Angels and Heroes Amongst Us

Mountain Area individuals and businesses were honored Nov. 2 during the 18th annual Angels and Heroes Amongst Us awards dinner sponsored by the Mountain Bear Fan Club.

The event spotlights those who quietly and diligently do good deeds and support projects throughout the year that improve the quality of life in Eastern Madera County.

“These people and businesses of our community continually do great things without the expectation of thanks or recognition,” said Mountain Bear Fan Club President Bev Gordon, who coordinated the event. Honorees included:

* Male Angel of the Year: Robert “Chef” Brosi, DDS: Brosi, a member of the Oakhurst Sierra Rotary noon club for more than 30 years, has been a long time community volunteer. He chaired the chamber foundation for 10 years, and for the past 25 years he has been cooking for the spaghetti dinners, the Rotary Crab Feed, Cajun Fest dinner, last year’s Rib Fest, and he oversees the Heritage Days community dinner barbecue.

Brosi was unable to attend the event, but Master of Ceremonies Dr. Bill Atwood said Brosi hates the spotlight shined on him for all the charity work he does.

“He just wants all of you to remember to floss,” Atwood said.

* Female Angel of the Year: Sandy Brinley: Brinley, retired from Sierra Tel after 30 years of service, has served as chairperson of the Heritage Days parade for 12 years, and has worked tirelessly on the Oakhurst River Parkway for 22 years. She is a member of the Soroptimist of the Sierras, and serves on the chamber foundation board.

“The angel’s dinner is such a special event,” Brinley said. “I am so lucky to live in this wonderful community.”

* Male Hero of the Year: Darin Soukup: Soukup serves as the executive director of the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce. When his family, wife, and two daughters, Mikayla, 7, and Aeva Mae, 3, lost their home to the Courtney Fire, he refused to be the face of the disaster. He continued his daily duties at the chamber and assisted with coordinating the Fall Festival that was less than a month away.

Soukup said about a year and-a-half ago he ran into one of the best definitions of an act of mercy. He said an act of mercy is when you see a person experience a tragedy, an injustice, or hardship and you are compelled to act — you are compelled to help — You use whatever resources that are available to you in the moment to help that person in need; you reach out and lift them up.

“Little did I know at the time that my family and I would be recipients of such an act of mercy,” Soukup said. “The local businesses, our friends, family, neighbors and the entire community have reached out and lifted us up in our time of need and you continue to stand beside us. We are overwhelmed with your generosity, your kindness, your encouragement and your awesome act of mercy.”

* Female Hero of the Year Hero: Katrina Poitras: Poitras, a Yosemite High School graduate, now serves as a Red Cross coordinator for victims of disasters. During the recent Oakhurst and Bass Lake Heights fires, she set up evacuation sites for residents and their pets at the community centers and churches for those affected by the fires and animals. In spite of dealing with the recent passing of her mother, Poitras continued to help others. She found homes for two injured firefighters who were not covered by benefits at the time.

* Business Angel of the Year: Norma Rodgers, Mountain Comforts: For 15 years Mountain Comforts has supported the Mountain Bear Fan Club with their “Mountain Beary Park” on the property adjacent to them on Crane Valley Road (426). Rodgers has provided water from her well to water the park’s grass, trees and plants. The business helped with electricity, sharing their parking area and always saying “yes,” even when the club was discouraged by vandalism, drought, and sink holes.

* Business Heroes of the Year: Bryant family, Oakhurst True Value Home Center, and Kevin and Michelle Miller, Miller’s Landing Resort, Bass Lake:

True Value made and provided, at no charge, framed screens so fire victims could sift through the ashes and possibly find lost possessions. When the community support event was held at the Oakhurst Community Center after the Courtney Fire, True Value supplied victims of the fire with buckets, brooms, shovels, cleaning supplies, dog food and other supplies for every home owner affected by the fire.

Atwood said the Bryant family is a “true value” to the community and is a great supporter of many organizations and education.

Miller’s Landing held a fundraiser barbecue for fire victims after the Courtney Fire that raised more than $30,000 in cash and gift cards.

Atwood said the Millers are great representatives of the Mountain Area to the thousands of visitors who go to Bass Lake every summer.

* Couple Angels of the Year: Pat and Mary Helen Mierkey: The Mierkeys have contributed endless hours to Mountain Area children in elementary school and Yosemite High School music programs for 20 years. They teach children not only music, but ethical morals as well. In addition to the high school band, Pat instructs two jazz bands and assists with the direction of the Oakhurst Community Concert Band.

Mary Helen has been the key person in fitting the entire band for their uniforms. She fits, sews, and cleans the uniforms and keeps the uniform room stocked and organized. They recently lost their home in the Junction Fire, but they continue to show up for everything they have committed to.

“Although the Angel award is a wonderful honor, an even greater honor has been working with all the young children in the Mountain Area all these years,” Pat said.

* Group Angels of the Year: Firefighters: Ryan Davis of Oakhurst Station 12 accepted the award on behalf of Cal Fire, Madera County,U.S. Forest Service and city firefighters from throughout the state and nation who responded to both the Junction and Courtney fires.

Other Angel awards were presented to John Livergood, Tom Bailey, Debra Myers, and Mike and Donna Ritchie (2T’s Mini-Storage).

Each recipient is awarded a Teddy bear that has been personalized to fit the honoree’s commitment to the community.

Other nominations included: Brad Ditton and Steve Welch, The Forks Resort, Linda Gott-Maddox, Kathy Kramer, Oakhurst Feed, Oakhurst Gift Works, Queen’s Inn, Raley’s, Sara Robison, and Jerry Roche.

Dr. Bill Atwood served as master of ceremonies for the event and Father Gordon Kamai, of Christ Church Anglican, gave the invocation prior to dinner.

Atwood told the gathering of 120 that, while people choose the area to live in because of the trees, clear sky, and the lakes, it is because of the people that they stay.

“These angels and heroes honored this evening help soften the stern realities of life, and they have helped to make everyone’s life better,” Atwood said. “They are truly heaven sent blessings.”

A silent auction and raffle were held to raise funds for the nonprofit Mountain Bear Fan Club, which has provided more than 10,000 Teddy bears annually to fire department’s, sheriff’s department, California Highway Patrol, hospitals, shelters, social service agencies, veterinary hospitals, churches, nursing homes, schools, and urgent care for families who have been affected by a traumatic incident.

The club was founded by Toni Lagunoff and the late Jean Eaton in 1991 when she gathered a small group of friends to share how Teddy bears comfort and help people smile during trying times.

Annual membership dues for the club are $20, and checks can be sent to Mountain Bear Fan club, P.O. Box 2071, Oakhurst, Calif., 93644.

Details: (559) 683-1111.