An article about volunteer Ray Perman incorrectly reported that he was a member of Piedmont's Public Safety Committee. Perman is not a member of the committee, but works with the committee.
PIEDMONT -- If there is a job to be done, volunteer extraordinaire Ray Perman is there.
Perman, winner of this year's Hecht service award, will be feted at the Wednesday school board meeting, where he will receive a gift of a student art work and accolades for his exemplary volunteerism.
Each year, a community member is honored in memory of Arthur Hecht, who devoted his time to helping and inspiring Piedmont's youth in many ways.
"I have known Ray for 15-plus years and am always astounded by his level of energy and willingness to roll up his sleeves and jump in and help, all in the services of our children," said school board trustee Andrea Swenson. "Lots of what Ray does is behind the scenes. He doesn't do it for accolades but just because he feels it's the right thing to do. It is nice to see him formally thanked for all that he has contributed."
Boy Scouts, Piedmont Center for the Arts, Beach Elementary School, and the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir are but a few of the organizations Perman has helped without tooting his horn.
One year, Perman was backstage at the Beach school auditorium when he noticed that certain stage elements were in disrepair.
"I renovated the stage lights and other things. It was lots of fun," Perman said.
He installed a marquee with twinkling lights that can be changed to publicize events at school.
There is the Piedmont Center for the Arts, the old church space at 801 Magnolia that was renovated with private money and in-kind donations that has become a successful arts venue.
"I was a shameless arm twister. I exploited child labor," Perman kidded.
What he did was enlist the help of the older Boy Scouts to do small jobs at the center to work toward their badges, as well as talk various suppliers into donating in-kind services.
He has served on the board for the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir, volunteered in the classrooms at Beach, and has been involved in the Mexico mission for Piedmont Community Church, preparing equipment for the delegates to take to Mexico.
Perman brings a no-nonsense approach.
"People cannot just sit on a board and act important. Everybody is expected to work and to contribute," Perman said.
The 20-year Piedmont resident credits his father for his sense of community.
"Because he was an airline pilot for Pan Am, he had time off to volunteer at school and spent all the time he could with us when he was home," Perman said.
His father was always planning and analyzing and organizing, which rubbed off on Perman. Perman, who did a piloting stint himself, then later started a custom door and window business, said he had time to volunteer because he was self-employed.
He was born in Frankfurt, Germany, where his father was stationed. He grew up in Palo Alto before migrating to Berkeley, and later to Piedmont to raise his children. He has a 25-year-old son who lives in Portland, Ore., and a 21-year-old daughter in medical school.
"The kids were able to walk to school with their friends every day. I feel blessed," Perman said.
He also has a musical bent, playing percussion for a community band. He estimates many years he devoted 15 hours or more a week to his volunteerism. Now he's adopted new challenges as an empty-nester.
As a member of the Public Safety Committee, he has an eye on disaster preparedness.
He wants to enlist the Boy Scouts to use Google Earth to inventory all the standing water in the vicinity to be used in case of a calamity.
"People can't expect the fire and police departments to do everything," he said. "They would be stretched thin if the Big One hit. People have to be prepared to fend for themselves as well." He wants to bring the Scouts and the PEBCC into the 21st century by helping them develop social media and data bases.
Perman has another challenge he is meeting head on. He is battling a rare form of cancer now in stage four. It may have hampered his activity, but not his spirit.
"I feel like an elf in the forest, so much that I can do that others don't see," he said. "A measure of our culture is how well we transfer our values, stay with a higher order of understanding. It helps rejuvenate my confidence in the next generation."