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Chamber of Commerce awards highlight the best of Oakdale
CofC winners
Oakdale Chamber Awards honorees in the various categories are joined by Chamber CEO and Oakdale Mayor Cher Bairos, in front, following the conclusion of Friday evening’s awards dinner. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

It was a turnout befitting of its honorees as the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual awards dinner on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. The Gene Bianchi Center was filled with family, friends and community members of those being acknowledged.

Oakdale Chamber of Commerce CEO Cherilyn Bairos opened the event thanking the community for participation in the nominations. She further addressed attendees offering insight as to how individuals and organizations are nominated, noting that all nominees come from the community and a separate committee of five choose the winners.

“They have sworn not to tell a soul who they are,” the Chamber CEO stated. “We remove who nominated the person or the entity and that goes into the committee who decides who wins.”

Before turning over the mic, Bairos announced Will Jones as the Chamber’s Board Member of the Year honoree.

Serving as speaker on behalf of longtime friend and Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Dr. Albert Lee Scaief, Melinda Owen shared insightful background, as well as fun facts about the optometrist. She included the fact that Scaief was responsible for the inception of the Oakdale Rotary Testicle Festival some 41 years ago.

During her introductory speech, Owen offered testimony from varying community members including longtime friends, Oakdale Rotary Club members and Scaief’s staff.

“He’s remarkable to work for,” Owen shared on behalf of a staffer. “The joke among staff over the years, is that Dr. Scaief takes the employees that have been broken down at other practices and polishes them up until we shine. He believes in others when they don’t believe in themselves.”

As Owen concluded shared testimony from others, she added her own accolades to the mix.

“I’m speaking for all of you who have been his patients,” she said to the audience. “He’s my most trusted medical advisor and I imagine that for many of you here tonight, that is your feeling as well.”

Summoning the audience to stand as she referenced varying events, as well as patients, Owen introduced Dr. Scaief, who received a standing ovation.

Taking to the podium, the community member and optometrist was humbled by the honor, offering thanks to his wife, his family, his staff and the community.

“In all the years I’ve lived here, you tend to say to yourself, did I really make a difference?” Scaief said to the crowd.

“Then you arrive at an event like this and you say to yourself, thank you to those who nominated me and voted for me, because I’ll tell you, I’ve got you right here,” he added, gesturing toward his heart.

As he summed up what many in the audience may have felt, the Lifetime Achievement recipient and Southern California transplant shared his thoughts on choosing Oakdale to call home over 50 years ago.

“It wasn’t a hard decision,” he said. “All I had to do was look around and see all the 27-year-olds that were my age, who had grown up in this town, left and came back … why? why? Hey quality of life and the West at its Best.”

He also said it’s important for the community to stay the course.

“Oakdale don’t give up what makes you so precious,” he continued. “You are for sure as one of our past presidents would say, the shining City on the Hill. You all have had the benefit of that saying, that God certainly did bless America.”

Scaief’s acknowledgment and speech set the tone for the rest of the evening as Oakdale Chamber President, Allison Schwartz took to the mic announcing the winners for the multiple award categories.

The following were announced as the Chamber Award recipients: Will Jones, Board Member of the Year; Jenna Sanders, Junior Achievement Award; Susan McCarthy, Citizen of the Year; Bri Swan, Young Professional of the Year; Promotoras, Non-Profit/Service Club of the Year and Roberts Ferry Gourmet, Business of the Year.

Named as the Oakdale Chamber Citizen of the Year, Susan McCarthy shows her enthusiasm as she receives her award from Chamber CEO Cher Bairos. Teresa Hammond/The Leader
The Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, optometrist Dr. Lee Scaief entertained the crowd with stories of his antics and his well-known “paddle.” Teresa Hammond/The Leader