Mayor Swearengin Honors Shur Vangyi, Cargill With Special Recognition at State of the City
05/30/2012

FRESNO – Mayor Ashley Swearengin today honored retired City of Fresno employee Shur Vangyi and Cargill with special recognition for their contributions to the community during the annual State of the City event.

Vangyi received the Key to the City Award in recognition of his lifetime of courage, commitment to public service and dedication to helping others. Cargill received the first CHAMPION (Companies Helping Advance Meaningful Progress in Our Neighborhoods) Award, which was started by Mayor Swearengin to honor companies that go above and beyond in working to improve neighborhoods.

Shur Vangyi – Key to the City

Growing up in Laos, Vangyi was separated from his family at age 12, given a rifle and called into service for his country to fight against communist aggression. At 15, he trained nine months to be a paratrooper and another three months to be an intelligence officer. He served in the U.S. Secret Army in a special guerilla unit commanded by General Vang Pao.

Mayor Swearengin said the stack of congressional commendations Vangyi has received attest to his courage and the sacrifices he made in the name of helping others.

“There’s no question that Shur has demonstrated remarkable strength throughout his lifetime to overcome barriers that may have broken the spirit of other people,” Mayor Swearengin said. “Instead, he committed himself to making a difference in the lives of those he touched.”

After helping to co-found the Lao Family Network, Vangyi later moved to Fresno and joined the City as its first Hmong code enforcement officer. He became recognized as one of the hardest working employees in his division and worked to educate City residents about codes and regulations and what they could do to help make Fresno a better place.

Vangyi, who retired from the City earlier this year, achieved notable success through his efforts to remove abandoned vehicles from properties throughout the City. The City has removed more than 16,000 vehicles under a state program since 2004, and while he didn’t start working on these cases until 2007, Vangyi personally addressed 4,324 of those cases. Since the City claims $200 per vehicle under the program, Vangyi’s work has accounted for more than $865,000 of the $2.9 million that the City has collected.

“He was really doing community and neighborhood revitalization before anyone thought to call it that,” Mayor Swearengin said. “His actions were what the spirit of community revitalization is all about – working to educate people on the front end. Trying to be proactive rather than enforcement-minded. Taking the time to help people understand the intent of what we’re trying to do.”

Previous Key to the City Award winners are long-time foster parent Shirley Bobbitt; Dr. Marty and Joanie Martin, who have spent more than 20 years in the Lowell neighborhood caring for its residents; and Janice Scott, a former homeless person who overcame incredible odds to graduate with honors from Heald College and continues to pursue her education.

Cargill – CHAMPION AWARD

Cargill, which employs 1,000 people in southwest Fresno, volunteers more than 10,000 hours annually with organizations such as United Way, Ronald McDonald House, Girl Scouts, Habitat for Humanity, FFA, Every Neighborhood Partnership and the Southwest Fresno-North Avenue Revitalization Alliance.

Mayor Swearengin said Cargill makes a conscious effort to promote job opportunities and recruit employees from the neighborhoods surrounding their southwest Fresno plant.

Some of Cargill’s other major efforts include:

  • Donating a volunteer workforce of 300 employees to Earth Day 2012 to do a major clean up of impoverished neighborhoods in southwest Fresno;
  • Donating materials, supplies and volunteer hours to complete three community gardens – two in southwest Fresno and one in southeast Fresno;
  • Bringing 25 members of the Cargill Transition in Leadership Team to west Fresno to develop a case study using the 41 & North neighborhood development strategy;
  • Sponsoring community engagement events, block parties, and neighborhood association meetings by donating materials, supplies, volunteer workforce and hamburgers;
  • Serving as a key strategic partner with Habitat for Humanity Fresno County on new home construction and neighborhood revitalization in southwest Fresno. Cargill has donated more than $100,000 to Habitat for Humanity;

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