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Lifetime Achievement Award For Community Champion Owen
Junior Achievers Highlighted
Named as the Lifetime Achievement Award winner for this year, Melinda Owen is being recognized by the Chamber of Commerce for her many years of involvement and support of the Oakdale community. Photo Contributed

Like many, a person’s activities often result from events for their children or events that are associated with their employment. The involvement for Melinda Owen came from both – though she also has just always had a strong interest in the community of Oakdale.

She will be recognized with the special Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce, at the virtual Annual Awards Dinner, set for this Friday, Feb. 19.

From 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., those that planned to attend the ceremony can pick up their ‘To-Go Dinner’ prepared by House of Beef and dessert provided by Astoria Senior Living. The pick-up will be at the Oakdale Chamber office at 590 N. Yosemite Ave., Oakdale. Tickets are $40 each and can be purchased at the Chamber office or on their website at Tickets “at the door” are $50 each. There will be multiple options of viewing the Annual Awards Show, which begins at 7 p.m.; contact the Chamber for viewing information, 209-847-2244.

Junior Achievers – previewed later in this article – and the Business of the Year and Citizen of the Year honors – nominees previewed last week – will be presented as well, with winners named that night. Melinda Owen was chosen for the top honor this year as a result of her longtime involvement in and support of the Cowboy Capital of the World.

“I became a member of this community once I was married to my Oakdale High School sweetheart, Bill Owen, and moved to the ‘big city’ from Riverbank,” the honoree said. “Bill passed away in 2015, but I still live on our small ranch in east Oakdale. I have a wonderful son and daughter in law, three very cherished grandchildren, several adopted families of children, grands and great grands, and many supportive and treasured friends.”

Her list of activities throughout the years runs the gamut.

When active in parents clubs at school, she helped raise money for events and playground equipment.

At Fair Oaks School, she started a project called “Put the Oak Back in Oakdale” through which they sold a variety of oak trees to homeowners as a fundraiser and to repopulate Oakdale’s namesake in the area.

In youth sports, she was the first ‘mom’ to serve on the Oakdale Baseball Association Board. She helped to stock and operate the Snack Shack at Fair Oaks Field.

Community service in the 1970’s included being a member of the Foundation Board that was established to support the newly formed Oak Valley Hospital District and its Board of Directors. She represented her family’s Agricultural business on the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. She served as President in l984, following in the footsteps of Phyllis Pottle who was the first woman president of the Chamber in Oakdale.

She also became a member of the Chamber Ambassadors, at that time representing her employer Stan Cook of Live Oak Publishing, Inc. – The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News.

“Working in the Advertising Department, later the Advertising Manager and the General Manager, gave me wonderful opportunities to work with many local business people and to promote not only their businesses, but the wonderful events that have happened over the years in Oakdale – the things that make Oakdale unique and such a special place in which to live,” she noted. “I learned a lot from all my customers over the years. I still serve as an Ambassador as an interested individual. It is a great opportunity to keep in touch with the community, welcome and learn about new businesses who are making their way in Oakdale, and to promote the value of the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce to all.”

Over the years Owen has worked on committees for many local events including the Oakdale Centennial Celebration, the Oakdale High School 100th year Anniversary Celebration and the 125th year OHS Celebration.

“California Young Farmers and Young Homemakers, California Women for Agriculture, Oakdale Performing Arts, Soroptimist International of Oakdale, and Beta Sigma Phi, Xi Tau Theta Chapter have all been important in my life, gave me opportunities to meet and serve with friends, and kept me connected to the community and my surroundings,” she added. “I am presently working with the Oakdale Citizens Cemetery Board to manage the cemetery and serve as the Secretary on the Board. I have been honored to meet and assist many families in the past three years. To help them plan for the future or to be present at their loved ones’ funerals is rewarding and humbling.”

Through work of the fundraising group Friends of Oakdale Citizens Cemetery, and other generous volunteers, she is working on projects to draw in interest and much needed funds for the cemetery, such as Wreaths Across America honoring Veterans, and an Arbor Day event that will raise funds to assist the Board in providing care for many of the existing trees on the Cemetery grounds.

“I am very honored to receive this Lifetime Community Achievement award. An award at the end of any project has never been my goal – just the accomplishment of the tasks while having some fun along the way,” Melinda summarized. “I was raised in a family that was responsible, worked hard and was kind. I always hope that I followed their lead.”

Also, Owen said she has a few favorite thoughts that are always with her: ‘Wherever you go, there you are.’; ‘Make the most of it’; and ‘What the mind can perceive, you can achieve’.


Junior Achievement Nominees

Morgan Gravatt

Morgan is a part of the OHS FFA team and serves as the VP. In this role, others rely on her to help when someone else is not able to perform their duties. She is dedicated to her position as well as wanting to improve that at a regional level as well. Morgan has also run for sectional office with FFA and was granted the position of Stanislaus Tuolumne Section President. While these two positions are very time consuming, she is still very present with her academics at OHS and strives to be her best self on a daily basis.


Devon Pastor Guzman

Devon M. Pastor-Guzman, 17, is a junior at Oakdale High School. He currently has a 3.5 GPA and is working hard to prepare for college. He has played sports including karate (5 years), basketball (5 years), baseball, and football which he played from second grade through his sophomore year of high school. In these sports, he said he has learned many lessons including teamwork and communication. As a freshman, he started to take a course in Ag and instantly became drawn to FFA. Over the past three years, he has held an officer position all years including an officer for the Stanislaus-Tuolumne counties this year. He also cares for and shows pigs at fair and has learned skills including fiscal responsibility during this process.

“I have been involved in many leadership conferences and have found a passion for doing these activities. My sophomore year I was also chosen to be a chairperson for a virtual group of over 700 people at the State Conference overseeing the “Middle School Opportunities” committee. Although virtual, it was extremely successful and taught me a lot about putting leadership into practice,” the teen said. “I also run a yard care business that I started in my eighth grade year. My parents feel it is important to learn responsibility while still at home and know how to manage basic money skills and responsibilities before I leave home. I have taken this to heart and grown my business through word of mouth and social media.”

He is also an acolyte at The United Methodist Church in Oakdale, and has received the Methodist Youth Outstanding award.

“I have big dreams and have taken advantage of every opportunity put in front of me to help me prepare for college and beyond,” he said.


Dominic Robles

Dominic is a wonderful young man who is willing to help at the drop of the hat. He takes his role as an FFA officer seriously and is not shy about saying Hi and welcoming you to any event he is assisting at. He likes to make others feel welcomed and appreciated, we feel that is key in our youth. Throughout the pandemic, Dominic has attended school in his father’s classroom. Usually, others aren’t willing to do anything they aren’t receiving “credit” for, this is not the case for Dominic. He not only is a student at school, but when at the farm, he offers to feed the animals, tend to the fields, and takes pride in helping whenever possible.


Emery Franco

Emery is a hard-working and persistent student even when some of her scheduled academics are challenging for her. She could just sit back and take it easy like others, however, she dedicates that much more time to the subject to get the best grade possible and study hard for each test and quiz. She is always there to volunteer when an opportunity arises, on short notice at the volleyball snack shack and the OSC soccer fields, to the scheduled canned tree breakfast, from Orange Blossom 4-H group events to volunteering at the local care facility in town through the Jr. Volunteer Program. She is a born leader, takes pride in herself, and is a great role model for her peers.