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Service Organizations, Outstanding Citizens Up For Honors
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Awards Night will be celebrated in Oakdale in mid-January, the annual event slated for Friday, Jan. 17 at the Gene Bianchi Community Center in Oakdale. Hosted by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce, festivities will include a dinner and the awards program, running from 6 9 p.m.

Honors to be presented include: Community Service Organization of the Year, Citizen of the Year, Junior Achievement Award, Large Business and Small Business of the Year, in addition to the Lifetime Achievement Award. This year marks the 74th annual Awards Dinner. The Bianchi Center is at 110 S. Second Ave., Oakdale.

This week, we preview the Community Service and Citizen of the Year nominees. The nominees are listed in alphabetical order.






The Oakdale Lions Club has been around for more than 75 years. Over the years the club has volunteered for many different kinds of community projects. Every month Oakdale Lions Club members spend over 200 hours volunteering at Oakdale Community Sharing, a local food bank. The club also provides walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, and other equipment at no cost to the recipient through their medical equipment program.

The Lions Club works with the Oakdale and Riverbank Joint Unified School District staff to evaluate the eyesight of school children, with over 3000 kids having their eyes evaluated last year, with the use of the Spot Vision testing machine purchased by the Lions Club several years ago. The Oakdale Lions Club provides eye care for children as they are brought to their attention. Last year, eyesight and hearing activities accounted for 16 percent of their financial donations.

Every December the Oakdale Lions Club coordinates a shopping trip for over 200 deserving children where chaperones take Oakdale underprivileged children to shop for clothes, shoes and coats. They fund college scholarships for high school students and Oakdale’s Distinguished Young Women’s Program. They contribute to the High School music, Sober Grad Night and sponsor a student speaker contest. Last year youth programs accounted for 73 percent of their financial donations.

Oakdale Lions motto is “We Serve” and they spend much of their year cooking, serving and supply the food for a variety of events and programs. They provided lunch for the Society for the Blind, Society for Handicap Children and Adults of Modesto, Salmon Festival, breakfast at Oakdale’s Relay For Life event and cook hot dogs and hamburgers for National Night Out.

The Oakdale Lions Club is responsible for the town clock and maintaining the flags at the top of the buildings at F Street and Yosemite. They also are responsible for placing 300 flags; they drill, clean paint holes, repair and replace flags and poles. Then place those flags along major streets during Federal flag holidays and Oakdale’s annual rodeo parade. Club members also save pull tabs, which are turned into the district to sponsor nights at the Ronald McDonald house by the Children’s Hospital in Madera. Hundreds of pounds have been collected and many families have benefited from this ongoing activity.

Other efforts the club is involved with are: SOS (Support Our Schools) Run, support the Oakdale Citizens Cemetery, community birthday calendar project, Texas Hold’em Poker Party, Boy Scouts of America Troop 43, Oakdale Community Sharing, TL Davis Sports Complex.

This is the first year the Oakdale Lions Club handled the Spirit of Oakdale Thanksgiving Dinner when previous organizers weren’t able to continue. They also took over the SOS Run for the Oakdale Educational Foundation and will continue on with the running of this event as the organizers of this fundraiser.



The Oakdale Shelter Pet Alliance (OSPA) is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of homeless animals of Oakdale and Riverbank that enter the City of Oakdale Animal Shelter. They are a not for profit 501c3 organization.

OSPA is a hardworking, selfless organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives for the homeless animals of Oakdale, Riverbank, Knights Ferry and Valley Home. With volunteers dedicating countless hours in securing forever homes for the animals in their care. The volunteers continually submit press releases to local newspapers about upcoming adoption and spay/neuter voucher events as well as special interest stories promoting their cause. They create and distribute weekly posters of the current animals available for adoption at the shelter, and rotate those continually. They update, and manage the OSPA website, and many participate in many social media platforms/groups to help owners find lost pets or provide education on responsible pet ownership. They also provide education presentation to service organizations, school groups and the general public on responsible pet ownership.

They contribute financially to improvements at the shelter facility on a regular basis. Including the establishment of a dog meet and greet yard, separate puppy yard, upgrades to existing dog kennels and the addition of new ones, shade and bench area for pets and adopters, the purchase of a washer and dryer for laundry, a stainless steel multi-level cat kennel as well as other smaller miscellaneous improvements to the facility and care of the animals. OSPA also contributes financially with special needs shelter pets that require expensive surgery or basic medical treatment to save their lives or a well needed grooming to make them more presentable and adoptable. By donating money to fix a broken leg or have an animal washed and groomed they have a second chance at life.

Thanks to OSPA spay/neuter voucher efforts, less unwanted litters of both dogs and cats were born and ending up homeless, unwanted, injured or at the shelter. By assisting in the adoption specials and making the adoption fees lower it encourages more people to adopt from the shelter that might not have otherwise. By creating and distributing posters and spreading the word on social media, more people know that Oakdale has an animal shelter and what pets are available to adopt and where to look if they might have lost a pet.






Gina McCarty has always had a spirit of service and often can be found supporting, organizing or participating in the many service events held each year. She has been involved in Magnolia Elementary PTC, Oakdale Junior High PTC, OHS Sober Grad, OHS Booster Club Member, Vice President for Oakdale Women’s Club, Soroptimist member, City Easter Egg Hunt volunteer, Lions Club Christmas shopping volunteer, Blue Line Wives golf tournament volunteer, helped in Pacific Project Heroes projects, is a server for monthly senior dinner events at the senior center, cooked turkeys for the Spirit of Oakdale Thanksgiving Dinner, Oakdale High School baseball and football sponsor, affiliate member with Central Valley Association of Realtors helping put on annual summer picnic and Christmas fundraising events, and a member of the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Oakdale Cowboy Museum.

Gina McCarty is the Love Oakdale City Leader and over the past two years has revived the program into a robust event that focuses on the needs of our seniors and veterans while also cleaning streets, alleys, local parks and the library. Along with cleaning up and adding fresh bark to communal areas Love Oakdale put together countless care packages for the homeless. Gina’s organizational skills and leadership have carried this event and the number of volunteers that participate each year have grown thanks to her dedication.

“You have not lived until you’ve done something for someone who can never repay you.” is one of Gina’s favorite quotes that she shares at each Love Oakdale kick off rally. It’s the biggest reason why Love Oakdale is near and dear to her heart. It’s a hands-on opportunity to improve the lives of so many.

Gina McCarty is the branch manager for Primary Residential Mortgage Inc. and was recently awarded Top 5 in her division for 2019. She is currently an Oakdale Tourism & Visitors Bureau board member and Secretary that helps beautify downtown and attract visitors to Oakdale. She is a board member for Reach, a non-profit affiliate of Stanislaus Regional Housing Authority whose purpose is to help residents to become self-sufficient and move from subsidized housing into permanent housing. She is a member with the Building Industry Association that works to meet the housing needs of our communities. In business and in her personal life Gina McCarty works to make our community a better place for all.



Leaders instill in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves; positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals. This is something Colleen O’Connell embodies in her business and with her volunteerism. Colleen has owned and operated Curves Jenny Craig, here in Oakdale, for the past ten years. Colleen’s job is to promote fitness and weight loss but she has become more of a life coach to many of her members. She motivates women to stay healthy and strong and live their best life. She has taught her clients that it’s important to celebrate life’s success that aren’t about numbers on a scale but the higher quality of life that can be lived regardless of age. Colleen can often be seen cheering her client’s successes on Facebook from posting pictures about rafting the Grand Canyon to hiking elevations over 11,000 feet. She works tirelessly not just on her own business but she wants to see others around her succeed as well. She often says “when one wins, we all win”. Colleen is passionate about encouraging the people of Oakdale to live healthier lifestyles.

Colleen uses her connections with Curves Jenny Craig members to bolster the community by participating and supporting in many local events. From May to September she volunteers each week to help set up the Oakdale Farmers Market. Each year Colleen puts together a food drive for Oakdale’s Community Sharing Christian Center. For several years she’s hosted Santa in her business for Downtown Old Fashioned Christmas so that rain or shine kids get to see Santa. Relay For Life is big fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and Colleen has participated in this event every year. This past year she was awarded ‘best booth’ for the 2019 Relay For Life. She also spoke at the Senior Center, to a Catholic group, and participated with education at several health fairs this year. Colleen organized a 5k for the first time this year with a portion of all registration fees donated to support cancer research and awareness. Colleen O’Connell cares about the community and loves encouraging the residents to live healthy and happy lives.



Antoinette Rodin is the most selfless humble of people. She’s dedicated to her community and shows up to support all of the community events either as a vendor or donating elaborate gift baskets. She donates her time and talent in displays at events in the community to showcase the theme of each event. Antoinette always asks to do more, whether it is time, donation or delivering something.

She is an integral part of the athletic boosters at Oakdale High School and has been for many years. She uses her own resources and regularly “donates” food items to the Snack Shack located on the football field and in the main gym. She volunteers for every home game and is the person to open the Snack Shack in the gym for events. Antoinette has contributed to the Oakdale community through her dedication and support to the OJUSD students and spectators attending school athletic events including wrestling, football, basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball. She has created an environment that is welcoming and gracious for Oakdale’s athletes, their families and visitors attending sporting events. She is incredibly selfless and puts in a great deal of volunteer hours working tirelessly each week as the Oakdale High School Boosters’ main person for running the Snack Shack. It’s an important role she has, since the Snack Shack is the Sports Boosters biggest fundraiser that supports all Oakdale High School athletics. She organizes the weekly 50/50 raffle during home football games and has raised thousands of dollars for our students.

She is always volunteering her time and has taught her four Oakdale Mustang boys what it means to be involved and volunteer in your community. Antoinette is the first one to step up and say “here’s what I can do to help”. There isn’t an event in Oakdale that doesn’t have the support of Antoinette and Rodin Farms.



Deborah Tussing has been an active volunteer in Oakdale for many years but this year she’s gone above and beyond and has devoted a lot of her time helping the good people of Oakdale. She is a member of Soroptimist International of Oakdale and the past two years has served on several committees and is co-chair for two of their fundraising events. Motor Madness which is their largest Fundraiser held every March and the club Annual Holiday Luncheon. Proceeds from these events and other Soroptimist activities benefit local women’s and girls’ programs as well as other community projects. She is a volunteer for Guardian House and loves working with the kids or helping to raise funds to support this great non-profit. For a year now she’s volunteered as a CASA Advocate (Court Appointed Special Advocate) which requires a 12-week training program before helping Foster Children, through their placement into Foster Care, be either reunified with the parents or find adoptive parents. Deborah finds the court process interesting and learning how the system works is proving to be very helpful. Last election Deborah walked a 300 home portion of Bridle Ridge to educate voters on Measure H. She also dedicates time helping at the snack bar at Oakdale High School football games on a permanent basis. With her church group she got to be involved in Love Oakdale this year. She loved the experience and vows that she will have the whole church involved in next year’s Love Oakdale. Deborah has donated turkeys for the Turkey Drive help at Family Support Network and coats for the coat drive. She has volunteered to help events like the City of Oakdale’s Halloween Carnival and the 4th of July Parade. She sees a need and helps out. The outcome is just her kind act of service.

Deborah is an outstanding community member definitely making Oakdale a better place to live. She is a Satellite Office of Progressive Loan Funding here in Oakdale and loves putting people in homes and helping first time home buyers. As well as a small side business selling Organic wines for Scout & Cellar.


Next week, a preview of the Junior Achievement, Large Business and Small Business of the Year nominees.