Biz Buzz: Impact Award winners named

A local organization that helps disabled children and a hospital that donates millions of dollars in services were among the winners of the 2009 Central Coast Community Impact Awards.

Honoring recipients that give their time and resources for people facing special needs in local communities, the winners are Jack’s Helping Hand, outstanding nonprofit organization; Beverly Aho, outstanding volunteer; Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, outstanding business; and Jim Sargen, outstanding philanthropist.

The awards are presented each year by two local nonprofit radio stations, K-LIFE 89.3 FM and 890 AM. An independent selection committee chooses the winners.

For nearly five years, Jack’s Helping Hand has assisted local children with disabilities and their families.

The organization has donated more than $1 million to children with special needs and provides high-tech wheelchairs, prosthetics, custom equipment, and support groups. It has plans for the only park within hundreds of miles that is being designed for children with disabilities.

Aho has volunteered for Hospice of San Luis Obispo County since 2002. Her client assignments have been anywhere from a month or two up to a year.

“Bev’s willingness to sit with the dying and terminally ill, to offer them a comforting and safe container for their grief and pain, simply because it can and needs to be done — that is what I admire most about Bev,” said Steve Willey, in-home coordinator for the organization.

Now in its 50th year of service, Sierra Vista contributes to more than 25 community and nonprofit organizations. In 2008, it provided nearly $8 million in charitable care.

More than 100 of its employees participate in fundraising efforts each year for the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the Food Bank Coalition.

Sargen, a philanthropist to Cuesta College, served on its foundation board from 1995 to this year and served as president from 2005 to 2008.

He spearheaded the “Campaign for Cuesta,” which raised $6.2 million to build the North County Campus.

All will be honored at a public awards banquet on Dec. 1 at the Monarch Club in Nipomo, featuring Mike Ward, a former San Luis Obispo fire captain whose bicycle accident 12 years ago led to him becoming a quadriplegic.

For information on each of the winners and details on attending the awards event, visit

— Tonya Strickland

Ex-Merrill advisers form their own firm

Peak Wealth Advisors, an independent financial advisory firm in San Luis Obispo, was recently formed by managing principals Donald Ramirez and Helen Sipsas.

Both were formerly financial advisers with Merrill Lynch.

Peak Wealth Advisors provides comprehensive financial planning and asset management services for individuals, families and businesses, and has an office in Pasadena.

Ramirez is vice president of the board for Camp Ocean Pines and a member of the Cambria Rotary Club. Sipsas serves on the board of the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden and is a member of the Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo.

— Julia Hickey