With a good crowd, an air of excitement, and a lot of accomplishments to highlight, the annual Oakdale Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner went off smoothly on Friday night, March 10.
There were accolades in several categories as well as the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to longtime Oakdale teacher and coach Trent Merzon.
There were three Leadership Oakdale students in attendance that were honored, said Chamber Membership/Marketing Coordinator Bri Swan, community members who completed a year-long program through the Chamber learning about the various businesses and services in the community. Also, recognized as the chamber’s Director of the Year was Angie Gutierrez.
“The crowd was pretty good and I feel it went really well,” Swan said of the overall event, staged at the Gene Bianchi Community Center.
Following are those chosen for the awards along with some information about them. A committee reviewed the nominees and made the selections.
Citizen of the Year: Lisa Kjeldgaard
Lisa Kjeldgaard isn’t one to sit still for long and can usually be found working hard to lend a hand wherever it’s needed. From the thousands of tri-tip sandwiches she’s made for the Mustang snack shack to the hundreds of tailgate meals she’s served to hungry football players, and the many dinners she’s quick to take to anyone who needs one, you’d think cooking was something she liked. What Lisa does like, is serving. Rooted in her deep faith in Jesus, Lisa has a heart for others. As the Director of Love Oakdale, Lisa often says she has the best unpaid gig in the city where she gets to match those in need with people and resources to meet that need.
Junior Achiever: Tyler Cooley
Tyler is a senior at Oakdale High School. When he was 13 years old, he had a health scare that changed his life and ignited his passion to help others. Tyler became extremely ill and was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. He had surgery to relieve the pressure around his brain, then he had a brain bleed and a stroke. He wasn’t expected to survive but luckily, God had another plan. While it was tough, his illness gave him the foundation and the opportunity to work collaboratively and help make a positive difference at school and in our community. Every club, sport, and organization that he has worked with has given him a chance to help make a positive difference. Looking to the future, his goal is to go to Grand Canyon University and become a teacher and basketball coach.
Public Service Award: Diana Guerrero Garcia
Diana is the current Code Enforcement/Water Conservation officer for the City of Oakdale where she has worked for almost two years. Prior to working for the City, Diana worked for Stanislaus County Health Services Agency for 13 years and served in different departments of the County including their pediatric clinic, welfare intake unit and the foster care unit. Diana enjoys helping others and is very passionate about her yearly sock drive called “SOCKTOBER” where during the month of October she sets up collection bins at City buildings and local businesses to collect and donate the socks to those in need within the community.
Young Professional of the Year: Will Jones
Will is 23-year-old lifelong resident of Oakdale. After graduating high school, Will moved to the University of Arizona where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning and Real Estate. After graduating college, Will moved back to Oakdale to help run his family business Touchdown Properties where he is a Realtor and heads the company’s property management division. Being born and raised in Oakdale, Will enjoys looking for ways to give back to the community which has given so much to him and serves the City of Oakdale as a Planning Commissioner and the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors as Chair of the Ambassadors.
Organization of the Year: Sierra 4-H
Sierra 4-H is a youth program that was chartered in 1917 in Oakdale, California. The program involves youth ages 5-19. The club has over 110 active members and currently has 19 volunteers as leaders. Sierra 4-H has been one of the longest running and largest clubs in Stanislaus County. Their projects consist of Beef, Sheep, Swine, Rabbits, Vet Science, Cooking, Tractors, Welding, Small Engines, Ornamental Horticulture, Horse, Automotive, Livestock Judging, Gardening, Community service, and Public Speaking, just to name a few.
Business of the Year: Astoria Senior Living
For nearly a decade, Astoria Senior Living and Memory Care has served seniors and their families in Oakdale and the surrounding area. Astoria is a warm and welcoming community that focuses on treating all residents and employees like family. Their experienced staff works to ensure the residents of Astoria truly thrive; despite any challenges they may face. Individuals in the community experience fun and exciting activities and outings and a team that is committed to ensuring great physical, spiritual, social and intellectual health for all who make Astoria their home.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Trent Merzon
Trent Merzon feels blessed to have had the opportunity to serve as the Varsity head coach of the Oakdale High School football team for the last 23 years. He poured into the lives of many student-athletes, emphasizing the strengthening of the Body, Mind and Spirit. Teaching them to embrace a growth mindset in all areas of their lives. Merzon has earned 13 Valley Oak League Championships, four Section Championships, two Northern California Championships, and one State Championship, he was also awarded 14 Valley Oak League “Coach of the Year” Awards, to Sac-Joaquin Section “Coach of the Year” Awards, and garnered a “Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year” in 2016.
During his football seasons, Coach Merzon looked forward to speaking with community sports enthusiasts every Tuesday night at the Quarterback Club, which he established in 2003. He also enjoyed speaking at many local events and athletic clinics around the country. As the CFO for the nonprofit “The Corral Needs Fixing”, he was able to help provide a new track and playing surface for the high school. In 2019, Merzon served as an assistant coach for Oakdale’s Section Championship softball team, ranked number one in the state.
In January of 2023, Coach Merzon retired from coaching with a 225-59-1 record.
Away from campus, Merzon operates a training facility to provide a place for student-athletes to train and improve their skills and habits year-round. He enjoys attending Calvary Chapel in Oakdale and is a loving husband to Spring and an amazing father to Mick and Morgan. He has always found interest in supporting local sports teams and organizations with the hopes of improving the experiences of others in the community he loves.