Lauren Pressman, recipient of the 2014 Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize, with her trophy and fellow nominee Luciana Salas Gallegos. “If anybody asks why we do what we do … I would answer that it’s because we have to,” Pressman says. “It makes me feel good to know I’m doing something for others.” (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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A Cabrillo High School counselor who advises a student group working to end bullying and who regularly sponsors community discussions on a variety of social topics has been honored with the 2014 Peace Prize for Lompoc Valley.

On Sunday afternoon, Lauren Pressman was presented the award during a ceremony at Valley of the Flowers United Church of Christ in Vandenberg Village. Approximately 75 people attended the ceremony.

“I’m very humbled by this,” Pressman said, “because of all the nominees, I don’t feel like I do anything more or better than any of you or any of the other people who are doing wonderful things in the community.”

A dozen people representing a broad cross section of the community were nominated for the prize, which last year went to the Rev. Doug Conley, pastor at New Life Christian Center and founder of the City of Promise Homeless Shelter.

“If anybody asks why we do what we do … I would answer that it’s because we have to,” Pressman said in accepting her award. “I don’t think there’s really a choice.”

She added, “It nurtures my soul, I guess. … It makes me feel good to know I’m doing something for others.”

Pressman also serves as faculty adviser for a student group dedicated to promoting understanding and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

She and her husband, Alan Shewell, since 2013 have sponsored monthly talks on assorted topics such as race relations, border security, affirmative action and more.

The other nominees were Norma Anderson, Sally Bass, Mark Cargasacchi, Bill Carlsen, Raquel Ceja-Gonzalez, Sid Haro, Jan Martinez, Catalina McIsaac, Luciana Sala Gallegos, Darrell Tullis and Jon Vanderhoof.

For the past year, the Peace Prize sat on the piano in the New Life Christian Center activities room.

Sharing about what it’s meant to provide a home for the Peace Prize for the last year, Conley said that although one person would go home with the prize Sunday, all 12 nominees would continue their community service work afterward.

“We’re all going to keep doing what we’ve always done, and that is to help people help themselves,” he said.

Conley noted the sorrow following last week’s killing of a transient in Lompoc, and told about a conversation with one of his homeless shelter clients.

“He looked at me and said, ‘I’m home and I know that I’m safe’,” he said.

“I thought, ‘That’s why we do what do,’” Conley added.

This marked the fifth time the Vandenberg Village church has awarded the Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize, which is made of black oak, copper and ceramic, and stands some 2 feet high. Winners’ names are engraved on the trophy, which they keep for a year before handing it over to the next recipient.

Each fall, community members and organizations make nominations of individuals who “have contributed to the peace, harmony and understanding of the Lompoc community” and a Peace Prize Committee from the church selects the recipient.

The idea for the annual Peace Prize arose during a 2009 church brainstorming session and was embraced by the congregation the next year. The Peace Prize was dedicated during a morning worship on Aug. 8, 2010, and first awarded at a ceremony in early 2011.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.