Local Women Honored by Hillsides

Photo by Larissa Althouse / OUTLOOK Honoree Liz Rusnak Arizmendi (second from left) is joined by husband Andrew, son Andrew II and sister Victoria.
Photo by Larissa Althouse / OUTLOOK
Honoree Liz Rusnak Arizmendi (second from left) is joined by husband Andrew, son Andrew II and sister Victoria.
Photo by Larissa Althouse / OUTLOOK Honoree Susan Noce and her husband, Bill.
Photo by Larissa Althouse / OUTLOOK
Honoree Susan Noce and her husband, Bill.

Longtime Hillsides’ supporters Liz Rusnak Arizmendi and Susan Noce received Hillsides Lifetime Achievement awards at the foster care charity’s annual Circle of Excellence Dinner held on Oct. 12. They were two of six individuals or organizations honored during an evening that recognized Hillsides major donors and volunteers.
Arizmendi, vice president of public relations at Rusnak Automotive Group, was honored for her 20-plus years of involvement with Hillsides, including chairing the 2013 centennial gala. While accepting the award, Arzimendi said she was inspired to give back both by her family and her high school, Mayfield Senior School, whose motto is “actions, not words.”
“Don’t tell me you’re going to do something, just do it,” she said. “Being here and doing what I do and continue to do at Hillsides is such a pleasure.”
Susan Noce, a board member of Hillsides since 2001, also received a Hillsides Lifetime Achievement award. Noce currently serves on Hillsides’ government relations, capital campaign steering committee, human resources and gala committees, and she and her husband are financial supporters of Hillsides. “I learned from my parents, who taught me, when you can, you must give back,” said Noce. “It’s all about what you come [to Hillsides] with, which is the ability to work hard and the hope that you’ll make the right decisions for the kids we are so fond of and hope will succeed.”
The other award winners of the night were Tracy and Dick Hirrel and the Ayrshire Foundation, which received a Hillsides Community Angel Award for their personal and financial support of Hillsides; Kim Weleba, Hillsides’ nursing supervisor for 28 years, who received a Hillsides Angel Award for her volunteer work at Hillsides outside of her job; St. Dominic’s CL Group, which received a Hillsides Special Recognition Award for volunteering with the children; and visual artist and dancer Naomi Barrett, who was also awarded a Hillsides Special Recognition Award for mentoring youth in art.
“Your steadfast love of Hillsides is like a lighthouse to the children and families who need us,” Jackie Broxton, Hillsides major gifts and planned-giving director, told the honorees during the event.
The dinner, attended by more than 100 guests, was held on the charity’s Pasadena campus, which is currently in the final stage of a $17.1-million renovation. The improvements include a 34,000 square-foot student center that includes art and music studios, a gym and recreation center, a new kitchen and dining commons. Before the awards began, guests were given tours of the campus construction, which is slated to be completed by the fall of 2018.
During the program portion of the evening, Hillsides President and CEO Joseph Costa highlighted Hillsides school, the Hillsides Education Center, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.
The keynote speaker of the evening was a parent at the school, Meg Russett. Russett gave a riveting and moving speech about how the school has helped her daughter bounce back from years of academic and behavioral setbacks.
“HEC has given my daughter back her self-esteem and given me back my hope,” she said.

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