By Nikki Metzger
It was a night of fun, laughter, applause and commendation as Barstow gathered to honor its top volunteers, high school students, and military at the Annual Community Recognition Awards.
Jeri Justice, Executive Director of the Barstow Chamber of Commerce told the audience, “This awards ceremony, to me, is the ‘Academy Awards’ of Barstow because we have such great people in this city that are destined to do good things and do them every day for our City.”
The Cora Harper Fitness Center was transformed into an elegant ballroom complete with professional stage, lighting, and projection screens on each side. The meals were served by what appeared to be a professional wait staff but was actually the Barstow High School Football Boosters.
The Masters of Ceremonies, Lawrence Dale and John Matterson, began the program with the installation of the 2011 Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau Officers and Board of Directors.
The first to be honored were the Top Marine of the Year, SGT. Alex Pintos; National Training Center Solider of the Year, SFC Mark Genevich; and NTC Airman of the Year, TSGT. Craig Gaillardet.
Next up were top students of the year from the area high schools: Devin Low from Barstow High School, January Manns from Central High School, Kimberly Gnuschke from Silver Valley High School, and Justina Morales from Calico High School.
The second part of the program honored the top volunteers. Joyce Wilton won for Up & Coming Volunteer – a category to recognize a volunteer who may not be a director or in charge of a group or event.
Best Event of the Year was awarded to Holiday Meals, an event that provided 9600 total meals at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas with the help of 125 businesses and 200 volunteers. Mark Sielski gave a touching acceptance speech and told the story of an elderly couple who were so grateful to receive their meal at Christmas, and how that brought him to tears.
Idle Spurs was named Small Business of the Year, while Hampton Inn & Suites was honored as top business of the year. Organization of the Year was the Barstow Community Hospital Auxiliary, who has helped to donate 7000 pints of blood through their community blood drives over the last 5 years.
Throughout the evening there was such overwhelming gratitude from the winners to the community for all of their help and support. There was even a Community Wide Recognition Award that the Chamber gave to the audience. Everyone was given a blue ribbon that said “Who I Am Makes A Difference”.
JoJo Cousino explained, “The Barstow Chamber of Commerce would like to honor each and every one of you because it is you who make it happen. You are amazing, phenomenal leaders of our community. You inspire so many lives because of what you do and how you do it. You are the movers and shakers of the Barstow community. You give your time and your talent so selflessly. You make Barstow a better place to live and play.”
The awards ceremony concluded with awards handed out for Woman of the Year, presented to Julie Mann Clemmer and Man of the Year given to John Rader. Mr. Rader gave an entertaining acceptance speech explaining that he had nominated himself for the last 13 years and was thrilled to have finally won.
Woman of Continuous Service (which was formerly Woman of the Decade) was awarded to Hermi James, who grew up in Barstow and retired from the Barstow Police Department. She ended her acceptance speech to resounding applause when she said, “If you’re not giving, you’re not living!”
The final award handed out for Man of Continuous Service was given to Rich Harpole. Mr. Harpole was instrumental in bringing the Boys and Girls Club to the area 15 years ago and is still very actively involved today.
Dignitaries on hand to help congratulate the winners were San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, Justin Stoner from Assemblywoman Connie Conway’s office, and Michael Orme from Congressman Buck McKeon’s office, as well as Miss Barstow and Miss Teen Barstow.
The annual event was sold out. It was a great opportunity for community leaders of Barstow to shine the spotlight on the people who work tirelessly to make their community a better place.