More than 200 people came out to the Gene Bianchi Community Center for the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce’s 68th Annual Awards Dinner on Friday night, Jan 17.
The evening saw recognition given to Wes Stewart as Oakdale’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner and announcing the winners of the chamber’s Citizen of the Year, Business of the Year, Community Service of the Year, and Junior Achievement awards.
“The chamber is proud of the amazing community oriented citizens and organizations,” said Oakdale Chamber Of Commerce CEO Mary Guardiola. “It is an honor to host this event each year.”
Stewart, who was featured in the Jan. 15 edition of The Leader, told about his history in Oakdale and introduced the scores of friends and relatives that came out that evening to share in his award.
The chamber also presented this year’s graduating class for it leadership course consisting of Bill Adams, Joe Carrillo, Kimberly Sullivan-Gray, Kim Hernandez, and Emily Sheldon.
“In that year, I’ve learned so much and am amazed at this town,” said Sullivan-Gray. “It really opened my eyes.”
“What I learned is secretly Mary (Guardiola) runs the town,” joked Carrillo.
Junior Achievement Award Winners were Oakdale Junior High School students Gabrielle Ceja and Abigail Matoso and Oakdale High School junior Rachelle Pabalan.
The Oakdale Educational Foundation was the recipient of the Community Service Award.
Retired Oakdale Joint Unified School District Superintendent and current OEF board member Fred Rich received the award on behalf of the group and acknowledged the quality of Oakdale and the community. Rich also said he was proud to work with such a selfless group that gave so much to the community.
Jeff Steves was also complimentary of others when he received the award for Steves Chevrolet as Business of the Year.
“Without all the business folks and community, we would shrivel up and die,” Steves said. “Without the staff, Steves Chevrolet would be nothing.”
Mike Hancock was this year’s Citizen of the Year.
Hancock, a city volunteer who was described as a “trailblazer” in the Neighborhood Watch Program, also volunteers on the Adopt-a-Park and Adopt-a-Trail Program and spearheaded the T.A.G. Graffiti Abatement Program; an all-volunteer program operated under the direction of the Oakdale Police Department. He also formed the Citizens Volunteering In City Services, commonly known as CIVICS. The CIVICS Volunteer Program allows citizens the opportunity to participate in the delivery of city services on a volunteer basis.
“The volunteers are what it’s all about,” said Hancock. “The volunteers should be the ones receiving this. They’re the ones in the city doing all the good things.”
During the ceremony, last year’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Frank Clark recognized the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce with a plaque from the Oakdale community and its citizens.
Clark acknowledged the chamber for its 97 years as an intricate part of the city for its service and leadership in developing civic oriented leaders that continue to direct the future of Oakdale.
Clark also pointed out the chamber’s work in the Chocolate Festival, and the awarding of over $4,000 in scholarships every year.