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West Sacramento Sun

Senator Dodd Names Yolo County Woman of the Year

Mar 19, 2024 11:25AM ● By Michele Townsend

Rhonda Morningstar Pope Flores was awarded Yolo County Woman of the Year on March 7, 2024, by Sen. Bill Dodd. Photo courtesy of Rhonda Morningstar Pope Flores

WEST SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Sen. Bill Dodd named Rhonda Morningstar Pope Flores on March 7 as Yolo County’s Woman of the Year. 

Dodd represents portions of Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Contra Costa, Sacramento and Yolo counties. 

“Rhonda has dedicated her life to empowering Native Americans and preserving cultural traditions,” Dodd said. “Through perseverance and commitment, she’s now provided this vital resource for West Sacramento, which will greatly assist our youth and seniors, among others. I am honored to know her and to present her with this well-earned recognition.”

Morningstar Pope Flores is chair of the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians, a tribe that her great-grandfather founded. Morningstar Pope Flores has played a central role in improving services for Native Americans and West Sacramento residents.

Growing up in West Sacramento, specifically Broderick, Morningstar Pope Flores has actively helped communities for years. She formed the Jesse Flyingcloud Pope Foundation, in honor of her father, in 2007 to support programs designed to help community members with educational opportunities, bringing tribal traditions and cultural awareness to the community. In 2008, Morningstar Pope Flores opened Little Big Time Child Development Center to serve low-income Native American families with a curriculum based in Native American culture. 

Morningstar Pope Flores developed plans for the construction of the Upusani Cultural Center that was completed in 2016. She led the tribe in a legal fight against Amador County to allow the development of a casino in 2016. In 2018, Morningstar Pope Flores secured financing for construction of Harrah’s Northern California casino.

Morningstar Pope Flores actively participates in community events. She is a financial supporter of the annual Native American Indian Day at the State Capitol, where Little Big Time has been showcased. Morningstar Pope Flores hosts the annual Elders Dinner. Morningstar Pope Flores also hosts an annual Children’s Christmas Event for low-income Native American children and foster care children. 

In 2019, Morningstar Pope Flores joined the BBcan (Bryte & Broderick Community Action Network) to advocate for bringing a recreational pool back to the Broderick/Bryte area. As the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians chair, Morningstar Pope Flores advocated the Buena Vista Community Fund to donate $20,000 to the West Sacramento Police Department in 2021 for the Mercy Housing Project and other programs as well as $185,000 toward the construction of the Broderick/Bryte pool.

In 2022, Morningstar Pope Flores utilized resources from the Me-Wuk tribe to purchase the former Bryte Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) on Lisbon Avenue and turned the building into a community center. The community center will provide free tutoring, games and socializing for children. The center will also offer activities, including free yoga classes, free CPR classes and family dances.

"When you see needs in your community, you inspire one another to bring about the positive changes needed for your community," Morningstar Pope Flores said.

West Sacramento community members familiar with Morningstar Pope Flores are not surprised that she was named Woman of the Year. 

“Rhonda deserves this award because of her determination. She is someone that does not back down,” said Joe Ramirez, her former softball coach. “It is nice to have someone in our Northside corner. She is someone that is so small with so much courage. She is a great inspiration to Bryte and Broderick. A little keg of dynamite.”

West Sacramento Mayor Martha Guerrero was pleased with Dodd’s announcement.

“I was delighted by Senator Dodd’s announcement honoring Chairwoman Rhonda Morningstar Pope Flores as Yolo County’s Woman of the Year,” Guerrero said. “Rhonda embodies the spirit of community by continuously extending support and love to neighbors in need and giving her time and energy to projects that exemplify the words of John F. Kennedy of a rising tide that lifts all boats. Congratulations, Chairwoman Morningstar Pope Flores, on this well-deserved recognition of your accomplishments!”

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