years ago.
“I’ve felt that, even though this is not my original home, I feel very fortunate to have wound up in Hollister—and it’s a great community to raise a child,” he says.
Hollister is very fortunate to have gained Hart as a resident, as well.
Hart has been a long-time contributor in serving the Hollister community and is now being recognized for his exceptional contributions by being named the Man of the Year for 2018 by the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce.
He has been volunteering for the Kiwanis Club since 1988, after he was invited to the club by a coworker. After listening to former Assemblyman Rusty Areias speak at the cflub about the need for volunteerism, Hart says that he “took the bait.”
Hart says Areias made a good case for the need of volunteerism; how it fills the gap in providing money and resources the government can lack.
It’s a model he saw growing up, as well.
“I actually followed in my father’s footsteps,” Hart says. “He was in Kiwanis and I remember going to Kiwanis Christmas parties as a kid. He obviously thought that giving back to the community was important.”
He also witnessed Kathy’s grandmother, Dorothy Root, be named The Woman of the Year by the SBC Chamber of Commerce in the 1970s, Kathy says.
“He has a history of community service in his family,” Kathy says.
A member of the Kiwanis Club for nearly 30 years, Hart now serves as its president. He has also been involved with Relay for Life, Hollister Recreation Department, Special Olympics, Hollister Downtown Association, The Olive Festival, Kinship Center, Small Steps and Volunteer in Policing (VIP).
Upon learning about his award, Hart says he was shocked.
When Juli Vieira, president of the chamber, contacted him to tell him he was nominated, Hart says his jaw dropped.
“I was surprised and quite humbled,” Hart says of learning about his award.
Kathy says that Jim thought the award would go to someone else.
“He said just like they do at the Academy Awards, ‘Well, it was an honor to just be nominated,’ but I told him he had a good chance.” she laughs.
And he did. Enough of a chance to leave a lasting impression on those who selected him.
According to the SBC Chamber of Commerce nomination form, the man and woman of the year award recognizes and honors residents living and serving San Benito County as a role model for continuous and outstanding volunteer service to our community.
The nominees do not have to be a chamber member, and only past recipients of the award serve on the selection committee. The committee considers only work done in a voluntary capacity, as well as length of service, benefit to the community, and spirit in which the work is done.
And Hart has shown a lot of spirit in all the work he has done.
In 1989, Hart helped charter the San Benito High School Key Club and now serves as its adviser.
“One of the main programs and missions of Kiwanis is helping children, and one of the signature programs that Kiwanis has is making the service organization a family affair,” Hart says.
He explains there are Kiwanis Clubs for elementary school groups (“K-Kids”) to college clubs (“Circle K”). San Benito High School’s Key Club has now been a success for 27 years.
Fellow Kiwanis member, Chuck Obeso-Bradley, who has known Hart for 30 years, says he has seen Hart work with the Key Club students, first-hand.
“So many of the students that he’s worked with develop these wonderful leadership skills; working to run a meeting, or to work as a team,” Obeso-Bradley says.
“Really, that’s one of the remarkable things that he’s done over the years.”
Hart says that the Key Club, over the years, has accomplished things for Kiwanis that only the energy and enthusiasm of youth can accomplish.
“They’ve been instrumental in keeping our local Kiwanis Club basically in service.” Hart says.
And it’s the youth of Hollister that keep Jim dedicated to his services, says his wife, Kathy.
While in the Volunteer in Policing (VIP) Program, Hart coordinated the Graffiti Abatement Program.
“I hate graffiti and I hate gangs,” Hart says.
“So it was a way of not just giving back, but feeling some empowerment to do something about gangs.”
He used his position in the VIP Program to speak to Boy Scouts on a regular basis about the dangers of gangs, while also assisting them in earning merit badges.
And Hart has also been involved in Relay for Life in Hollister since it started here in 1999.
Obeso-Bradley says that he and Hart knew the young man, Cameron Bradley (no relation to Obeso-Bradley), who lost his life to cancer and inspired the Relay For Life in Hollister.
“Jim knew Cameron’s parents, Dave and Marcia Bradley, very well,” Obeso-Bradley says.
Obeso-Bradley says that under Jim’s advisory, they Key Club has never missed going to the Relay since it began.
“One of the reasons is because, you know, it’s very much a labor of love when you know the family and you know what they’ve gone through,” Obeso-Bradley says.
Hart says that Kiwanis has sponsored the Key Club’s team for the past 19 years.
“Between Kiwanis and Key Club, over 19 years, I’d say we’ve raised around $25,000,” Hart says of the Relay for Life Fundraiser.
Those who know Hart, will speak of his humility and the reasons why he serves his community.
Even Hart, himself says those who volunteer don’t do it for the awards or recognition, but because it helps the community.
“I’m very proud of his service,” says Kathy. “It’s a well-deserved honor.”
Obeso-Bradley is happy Hart is being recognized, as well.
“It’s really cool, because he really has a great heart and believes so strongly in the youth in our community and doing everything we can to fight cancer,” Obeso-Bradley says.
“Those are two of his big achievements.”