FAIRFIELD — For six years, Dawn LaBar attended the Soroptimist International of Central Solano County awards luncheon, congratulating the winners on behalf of her employer, state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis.
She was inspired by the stories she would hear: The teen girl who dedicated herself to making her community a better place, the woman getting an education while raising children as a single parent and the woman who tirelessly gave her all to help other women.
This year, LaBar gets one of those awards from the Soroptimist club. She will be recognized with the Ruby Award. It’s named after Ruby Lee Minar, the first Soroptimist federation president.
“I’ve never won an award,” LaBar said. “When they (called and) told me I was getting the Ruby Award, my first words were, ‘I’ve got to call you back.’ ”
She knew she had been nominated. Learning she had earned the honor was a different story.
The woman who wears many hats is being honored for her dedication to organizations such as the Solano Family Justice Center Foundation, where she sits on the board of directors. LaBar also chairs the Community Action Partnerships and is a member of the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Today program.
All this is done after LaBar does her work as a legislative analyst and special projects manager for the city of Fairfield.
LaBar grew up in Las Vegas and arrived in the area 20 years ago. She went to work as a child support case worker for Solano County.
It was there she found her voice. It also exposed her to the incarcerated population. The job involved going into the prison and discussing court orders dealing with child support.
“I learned it wasn’t about the crime, but what led to the crime,” LaBar said.
In some cases it was a lack of education. In other instances it was crimes related to substance abuse.
In late 2005, she went to work as a field representative for state Sen. Wes Chesbro, D-North Coast. It was her first paying job in politics. LaBar was able to see first-hand the effect of what happened at the state Capitol on the local level.
“There were times I felt disillusioned,” she said. “And there were times I felt grateful working for someone who could make change.”
Activism and advocacy were in her blood. Born into a blue-collar family, LaBar said she grew up walking picket lines and precincts.
LaBar went to work for Wolk in 2005 and stayed with her until 2011 when she joined the city of Fairfield staff.
One of her biggest challenges is getting people to share in the same vision. With limited resources and volunteers taxed to the max, convincing them to add one more thing to their schedule is tough, LaBar said.
Her current passion is combatting human trafficking. She heard about it from a Solano County law enforcement officer. Then she learned that 60 percent of the girls at juvenile hall had been sexually exploited.
“These women do not know their true value,” she said of those who end up as prostitutes or in domestic violence situations. “We have to work on helping them to find their value so they are never pulled into such things.”
LaBar’s mother was her mentor. A feminist, she encouraged LaBar to fight for herself and appreciate the value of what she had.
In her free time, LaBar loves to read books and ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. She recently finished Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Work and the Will to Lead.” She’s also a movie fan who admires the work of Meryl Streep and Bradley Cooper.
Receiving the Soroptimist award is an honor, especially with it coming from her contemporaries.
“They recognize women for doing the things we believe are the right things to do,” LaBar said. “We just continue to do what we are doing and hope to bring others along on our mission.”
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.