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Six Tapped As Nominees For Citizen Of The Year
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Oakdale COY

It’s almost time for awards season – and the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce is putting the finishing touches on planning for its 76 annual Oakdale Awards Banquet.

Date for the event is Friday, March 11 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with the awards back to an in person gathering this year, set for the Gene Bianchi Community Center, 110 S. Second Ave. Contact the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce to purchase tickets; 209-847-2244.

The evening will feature honors for local businesses, junior achievers, community service organizations, lifetime achievement and outstanding citizens. The Community Service nominees can be found on Page A3 of this week’s issue.

Following are this year’s nominees for Citizen of the Year, with information provided by each nominee. In alphabetical order, this year’s nominees are: Lisa Ballard, Nick Birchall, Marg Jackson, Jaylene Ponce, Pete Simoncini, and Amy Velasco.


Lisa Ballard

Lisa has lived in Oakdale her whole life and graduated from OHS. She has worked for Oakdale Joint Unified School District for 35 years. Both her parents graduated from OHS and she proudly married an Oakdalen. Lisa is blessed to have big supporters in her life, her beloved husband Bill, sister Anita and many friends who volunteer 100’s of hours helping her when she calls. She is also the caregiver for her three cousins who live in Oakdale. She loves her four dogs that all reside inside her home. She is generous, kind, thoughtful and a caring person. She is a gracious neighbor and friend to all. People always feel comfortable in her presence and she has the gift of bringing people together. Lisa has dedicated much of her life to helping others.

Lisa is a founding member of O.E.S. (Oakdale Enrichment Society) a nonprofit here in Oakdale. OES puts on the annual Oakdale Christmas Parade, annual Fourth of July parade and concert and Oakdale Clothing Drive. Each December she gathers personal items and word search for our Oakdale seniors and delivers 100+ gift bags to them. She collects blankets and towels for the Oakdale Animal Shelter. She collects bags for Oakdale Community Sharing. She donates many items to Oakdale Rescue Mission. You can find her driving around Oakdale on weekends or on her lunch hour giving food, dog food, purses filled w/personal hygiene items to our local homeless. She is the organizer for her neighborhood yard sale every June with over 40+ homes.

June 26, 2021 Lisa was a big part of Oakdale 150th Birthday All American Bash in Oakdale, which included a large parade, 4000+ people at Oakdale Rodeo Grounds for tractor pulls, kids’ zone, food, drinks, concert and fireworks. Great big birthday party for Oakdale. Lisa volunteers in organizing helping many fundraisers in town for whoever asks her for help. Lisa selflessly donates hundreds of hours each year to many non-profit organizations, in securing volunteers, donors, money, live/silent auction items and has made many baskets for raffles. Not only does she help other non-profits, but she also helps individuals who need help with their weddings, baby showers, birthday, anything they need, she is always willing to help.


Nick Birchall

Nick spends a lot of time with local youth sports. He coaches soccer, baseball, softball and basketball. He prides himself on bringing out the best of the kids he coaches, teaching them that their effort and attitude are things that they have control over, and that having fun is the most important part of sports.

He serves as the Director of Recreation (since 2017) of the Oakdale Soccer Club (OSC). This past year he spent hundreds of volunteer hours making sure the season was a success. He helped with registration, handing out flyers at each of the schools in Oakdale, Knights Ferry and Valley Home. He was tasked with finding 82 head coaches and helped train those who felt inadequate but were willing to coach. He assisted with finding local businesses to sponsor each of the 82 teams. He organized and ran the Evaluation Day before the season began. He ran the team drafts, helping form each team. He made sure all equipment was in good shape and ready for play. He painted the fields weekly and set them up for games for 800+ kids and their families. At the end of the season he drove around and handed out dozens of “Thank You” plaques to sponsors.

He also serves on the board for the Oakdale Baseball and Softball Association (OBSA). In 2021 he was the Minors League Division President, the Social Media Specialist and the Equipment Manager. He helped sort, distribute and collect equipment for each team. He helped get the fields ready for play before the season and helped maintain them throughout the season. He spent considerable time at Gilbert Park, Fish Park and Kerr Park, getting the fields in good shape for practices. He helped with uniform sorting and distribution to each team. He responded to social media messages, answering daily questions.

Nick also devotes a lot of time to his faith, serving as a youth leader for the greater Oakdale area kids 12-18 years old. He helped organize and execute activities such as camps, leadership training, service projects, dances and boating trips. He spent a week in the mountains at a youth camp with the kids and other leaders.

Serving others makes him feel good.


Marg Jackson

A resident of Oakdale for the past 29 years, Marg Jackson is the editor for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She made the move to Oakdale from her native upstate New York – where she began her journalism career in radio and then moved to newspapers – to accept an editor’s position with The Riverbank News. She later took on editorial duties for The Escalon Times and, for the last several years, has overseen all three weekly newspapers. She handles the bulk of the news and sports writing, as well as photography, for the Escalon paper and works cooperatively with her staff, coordinating coverage of events for Oakdale and Riverbank. She also writes for both those papers and contributes regularly to the popular 209 Magazine. She helps coordinate several special publications a year for the newspaper showcasing such Oakdale events as the Chocolate Festival, Oakdale Rodeo and worked closely in 2021 with the Oakdale Enrichment Society on the 150th Birthday Celebration for the community.

Outside of work, Marg has been involved with the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life in Oakdale for 20 years and has served as a team captain, committee member and event chairperson. At the Oakdale event, not only was she involved on the committee, she served as MC for many years, working alongside fellow Citizen of the Year nominee Pete Simoncini. She was a co-chair this past year with the regional Relay For Life of Greater Stanislaus County, hosted at John Thurman Field in Modesto, and also assisted at a special event this past summer in Valley Home, when that community did a one-day pre-Relay fundraiser.

Marg also volunteers time several Sundays a year to assist with serving meals at the Oakdale Rescue Mission and is a regular blood donor, having given over 10 gallons of blood to the American Red Cross through the years. With a love for service work, she has also been involved in delivering Thanksgiving dinners to those in the community in need.


Jaylene Ponce

Making a Difference! That is something I am very passionate about and strive to be a force for bringing the community together during these unprecedented times. By coming together to help those in need, we can remind others there is still good in this world.

Throughout 2021, I had the opportunity to coordinate efforts with our generous community on various issues. When a bullying incident occurred and shared on local social media, many people wanted to do something positive, to replace that negative time. Together, this community blessed this young man and showed him the support he has, right here in Oakdale. With my baking business, it has been an honor to bless members of Law Enforcement, EMS, Relay For Life, local businesses, schools, churches, and Oakdale’s 150th Birthday Celebration! What a privilege it has been to be able to spread love and joy through the gift of cookies. Because of the help of my beloved family and friends, my goal of spreading Kindness continues.

My customers have become lifelong friends. I know that when there is a need, I can count on so many to join in my efforts. Besides cookies, together we have been able to provide help to children who have lost their parents, a young cancer patient, and those who lost all possessions in a fire. It is during these times of need when I feel most motivated to help others.

I understand the importance of Kindness and the life-changing difference it can make. I have personally received the warmth and gift of Kindness and will forever find ways to share the difference kindness can make! It started with cookies and has grown into so much more! Because of the Oakdale community, we can do these meaningful acts of kindness. It truly takes a village!


Pete Simoncini

Pete Simoncini has dedicated countless hours to Oakdale, serving the community, his church, and as the famous voice of the Mustangs. He served as the public address announcer for most interscholastic sporting events at Oakdale High School including, but not limited to: football (3 levels), boys’ and girls’ water polo, cross country, volleyball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, wrestling, softball, baseball, track and field, and girls’ and boys’ soccer.

Pete teaches at Oakdale High School (AP US History, AP Psychology, AP US Government and Politics, and psychology). Our AP US History students and AP US Government students achieved pass rates on the national tests that far exceeded the national averages.

2021 presented many challenges, but Pete continued to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce-sponsored virtual Chamber Honors for 2021 and for the virtual Oakdale Distinguished Young Woman program, sponsored by Soroptimist International of Oakdale. He served as the MC and caller for Bingo games sponsored by the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish and co-MC of the Relay For Life of Greater Stanislaus County, sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

Pete’s dedication continues with his services as a Eucharistic Minister and lector at St. Mary of the Annunciation Catholic Church in Oakdale, the lay chair for the Diocese of Stockton’s Bishop’s Ministry Appeal for the St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish, speaking to all three English language Masses on a Sunday in February 2021, and as the stadium Public Address Announcer for several US Amateur Athletic Union track and field meets in the spring and summer.

He served as a ghost writer for The Oakdale Leader’s sports section after the resignation of the regular sportswriter, providing short articles on various home interscholastic sporting events at Oakdale High School.

Pete became a member of the Dr. Tom Dooley chapter of the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary of the Annunciation Catholic Church in Oakdale and serve as that organization’s recorder.


Amy Velasco

Amy Velasco is a long time Oakdale resident, wife of 22 years to her husband Jesse, and mother of three children, Jaxx 14, Jozie 9, and Jameson 6. Amy has been an ambassador for the City of Oakdale for years. She has been on the Oakdale Planning Commission for the last five years, four as chairperson, as well as a LOVE Oakdale volunteer and rally MC for the past four years. She helped to create Oakdale Enrichment Society in 2018 and held the position of President from 2018-2021. As a member of Oakdale Enrichment Society, Amy helped bring many events to the city of Oakdale, including the city’s 150th birthday celebration in 2021. Amy served as MC for the city’s time capsule ceremony and curated over 100 items of significance to be placed inside. She provided locations and historic info for Visit Oakdale’s city wide scavenger hunt, helped Oakdale Museum and History Center with their history walk though, and served as tour guide for the historic Clocktower tours hosted by Oakdale Chamber and Oak Valley Community Bank. When COVID prevented students from taking their annual salmon field trip, Amy teamed up with teachers and Fish Bio to bring a hands-on field trip to Magnolia Elementary so students could still have the experience. Amy and her family volunteer to help clean local cemeteries as well as place Christmas wreaths on Veterans graves. She also creates holiday drive-by decoration lists and routes, so community members can enjoy holiday spirit, even during a pandemic. Amy currently sits aboard the school site facilities committee, helping to better improve our Oakdale Schools, as well as volunteers as the photographer for Oakdale Sunrise Rotary’s annual Father Daughter dance. Amy deeply loves Oakdale and dedicates her time making it a more enjoyable and exciting place to live, work, visit, and raise families. She believes in teaching her children the value of community service, and that the greatest gift you can give to someone, is the gift of one’s time.