The Golden Chain Theatre was filled Friday night for the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce 2012 Board of Directors Installation and Awards Banquet where man, woman, volunteer, and business of the year were announced.
The prime rib banquet was catered by Sierra Sky Ranch and the evening was emceed by chamber board member Randy Papike.
To kick-off the celebration of Oakhurst's 100th birthday, a special cake was served and historian Bill Coate spoke, regaling listeners with a story of Oakhurst's past. To celebrate the Feb. 28 centennial, the Sierra Star will publish historical articles by Coate pertaining to Fresno Flats and Oakhurst.
Angelo Pizelo said farewell to a successful year as chamber president and passed the title on to 2012s president, Janet Stanovich. She said the chamber's common goal during the year will be to focus on building a vital chamber of commerce. By working closely with the board, she hopes to set several things in motion.
"First, to apply the effort in reinforcing the structure of our organization; second to inform the community and engage the membership to continue their support in actively participating at chamber-hosted events, and third, to continue to meet the needs and challenges head on in this ever-changing world, to not only attract new memberships, but to retain and renew those memberships year after year. 2012 is definitely going to be a dynamic year and I look forward to working with you all in an effort to promote a vital Chamber of Commerce."
The evening wrapped up with awards, surprising three individuals and one business that their community work and involvement has been noticed.
Man of the Year 2011 -- Roger Schneider
Introduced by Karen White, treasurer of the chamber foundation, the 2011 Man of the Year is someone who prefers to work behind the scenes.
"He does what he does because he loves his community," White said. "He volunteers both his time and resources to help the people of our community as well as improve the community's image."
In 1999 Schneider, who owns Yosemite Brokage, Inc., stepped in to help save the Oak Creek Intermediate School computer lab simply because he read in the Sierra Star about the possibility of the labs closure due to the lack of funds. In 2011 he stepped in to clean up the River Parkway simply because he drove by and felt it did not reflect the best the community had to offer.
"He takes great pride in his community," White said. "When he sees something that needs to be taken care of, he just organizes it and does it -- and yet much of what he does is not seen or recognized by the community at large and he prefers it that way."
In his own words, "I don't need any recognition. Your thanks are appreciated. I do it to give back to my community."
White described Schneider as a humble, family man.
"Roger has quietly helped cleanup the corner of Highways 41 and 49," White said. "No one asked him to do it, and no one knew who did it. It took a few phone calls and an email to find out it was his handiwork."
When asked once if he would like some recognition, he began talking about others in the community and said they do "so much for the community and are deserving of recognition."
White said Schneider is a strong advocate of local owned businesses and doing business with local businesses.
"He has always been very supportive of community organizations throughout the years and with his interest in real estate development he has always strived to improve the community and make Oakhurst a better place to live.
In 1998 he was part of a group of businesses that supported the organization of a locally owned bank, because Oakhurst did not have one.
Schneider routinely participates and sponsors golf tournaments and community events that help area charities.
White said that many people in the area are aware of the hundreds of trees that were planted along Highway 41 and 49 a year ago.
"What you do not know is that these trees have been watered once a week by Roger and Patrice Jensen," White said. "He rented a water truck during the summer and filled it at his own expense. Roger and Patrice would spend several hours early Sunday mornings watering the trees."
Schneider is a chamber member and an affiliate member of the Yosemite Gateway Association of Realtors. He is a past recipient of the chamber's Community Hero Award.
He opened Yosemite Brokerage in 1991 after working for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. He purchased the building at the corner of Highway 41 and 49 from Yosemite Bank and has been at that location ever since.
"I love my community and the recognition you give me is so special, it touches my heart," said Schneider.
Born in Fresno, he moved to Oakhurst in the 1960s. He met his wife Nancy in the 1970s and they were married in 1981. Together they raised their two children, Nicholas and Brooke.
Woman of the Year -- Rima Runtzel
Announced by out-going chamber board member Alan Bryant, Rima Runtzel was named 2011 Woman of the Year for all her involvement in the community. Runtzel is the Marketing Coordinator for the Sierra Tel Business Development Department.
She is also president to the Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst and a member of the board of directors for Friends of the Oakhurst Branch Library. This month she recently received a 40 Under 40 nomination in the Central Valley by business street.com.
She has been a supporter of the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce and a chamber ambassador for many years. She is the current Oakhurst honorary mayor representing the Boys & Girls Club and provided background support for the honorary mayor campaign for several years.
Bryant said Runtzel is also involved with, and supports, the Friends of the Oakhurst Branch Library and the library's summer reading program, the Community Park Elegant Auction and the Community Tree Lighting Ceremony.
She received the Female Angel of the Year award in 2008, was a CalCom Community Spirit Award Recipient in 2009 and the chamber's 2009 Volunteer of the Year.
"I'm so lucky to have been brought through the fold of all these organizations through Sherry Colgate as my mentor," Runtzel said. "It's just amazing."
Runtzel is a graduate of Wasuma Elementary and Yosemite High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration from Saint Leo's University. She has two children, Alison and Jeffrey.
Business of the Year - Pacific Pectin
Angelo Pizelo, outgoing chamber presented the 2011 Business of the Year award to Pacific Pectin.
The company produces a variety of fruit pectin and specialty food ingredients for the home canners and industrial manufacturers.
The business is owned and operated by Lisa Cook and her mother Joyce Devito.
"We are very honored and it's great to be part of the community and we look forward to serving and supporting the community more," Sid Cook.
The family owned and operated company was established in 1986 in Newbury Park by Joyce and her late husband Fred. Before Fred and Joyce DeVito started the business, Fred worked for Sunkist and General Foods for many years. General Foods eventually closed their pectin processing plant, the last one in the U.S. and Fred saw an opportunity and took it.
Pizelo said the business was started by renting a little storage unit and using a cardboard barrel to blend their product.
"They had a vision not only for the business, but also for the family," Pizelo said.
"In these early days in Newbury Park, they filled the barrel with the product to mix and then had the back breaking task of rolling the barrel back and forth and flipping it over and over," Pizelo explained. "They eventually upgraded to a cement mixer for small blends and trucked product to an outside blending facility for larger blends."
In 1990, the family moved the business to Oakhurst and rented a unit in the Enterprise Center. After 12 years, with the continued growth of the business they purchased their own property and built a warehouse, Pizelo said.
Over the years the business has increased its customer base by adding new products. Now people use pectin for drink mixes, candy making, stabilizing, baking mixes and even for nutritional purposes.
"Pectin is not just for jams and jellies anymore," Pizelo said.
The small company recently built its own blending facility in Oakhurst.
"Pacific Pectin has been a great supporter of the community this past year and they have provided considerable manpower and resources to help cleanup and maintain the Highway 41-49 corner and the Pashayan property adjacent to the Chevron station.
"They are an excellent example of the quality of our membership," Pizelo said. "They have taken pride in our community and have taken it upon themselves to make Oakhurst a better place to live. They continue to generously donate their product to various charities every year."
Pacific Pectin has been chamber members since 2003 and have recently received the Chamber's Community Hero Award.
Volunteer of the Year - Sandy Brinley
"This years Volunteer of the Year, Sandy Brinley, is everywhere in this community," said presenter and close friend Sherri Colgate, both recently retired after long careers with Sierra Telephone.
Brinley is involved in the Soroptimist, supports the Ahwahnee Regional Park, helps raise scholarship money for high school students and is a long-standing supporter of the chamber, its members and the community.
"She does anything from emptying trash cans on the River Walkway to pouring wine at our events," Colgate said.
During the 1980s, she was the publicity chair for Mountaineer Days and is currently involved with Fresno Flats.
While at Sierra Telephone, where she worked for 33 years and retired from in Feb. 2011, she helped coordinate a recreation committee. They would close off the Sierra Tel parking lot to allow kids to skate before the current skate park at the Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst was developed.
She organized and oversaw all the survivor's activities and booth, including breakfasts and recognition, for the Cancer Society Relay for Life.
She has also been an integral part in the development and planning of the 100th Anniversary of Oakhurst activities.
She serves on the Board of the North Fork Scenic Byway and still finds time to serve Oakhurst. She is past board member of the chamber and past president of Soroptimist. She has received the Woman of the Year award, Angels Amongst Us award and the Soroptimist's Woman of Distinction award.
"It's hard to say I've done all those things," Brinley said. "I happen to love my community and I really like what I'm doing."
She has three children, Willie, Kimberly and John; two grandchildren, Katelyn and Travis; and one great grandchild, Noah, with another due late February.