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December 31, 2008 > Local heroes (continued)

Local heroes (continued)

On December 11, Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico recognized contributions of citizens in the Assembly District who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and generosity in their service to the community.

"Local heroes" include the Reed family of Fremont, Paddy Iyer of Union City, Harold Colon of Newark, Cossette Sun of Castro Valley, Ed Mullins of Hayward, Ray Maglalang of Milpitas, and John McWilliams of Pleasanton.

In addition to the local heroes awardees, Centro de Servicios was named the Community Partner Local Hero, Eden Housing was named the Non-profit of the Year, and Dr. Bhupinder Bhandari was given the Unity Award.

In our third of a series of profiles of these illustrious people and organizations, TCV interviewed Castro Valley Local Hero, Cossette Sun, and Unity Award winner, Dr. Bhupinder Bhandari, to learn more about their accomplishments.

Cossette Sun (Castro Valley)

Cossette Sun retires from her position as Director of the Alameda County Public Law Library December 31 this year, after serving there for 30 years.

"As Director, she has helped guide the Library to become a model for all other law libraries by making all legal information accessible to the public and striving to provide the best legal collections and supportive services," said Union City Councilmember Manny Fernandez.

The Alameda County Public Law Library, built in 1891, aims to serve all citizens in the community, providing resources that may help them confront day-to-day legal issues. The library is located in Oakland, with a branch in Hayward.

"The citizens now are really more educated than the last generation," said Sun. "They can come into the law library and find out what they need to know."

Sun believes it is important for people to learn about legal issues first-hand, through the books, databases, and other resources offered at the library. She compares legal knowledge to preventive medicine.

"If people are more educated themselves about legal issues, they can become better citizens," she said.

To aid laypersons that do not have much of a legal background, the law library has "a very good reference staff" that spends much time guiding people through the library.

Sun offers an example of a common situation in which a citizen would seek legal help and information from the library. Tenants who have been evicted by their landlords because they cannot pay rent are led by staff to the published materials that are especially suitable for laypersons because less legal jargon is used. In addition, reference staff give people forms that they may use to make complaints.

Also, for the past 10 years, Sun has been actively working for the Alameda County Library Foundation with the purpose of helping to build the new Castro Valley Library. She has been instrumental in working with legislators such as Assembly Member Alberto Torrico and Senator Ellen Corbett to secure state funds for the library's construction.

Now, having achieved state and matching county funds, as co-chair of the new Castro Valley Library Capitol Campaign, she hopes to help gather another three million dollars for the purchase of computers, furniture, and books for the new library.

Sun also served for nine years on the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council (MAC), a body similar to City Council. In addition, she has recently joined the board of the Alameda County Women Lawyer's Association.

"My mission statement is really to be a good public servant," said Sun. "I like working for people. I think it's important to pay back the community."

Through her many years of work with the law library, she has helped to inform and involve members of the community.

"A library is really the most democratic institution there is," she said. "I think people should pay attention to what is good for the people in the community. That's really very much a guide for what I do every day."

Dr. Bhupinder Bhandari (Unity Award-winner)

Dr. Bhandari specializes in internal medicine and gastroenterology and has offices located in Hayward and Fremont. A member of the American College of Physicians, the American College of Gastroenterology and Royal College of Physicians, he has dedicated his time and efforts to share his expertise with members of diverse communities.

Dr. Bhandari has donated many hours of patient care to the community at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center and the Sikh Temple of Fremont. To Dr. Bhandari, providing medical services is deeply fulfilling.

"I've truly enjoyed doing it," he said. "I think I have many blessings by sharing what I have, providing care and volunteer services.

Dr. Bhandari also works to spread his spirit and philosophy of giving back among his colleagues. Many doctors and health care providers assist patients with him during his free programs, helping to expand the services.

Dr. Bhandari has screened people for osteoporosis and then helped to advise people on how to take care of their bone health. He and other health care professionals have also donated their time to screen for blood pressure and diabetes, tested cholesterol levels, and provided basic vaccinations, such as for the flu.

Community organizations let their members know that the services will be available at a certain time, and people who are in need of counseling, guidance, or would like to undergo some type of basic screening would come and benefit from these volunteer activities.

Dr. Bhandari is also a medical staff member at Washington Hospital in Fremont, and St. Rose Hospital and Eden Hospital in Hayward. In July 2007, he became the Chief-of-Staff Elect of Washington Hospital.

While treating patients in his private practice, Dr. Bhandari places emphasizes on the "social outlook." He consistently serves patients who are underinsured or on state-sponsored programs, never excluding people who have a lower ability to pay.

"I feel very blessed that I have the ability and the stamina and the inclination and the energy to make my services available to this segment of our community, who are deserving but who don't always have the sources to pay," he said.

Dr. Bhandari also educates community members by writing in local papers about common health problems. As the president of a local physicians group called "International Physicians," he helps arranges public lectures on health care issues. In addition, he is involved in teaching local physicians via presentations and publications.

As Chair of the Health Care Division of the Federation of the Indo-American associations of Northern California, Dr. Bhandari helps coordinate an annual health fair in August. About 60 to 70 health care providers, including doctors and therapists attend the fair held in Fremont providing a variety of health services, including eye screening, hearing tests, cholesterol check, and blood pressure counseling.

"I personally think that when I service [my patients], I get a great opportunity for self enhancement. I feel like a better person," he said.

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