The Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated community service leaders and welcomed its new board of directors Friday night inside Tenaya Lodge to a crowd of more than 100 people.
Ron Colgate, who at 83 years old still volunteers in the Mountain Area after more than 40 years of service, was honored with the chamber’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.
The award is presented only to those who have shown extraordinary contributions to the community thorough many years of service.
Described by his wife Sherry as a modest man who had never given a speech in his life, Colgate spoke with a smile.
“I want to thank (the chamber) for this great honor,” Colgate said. “It was a total surprise and quite a shock as well.”
Colgate added his family’s move to Oakhurst in 1976 changed his life.
“I can honestly say that one of the best decisions in life our family ever made was to move to Oakhurst,” Colgate said. “I am so proud to be a member of this caring, giving community.”
Sierra Star publisher Betty Linn, also installed as the chamber’s president for 2017 at the dinner, introduced Colgate and made note of his monumental achievements for the community.
Linn described how Colgate has volunteered time on everything from installing the first play equipment at Oakhurst Community Park to the annual Christmas Tree Auction, and the Oakhurst Branch Library.
“From personal experience I can say that whatever Ron was asked to do, he was always there,” Linn said. “And always with a smile, and happy to do whatever was asked. He is so humble that I know he would rather miss receiving this honor, but sorry Ron. Try to enjoy our effort to thank you for your tireless commitment to our community. What a wonderful man you are.”
Both Ron and Sherry Colgate, married for 55 years, were longtime employees of Sierra Tel - Ron from 1977 to his retirement in 2010 as a building maintenance supervisor, and Sherry from 1977 to 2011.
Also honored during the evening were Laura Norman as Woman of the Year, Victor Weitzel as Man of the Year, and Brandon and Jessica Steele of Oakhurst’s Grocery Outlet Bargain Market as Business of the Year, all for 2016.
Norman, introduced by 2015 Woman of the Year Donna Smith, started her career at Sierra Tel in 2001 as an account executive before moving up to public relations supervisor.
At most any event, including those sponsored by Sierra Tel, Norman is a common sight. From 4-H to Future Farmers of America and the Community Christmas Tree lighting to Patriot Day, Norman rushes from place to place, passing out hugs and smiles. That all fit her mentality of “do what you love and love what you do,” she said, as well as remembering not to waste time on fears or doubts.
The Steeles, introduced by 2015 Business of the Year winner Colette Goga, moved to Oakhurst from Lake County in 2013 and converted the 18,000 square-foot Sierra Lanes into Grocery Outlet. Ever since, they’ve remained active in the community as members of the Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst, provide thousands of dollars worth of groceries to Manna House, and give discounts to all first responders in thanks for their service.
Carrie Proctor also received the Executive Director Award, chosen and intrdouced by Joelle Leder for her service to the chamber and Soroptimist International of the Sierras.
Weitzel, who could not attend as he is moving to Oregon, was introduced by 2015 Man of the Year Steve Welch. Welch spoke of Weitzel’s longtime dedication to the Mountain Area, including serving on the Oakhurst Sierra Rotary Club for 15 years, and organizing events like the Rotary’s Santa program in 2003 and the “Evening at Erna’s” event.
New chamber officers
Prior to the awards, the Oakhurst chamber installed its new officers for 2017, including: Betty Linn, president; Melanie Barker, president-elect; Donna Smith, secretary; Andrew Pence, treasurer; and Don Eaves, past president.
Linn joked that she was officially “recycled,” as she is the only person other than Gregory Chappel to twice serve as the chamber’s president (1990 and 2017). She said it was important the crowd remained focused on community service in the new year.
“To those who serve, your dedication and support will ensure our future not only in commerce, but our lifestyle that we all enjoy and love here in Eastern Madera County,” Linn said. “We need you to help, volunteer, and join the fun while you help all of us thrive.”
In addition, 10 people were installed to the chamber board of directors: Anne Driscoll, Brian Negley, Darin Soukup, Donna Dozier, Julie Fullmer, Mark Choe, Mike DeVito, Mike Sullivan, Shawna Petrushkin and Shelle Abbott.
The chamber dinner was postponed to Friday after a heavy storm in mid January covered the Mountain Area in snow.