Chris Miller, who has organized local support for military families for 30 years, and Joyce and Bob Shapiro, who have headed up numerous business and community organizations in Pleasanton, are recipients of the 2020 Ed Kinney Community Patriot Awards, presented by the nonprofit Make a Difference, Today & Always foundation.

Named in honor of former Mayor Ed Kinney, who died in 2005, the award is given to Pleasanton residents who demonstrate “love, pride, faith, belief, and devotion” to the community. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings, the annual reception to honor the recipients will be held at a later date.

“We look forward to being able to celebrate their accomplishments and inspiration in person,” said W. Ron Sutton, founder of the award and president of Make A Difference, Today & Always. “As Margaret Meade famously said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ And this year’s award recipients have worked to make our part of the world a better place.”

Chris Miller

Chris Miller flew helicopters during the Vietnam War and later, as a commercial airline pilot living in San Francisco, reflected on the poor treatment that he and other Vietnam vets received when they returned home. He also made himself a promise that if he ever had the opportunity, he would give returning combat veterans the welcome they deserved for their service and sacrifice.

Miller and his wife, Marty, eventually settled in Pleasanton in 1971, where they raised three boys. That began many years of community service. He supported local high school sports, including football, volleyball, and basketball, long after his sons no longer attended Pleasanton schools. He also volunteered with the Pleasanton Rotary, Farmers’ Market, and as a key fundraiser for the Veterans Memorial at Pleasanton’s Pioneer Cemetery.

In 1990, with the launch of Operation Desert Shield, and later, Desert Storm, in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Miller found himself in a position to keep his promise, helping to create a temporary support group for military families in Pleasanton. Then, at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Miller again helped form a support group that eventually evolved into Pleasanton Military Families.

Over the years, the group has served hundreds of active military members and their families. Under Chris’ leadership, the group was responsible for the first “Welcome Home Military Parade” in Pleasanton for veterans returning from the Iraqi conflict. From 2003-2009, Miller was instrumental in establishing the motorcycle convoys that would welcome home returning Pleasanton military personnel. Those convoys, which would evolve to include the Warriors’ Watch Riders motorcycle brigade and the Lafayette Flag Brigade, continue today.

Miller was also instrumental in the city’s Yellow Banner Project on Main Street, with each banner recognizing an active duty member of the military and their branch of service. Pleasanton Military Families also keeps an updated list of local military personnel, who receive care packages donated by the community to lift their spirits and remind them of family and friends back home.

While Miller has turned over the reins of many of his projects to others, he still is serving quietly behind the scenes.

Joyce & Bob Shapiro

Joyce Shapiro has lived in Pleasanton since 1966, and has been associated with many of the city’s major changes for the last 50 years. She owned and operated the Gingham Corner at the intersection of Main and Neal streets for 10 years; helped start the Downtown Committee; and oversaw development of the Pleasanton Downtown Design Guidelines and sign ordinance. She helped form the Pleasanton Downtown Assessment District and served as its first president, represented Pleasanton on the Alameda County National Bicentennial Commission in 1976, and was president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1978. As a member of the Chamber of Commerce, she helped organize Heritage Days, the Community Development Awards, and the Ambassador’s Committee. 

Joyce also helped organize numerous fundraising events over the years, including “Mardi Gras,” sponsored by the Junior Women’s club to raise money for the first senior buses; the first “Starry, Starry Night” event for the Senior Center, and “A Wonderful Evening of Oz,” the first major fundraiser for the Firehouse Arts Center. She was recognized as “Best Overall CEO” at the Valley Volunteer Center CEO dinner in 1992.

She was also the first woman appointed to the Pleasanton Planning Commission, serving from 1978 to 1986. In 2005, Joyce graduated from the Pleasanton Leadership program and was the manager of the program for 10 years. She remains a board member and fundraising chairman for the Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley, and is a member of the Tulancingo Sister-City organization.

Bob and Joyce met on a Mediterranean cruise in 1991. They were married in 1994, and after a five-year absence, they moved to Pleasanton in 1999, becoming involved as a couple in many city activities.  

Bob is on the Los Positas College Foundation and has been a Rotarian for 18 years. He was a director of the Chamber of Commerce for two terms and served on the YMCA board of directors. Bob and Joyce co-chaired the ValleyCare Charitable Foundation from May 2014-2017.  In October 2017, Bob was named Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Joyce became a vice-chair. They helped raise millions of dollars for the hospital.

Individually and together, they have won almost every award given in the city, including the Mayor’s Award, Pleasanton Weekly Couple of the Year, Community of Character Coalition, Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen Award, and State of California Local Hero Award.

This is the 15th year of the awards that Make A Difference, Today & Always has presented the Ed Kinney Patriot Awards.