Chris Bethards at the Healdsburg Senior Center
The annual Marie Sparks Memorial Volunteer Award for 2015 was presented to citizen Chris Bethards for his volunteerism in the community of Healdsburg at the April 18 City Council meeting.
The award was created after Marie Sparks’ death in 1995, to honor her volunteer efforts to help solve problems involving seniors, children and animals.
Photo and Text
Devin Marshall Staff Writer
Apr 27, 2016 Healdsburg Tribune
Bethards started volunteering around 2002. “I was retired from work, and I wanted something to do, so I was looking around town and I started as a member of the Airport Commission,” he said. “I kind of got into city work there, and then at the Senior Center I got into driving Meals on Wheels, and I thought ‘Gee I kind of like this, it gives me something to do,’ so I was looking for more to do than just drive Meals on Wheels.”
Nowadays, Bethards helps out with much more. Besides driving for Meals on Wheels twice a week and maintaining the computer lab at the Healdsburg Senior Center, he works with the Healdsburg Police Department, is a judging coordinator for the Healdsburg Science Fair, a book-shelver at the Sonoma County Wine Library, a house manager at the Raven Performing Arts Theater, and a co-head usher at the Santa Rosa Junior College Summer Repertory Theatre.
He previously volunteered for the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts and the Sixth Street Playhouse. “(Volunteering) keeps the community together, it gives a sense of community, seeing the same person time and time again doing the same thing, saying ‘That’s familiar,’” he said.
“People know me around town, they see me and say ‘Where do I know you from?’ I enjoy doing it, because it’s helping the community, it helps me keep busy doing something that I know is worthwhile instead of just wasting my time … I love this town, I’ve enjoyed it ever since we moved in here, and I just enjoy working here, I enjoy the people I meet, and I get along with just about everybody, it seems.”
Bethards grew up in San Rafael, Ross and Santa Rosa. His father encouraged him to become the coach and manager of the church softball team when he was in high school. After that, he graduated from college, joined the U.S. Air Force and became a pilot and navigator, and volunteered as a bowling instructor for juniors. Following this, he became a computer programmer, got married, had four children, volunteered as a baseball coach for his oldest son’s team and umpire for the league. After settling in Novato, he started coaching his other two sons’ Little League teams, umpiring other games in the league and taught his daughter bowling. He worked with several computer companies, totaling almost 40 years of data processing, and worked for the Fireman’s Fund in Novato for 19 years. He took up racquetball and was introduced to beep ball, softball for the blind, by one of his coworkers. He volunteered as coach for the local beep ball team, who went on to the Beep Ball World Series for the next nine years and placed third in the nation. He retired in 1998 and moved to Healdsburg with his wife, with whom he has been married for 27 years.
Cassie Call, the 2007 recipient of the Marie Sparks Award, has worked with Bethards at the Senior Center for at least 10 years. “He is one of the people that never says ‘no,’” Call said. “So he is really the person that really deserves the award of Marie Sparks, because he really represents the spirit of Marie in so many ways.” According to Call, his best qualities are friendliness, sincerity, integrity and humbleness. Sergeant Nick Castaneda is Bethards’ supervisor at the Healdsburg Police Department. “For us, he’s been a true honor to have him here,” he said. “He’s truly an example of a citizen who cares for his community and county in general. He takes confidential paperwork to the district attorney’s office, goes there and delivers reports and picks up other confidential information and brings it back.” Bethards also patrols the Plaza in uniform on Tuesdays, giving visitors information and calling people out on alcohol infractions.