Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
Colorful balloons, decorated booths, fabulous food and great people made for an unforgettable Diversity/Disability Awareness Day celebration.

by  Jeanne Bonfilio
Issue Date: 11/2008

A day for the Caltrans “family” to celebrate diversity and exhibit mutual respect and understanding. “Our universe is diverse, with artistry and verse.” - John Dinsmore, Disability Council Chairperson.

The 5th annual 2008 Diversity Day celebration was coupled with Disability Awareness Day – making it twice as enlightening, twice as entertaining and twice as much fun!

Held on October 15 at the District 7 Office Building plaza -- and coordinated by the both the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and the Diversity/Disability Planning Committee -- this popular event is an effort to promote Caltrans’ equal opportunity and disability awareness goals. This colorful celebration offers an interactive and educational learning environment for all employees to exhibit their cultures through mutual respect. It promotes an understanding and compassion for employees who face various challenges and disabilities.

Leading the effort was Marian Woo, former EEO Chief, with support from staff members James Deno, James Crouse and Sylvia Delgado – as well as Disability Council Chairperson John Dinsmore. Deno acted as Master of Ceremonies and after a warm welcome, introduced District Director Douglas R. Failing, who expressed a heartfelt appreciation to everyone who put the day’s events together, and all who participated to make it a success.

Employees and committees representing many cultures set up booths and exhibits to inform and educate – as well as share delicious food from Latin America, Bangladesh, California Natives, the Philippines, China/Taiwan, Armenia and Africa. Also participating was the California Bear Credit Union and the Disability Advisory Committee. Some highlights of the day included entertainment from the Chinese Tai Qi Performance Team, employees representing Bangladesh, descendants of Africa, Vietnam, Latin America, the Philippines and Armenia. Some of the beautiful costumes were hand-made by the employees and many hours of hard work went into sewing, food preparation and designing booths.

According to Raja Mitwasi, Chief Deputy District Director, “District 7 is the most diverse District in the State of California – as well as the most productive!” Dinsmore shared Mitwasi’s enthusiasm. “Our universe is diverse, with artistry and verse,” he said. “We came, we saw, and we celebrated as one with happiness and fun.”

The talented musicians of Caltrans employee-based ‘Traffic Jam’ band dazzled the crowd. The band’s members are: Cecilio Burciaga, bass guitar; John Robertson, guitar; Medardo de la Cruz, keyboard/saxophone/vocals; Xerxes “Shay” Banduk, guitar; Robert Colvin, lead saxophone/vocals/percussion; Eddie Isaacs, trumpet; Alfredo Villanueva, vocals/percussion; Gary Gordon, lead vocals; and Elizabeth Ware, vocals. In addition, entertainer Carolena on flute, accompanied by guitarist Bob Lee, were a great enhancement to this year’s event.

A new addition to this year’s festivities was a moving and inspiring performance by the ARC Bell Choir. This accomplished bell choir is comprised of special needs individuals who have overcome various mental and developmental disabilities to learn to play beautiful songs on hand bells. They perform, free of charge, at least 60 times per year at various events, led by Jane Sarcher, who developed special color charts to help the members read notes. Some of the memorable songs included: “America the Beautiful,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Small World” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

As part of Disability Awareness Day, an array of artwork, hand-crafted by students from the Braille Institute for the Blind, are on display in the Caltrans museum. Delgado reminds employees that all of the lovely items displayed are still available for purchase. “I enjoy promoting Disability Awareness and being part of the Disability Advisory Committee,” she said.

It was a colorful and beautiful day. Live entertainment and aromas of scrumptious food samples filled the air. Everywhere there was a true spirit of togetherness and friendship.

“This event is a time to celebrate and embrace the cultures, differences and challenges that make each and very human being special. It is a day to join the fun with your co-workers and share your individual uniqueness within the ‘Caltrans family’,” said Deno. “It is important that we celebrate and embrace who we are despite our differences, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, nationality or disability. These are special moments that give every employee an opportunity to understand the value of diversity and to learn how to work together effectively and harmoniously.”

To view all Diversity/Disabiltiy Day celebration photos, please click onto this link: 




The flags of each nation or group represented were proudly displayed. Caltans' own talented musicians from Traffic Jam were led by their newest addition, singer Gary Gordon. Always the comsumate professional was James C. Deno, Master of Cermonies.  Everyone enjoyed listening to the beautiful music from members of the ARC Handbell Choir -- making their first appearance at Diversity/Disability Day.