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Community celebrates the Best of Turlock
Members of the community gather for the 42nd annual Best of Turlock awards ceremony held on Friday. - photo by MAEGAN MARTENS / The Journal

The Larsa Banquet Hall was filled with over 350 community members Friday night for the Chamber of Commerce’s 42nd annual Best of Turlock award event.
The Chamber presented over 13 awards including two special recognitions. Out of the 42 years the event has been held, special recognitions have only been presented about five times making this year a special one.
“There are some outstanding individuals in this community,” said Sharon Silva, Chamber CEO. “Some of these people have been here for a lifetime. It is great to have this opportunity to honor them.”

42nd Annual Best of Turlock Award Winners:

Ambassador of the Year
Shawna Casey

As a member of the Turlock Chamber of Commerce Ambassador Program, Shawna Casey has visited numerous businesses taking surveys, assisting at special events, ribbon cuttings and mixers. As an ambassador, Casey worked tirelessly as an advocate for the Chamber and as a link between the Chamber board and staff and the general membership. For the second year in a row, Casey went above and beyond in her duties as ambassador, earning her the  Ambassador of the Year award.

Community Volunteer of the Year
Jennifer Larson

Since 1998 Jennifer Larson has served on the board of directors for Emanuel Medical Center; serving two terms as chair of the board. She also serves on the Benevolence Board, which oversees two hospitals and 15 retirement communities. She was a founding member of Cornerstone Covenant Church, nurturing its growth from inception to the current membership of nearly 200. Jennifer also volunteers her time on the board for Turlock Memorial Park.

Special Recognition
Chief Gary Hampton

Since taking the position of chief of police in August 2006, Gary Hampton has not only reorganized the Turlock Police Department and reduced crime throughout the city, he also stepped to the plate when the city needed him. Hampton took on the position of interim city manager, while maintaining his police chief responsibilities, during a particularly difficult budget time — and did it with no extra compensation. He is recognized for giving his time and self to the City of Turlock.

Small Business of the Year
Bistro 234

In December 2001, Bistro 234 opened their doors for business, the culmination of Jennifer and Ken Bethel’s hard work and dreams. Since then, Bistro 234 has become a fixture in the downtown culinary scene. They persevered through a fire, rebuilding and becoming a leader in the restaurant community, as was evident when Head Chef Leroy Walker won the area Culinary Clash II competition.

Corporation of the Year
Thorsen’s Plumbing, Solar, Heating and Air

Serving the City of Turlock for the past 99 years, Thorsen’s focuses on providing quality repairs, service and installation in the areas of plumbing, heating, air conditioning and solar energy. They are the oldest company who has continued to do business in Turlock. 

Youth Involvement of the Year
Denis Sondeno

For volunteering his time to a variety of different organizations associated with children, Denis Sondeno is recognized for his youth involvement. He has been a volunteer for the Society for Handicapped Children & Adults of Stanislaus County for the past 16 years. He is also a co-director for Snow Skiing Unlimited, logging over 2,000 hours of volunteer time for the snow ski program. He is also active in the Water Skiing Unlimited and the swim team for Turlock. 

Educator of the Year
Dana Trevethan

Since 2001, Dana Trevethan has been a teacher and councilor leading her into becoming the second female principal of Turlock High School. She has brought many changes to the school with the No Child Left Behind Act and the Student Academic Achievement Plan. She actively participates in school activities including the Principals Spanish Lip Sync Competition. She is also a part-time instructor at California State University, Stanislaus. Trevethan continues to go beyond the call of duty. 

Humanitarian of the Year
Jane Vilas

Giving numerous hours to the betterment of Turlock, Jane Vilas has made an impact on the community. She is an Emanuel Medical Center “pink lady”  and a member of the Salvation Army Advisory Board. Vilas is a founding member of Legacy Circle and has been a supporter of the Festival of Trees since 1984. She is also a part of the Emanuel Institutional Review.
She is very active in the First Methodist Church and on the scholarship board of California State University, Stanislaus. Her commitments don’t end there. She volunteers her time working and as a board member of Off Center Thrift Store and helped bring the Gallo Center for the Arts to the area.

Agricultural Leader of the Year
Matt Swanson

Matt Swanson is a visionary leader in agri-business, manufacturing and pet-supply retail. He serves as president of both Associated Feed & Supply, a leader in the animal feed industry, and Virtus Nutrition, a developer and marketer of value-added feed ingredients for dairy cows. He is president of Nutrias, which manufactors vitamin and mineral supplements for livestock, poultry and companion animals. He is also founder and president of Pet Extreme, Inc.
His varied interests in film and music culminated in founding The Creation Lab, Turlock’s own recording and video studio. He also serves as president of the California State University, Stanislaus Foundation Board and is a Turlock Christian Schools board member.

Business Leader of the Year
John Benjamin

As vice president of West Argo, DeLaval Inc. of Turlock, previously known as Chemland, John Benjamin has spent 22 years in an integral role in the changes and advancements this company has made. His on-going collaboration and negotiations to sell Chemland and incorporate it with a larger enterprise is evidence of his business innovation and dedication. In April 2009, he was awarded the “Best Manufacturing Plant of the Year” out of 21 companies worldwide.

Special Recognition
Class of 1944

Giving back to the community through volunteer work and monetary donations is what the Class of 1944 is known for in Turlock. They have helped the community for the past 65 years. They support Turlock High School’s football team and the Turlock Together campaign. They have come together to restore the Historical Museum, the Turlock Auditorium, and the fountain in front of the Turlock Unified School District Administration office. They can be seen volunteering their time for the Salvation Army or delivering Meals on Wheels.

Youth Citizen of the Year
Tatiana Fregosi

Turlock High senior Tatiana Fregosi is a student that is actively involved in her community and her academics. Her class schedule is filled with advanced placement classes where she holds a 4.31 GPA and is ranked second in her class. She is the captain of her volleyball team and senior class president.
Fregosi also participated in the 2009 Mock Trial Team and was the THS representative to Girl’s State. She leads a weekly youth group for Bible study and often helps with the We Care shelter program. 

Citizen of the Year
Louise Marchant

Known as “Turlock’s Biggest Cheerleader,” she takes on many different roles, often wearing her Turlock High blue and gold. She serves on the board for the Salvation Army and helped with the restoration of the Turlock Community Auditorium. She served on the Planning Commission and the Turlock City Centennial Committee. She often hosted the Booster Club to support Turlock sports. Her family is celebrating 75 years of service as the Turlock Scavenger Company in this community.