Father Gordon Kamai and Donna Dozier were honored as the 2016 Man and Woman Angels of the Year, while Tony and Lori McLean of Oakhurst Physical Therapy were applauded as Business of the Year during the 20th annual “Angels & Heroes Amongst Us” awards at Evergreen Conference Center Nov. 6.
Kamai, pastor at Christ Church Anglican and annual animal blesser during the EMC SPCA’s Animal Faire, was honored for his volunteer work in the community and helping a neighbor as she battled breast cancer after her husband died in 2007.
“I feel undeserving,” laughed Kamai, who also gave an invocation during the awards luncheon. “I just did what any neighbor would do. It’s just part of living in Oakhurst. That’s what we do here ... I’m glad to help others in any way I can.”
Dozier, a hairdresser honored for her work with the Helping One Woman organization and “Look Good-Feel Good” program through the American Cancer Society, which teaches free makeup and hair styling to cancer patients to boost their self esteem, said she was shocked by the award.
“I just do it to do it,” Dozier said. “‘Look Good-Feel Good’ is my way of giving back, and HOW has been huge since we started it up here. Basically, it all ends up being fun. Thank you so much for this.”
Tony McLean, with more than 15 years in Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary, said he and Lori were blessed to live in such a welcoming community.
“It’s really simple,” Tony said. “When we moved into this zip code we got together with people to do what they do in helping out. And from 2000 on, we’ve plugged in with the right people. We’re blessed, our boys are blessed, and we’re just happy to be here.”
Waunetta Fuchs won the 4th Jean’s Library Bear for tireless work volunteering at the Oakhurst Library on everything from stocking shelves to handling front desk requests.
“It’s just a really great honor, and I’m very humbled,” Fuchs said. “I can’t believe I’m with the group that’s won these all these years … they deserve it a lot more than me. I really appreciate this.”
The winners, as well as five additional nominees, were chosen by the Mountain Bear Fan Club, a group of generous teddy bear lovers who annually provide some 10,000 stuffed animals to a collection of organizations including fire departments, churches, schools, nursing homes, the sheriff’s department, California Highway Patrol and hospitals.
But perhaps none of the teddy bear recipients were surprised more than one special honoree on Sunday. Toni Lagunoff, who helped found the Mountain Bear Fan Club with her dear friend, the late Jane Eaton in 1991, was shocked when she was given a bear for her efforts in creating, and continuing to run the annual event.
“I did not expect this in any way,” Lagunoff said as tears welled in her eyes. “I didn’t even want the attention. That’s not why I do it ... but I appreciate it. Everyone deserves this honor, not me, but I’m happy to continue doing this.”
Other nominees were Howard Kemp for tireless work distributing food to the needy through the Madera County Food Bank; Mike Kling for volunteer work on everything from offering rides to doctor’s appointments to housesitting for those in medical care; Kenneth Petty for work at the food bank, North Fork Women’s Club, and at Grace Community Church; Jess Rodriguez for helping with the North Fork Women’s Club; and John Signes of the Oakhurst Masonic Lodge for volunteering in numerous Mountain Area events.
A raffle featuring numerous gifts from Mountain Area merchants and organizations was held during the luncheon to raise funds for the Mountain Bear Fan Club.
Annual membership dues are $20, and checks can be sent to Mountain Bear Fan Club, P.O. Box 2071, Oakhurst, CA, 93644.
The Angels & Heroes program began in 1997 as part of the club, a small group of friends headed by Lagunoff and Eaton in order to share the comfort of teddy bears for those experiencing hardships in life.
Every nominee was awarded a teddy bear personalized in style to fit their commitment to the Mountain Area community.
Sierra Star columnist Bill Atwood served as master of ceremonies for the luncheon.