Turlock is a town marked by the enduring traits of its community members: commitment, care and selflessness. The 46th Annual Best of Turlock awards program was a testament to its residents that possess these traits.
Local dignitaries, volunteers, educators and business owners were honored for their contribution to Turlock society, a town in which many of the honorees were raised.
"This community has produced some of the most amazing young people and it's really something to be proud of," said Ann Cordell, long time teacher and winner of the Youth Involvement Award.
The American Assyrian Civic Club was filled on Friday with not only the honorees, but their supporters, past honorees, and community members that contribute to make Turlock a gem of the Central Valley.
Ambassador of the Year
The mission of an ambassador is to serve as the public relations arm of the Turlock Chamber of Commerce membership. This year's Ambassador of the Year is someone who has worked on the committee for the past four years, always giving of her time and monetary support to make Chamber events successful.
Chris Kiriakou's tireless efforts to establish a gospel mission to serve the homeless in Turlock and ensure its success has earned him the title of Community Volunteer of the Year. In 2007, Kiriakou began working with a devoted group of volunteers to start the Turlock Gospel Mission. The TGM is preparing for a milestone with the groundbreaking of a permanent dorm facility.
Roy Wasden joined the City of Turlock as its manager in June 2009. Since that time, his service to the City of Turlock and its residents has been marked by his collaborative leadership and exemplary dedication to the best interests of the community.
Home Depot, The Greenery, JKB Energy, Teen Challenge and Woods Furniture
This past year the Chamber of Commerce Foundation had the privilege to work with Home Depot through the company's Framing Hope program. Products donated through this program go to local schools, churches, nonprofits, organizations, businesses and individuals for good use. This year, over $60,000 in product was given to the community. This program was also made possible by partners, Woods Furniture, JKB Energy, The Greenery and Teen Challenge, which helped with storage, transportation and man-power.
Small Business of the Year
Dust Bowl founder Brett Tate and partner Brett Honoree have changed the face of downtown with the opening of their tap room. In the past four years, Dust Bowl Brewery has produced over 4,000 barrels of product annually. The company is expanding brewery operations and doubling production.
Corporation of the Year
Las Casuelas Restaurant
Guillermon and Ana Ramirez have been in the restaurant business for over 30 years. In 2005, Las Casuelas Restaurant was established in Turlock, introducing authentic home cooked meals in a variety of dishes. Today, Las Casuelas has four successful restaurants, with the newest set to open in downtown Turlock this spring.
Youth Involvement Award
Ann Cordell has devoted 31 years of her life to the youth of Turlock as a teacher. Since 2001, she has taught English Language Arts and United States History at Dutcher Middle School. Upon Cordell’s arrival at Dutcher, she began a drama club that has put on several memorable shows. She also is responsible for organizing annual trips to Washington D.C. and New York for the students of both Dutcher Middle School and Turlock Junior High School during spring break, and to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore.
Educator of the Year
Bret Sutterley has been an educator for 33 years. During that time, it has been his personal mission to provide the best educational experience possible for students and their families. He has accomplished this through his grant writing efforts, organizing Walnut Elementary's Punt, Pass and Kick program and Energy Faire, and being the City of Turlock's Go Green Week liaison. He has consistently provided innovative learning experiences to his students and the entire community.
Higher Educator of the Year
Dean Linda Nowak, PhD
Dean Linda Nowak has proved to be a stabilizing force in tumultuous times in higher education. She has stressed a commitment to shared governance and helped faculty and administration move forward together. Dean Nowak is sustaining her efforts to improve the College of Business Administration, as it recently developed two new concentrations for the MBA program.
Humanitarian of the Year
Rose M. Elliott
Rose Elliott has given 15 years of dedication as a volunteer for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. She has been a predominant force in constructing the Flag Circle at the new Public Safety Facility, displaying the five flags of service which took nine years to complete. For the past five years she has also headed the Fireman of the Year awards. She visits ailing vets and wounded soldiers in the hospital and holds sock drives for deployed troops. Through her efforts, servicemen and women know we care.
Agricultural Leader of the Year
Michael Brem was an integral part of the site location team which brought SupHerb Farms to Turlock in 1992. Through Brem's leadership, SupHerb Farms has prospered, increasing employees from 38 in 1993 to 125 in 2014, and production to almost 20 million pounds annually. He works closely with area business and agricultural leaders to keep abreast of regional issues. Brem emphasizes a "Turlock first" business philosophy, and works consistently with local farmers.
Business Leader of the Year
Fred Brenda was a leader of his family business, Valley Tool & Manufacturing, from a very young age. Valley Tool began as a tool sharpening business for Bay Area machine shops and developed into a full-fledged fabrication shop with a wide variety of capabilities. In the 1980s Brenda began to diversify Valley Tool, and now the company sells its products in most states and has alliances with major equipment manufacturers.
Youth Citizens of the Year
Tim Truax's goal-oriented philosophy is readily displayed in both his academic and co-curricular activities. While maintaining a rigorous honors level class schedule at Pitman High School, and Associated Student Body and FFA leadership positions, he still manages to find time to volunteer at Sacred Heart and New Hope Community Church, 4-H Mentorships, and with Day on the Farm for autistic and Downs Syndrome children. He is also the sole proprietor of Truax Shearing, a small business dedicated to offering the best in sheep shearing across the region.
Mackenzie Shamgochian is passionate about serving the community. She has been an integral part of the Turlock High School Relay for Life team for the past three years, and is the co-chair of the upcoming American Cancer Society high school/college event. She assisted with the Salvation Army's Kettle Kick Off Luncheon and Kettle Dash Run fundraisers. She recently organized Operation Christmas Child, where 50 local children were provided clothing, toiletries, socks and a toy for the holidays. Shamgochian also helped raise $10,000, along with family and friends, for the Autism Speaks Walk in honor of her brother Steven. She does all this, while participating in competitive dance and cheerleading.
Enoch Christoffersen Award
The Enoch Christoffersen Award goes to someone who has definitely put Turlock on the map — Colin Kaepernick. From his first forays into sports with Turlock Youth Football, as an elite pitcher for the Pitman Pride baseball team that led to a Major League Baseball offer, his decision to play football for the University of Nevada, to being drafted by his dream team, the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick has been an outstanding athlete and role model.
Citizens of the Year
Betty and Mike Ireland
Betty and Mike Ireland recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and have spent their years together bettering their community as business leaders and philanthropists.
In 1975 Mike Ireland and Keith Winton opened an insurance agency in Turlock with seven employees. Today, the agency has over 140 employees and added offices throughout the Central Valley. Betty Ireland partnered with Marge Porter to open a bridal shop on West Main Street.
When not at the shop, Betty Ireland was busy spending countless hours as a docent trainer for McHenry Mansion and Museum, volunteering at Emanuel Hospital, or devoting time to her favorite project — the restoration of the Turlock Theater.