Homeless center CEO named CAPK Humanitarian of the Year

Published 05/09 2014 06:44AM

Updated 05/09 2014 07:11AM

BAKERSFIELD, CA - The Community Action Partnership of Kern honored its Humanitarian of the Year at a banquet Thursday night. The award went to CEO of the Bakersfield Homeless Center and Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, Louis Gill.

He began working with the Bakersfield Homeless Center 14 years ago. Even before then, Gill had a strong work ethic -- growing up on his grandfather's ranch outside Porterville.

"I had a very rural upbringing, chores in the morning. We had cattle and pigs and going and getting the eggs and for a while milking the goats, the whole deal," said Gill.

A trip to Mexico as a foreign exchange student inspired gill to help others.

Gill said, "I learned to speak Spanish and realized how truly fortunate we are, by simply being born in this country."

Gill went to college in San Francisco.  He majored in Spanish and eventually earned a master's degree in non-profit administration.

"I started working in non-profits there and it's become my life," Gill said.

Gill, his wife and son moved to Bakersfield after finding out they were having twin girls.

"We wanted to move closer to family," he said.

When he started at the Bakersfield Homeless Center in 2000, Gill said family services were lacking.

Gill said, "It was focused on single men. There were ten beds for families. It was set up to deal with your stereo typical homeless individual."

Since Gill took the reins, the homeless center's mission has shifted.

"Our focus has gone from just thinking about beds and meals to how do we help people be successful in permanent housing. How do we help them finish their education? How do we make sure that they can get a job, get on that path to self sufficiency," said Gill.

As for his thoughts on being humanitarian of the year -- he's grateful.

Gill said, "I'm incredibly fortunate. I do a job that I love. It's not easy, but I love it. I have the best staff in town. I can promise you they're amazing people and it's easy to be proud of them.It feels great to be a part of that. It feels great to be in a community where you can say I need some help and folks show up. They want to help. It feels, all I can say is grateful."

Awards were given out in three categories: humanitarian, community partner and volunteers.

Honorees are selected based on support of CAPK programs and individual involvement of helping people and changing lives in our community.

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