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Annual Gala & Member Choice Awards 

MarchCvrStryOn the evening of January 25, 2014, the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto was filled with food, drinks and fun as the luminaries of Modesto’s business community came together for the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Gala and Member Choice Awards.

This year marked the 100th year of the popular Chamber event. For a century, the Chamber’s Annual Gala has remained one of the community’s most prestigious events. The annual event always includes a black tie optional mixer with samples from some of the area’s best food, soft drink and spirit vendors. This year’s event featured a delectable spread of fine cheeses offered by O’Brien’s Market, prepared dishes from restaurants including Maxis, Tahoe Joes and many more, as well as a selection of mixed drinks courtesy of Cold House Vodka.

Once the approximately 800 attendees took their seats, the show opened with a rousing medley from The Steel Drum Band, a Valley’s Got Talent audience favorite that specializes in infusing popular songs with a Caribbean flavor with the help of their traditional steel drums.

Emcee Dave Halvorson then kicked off the event by recognizing the many members that marked milestones of Chamber membership this year. This year’s 25-year business members included three branches of Bank of the West, BBVA Compass, Computer Tutor Business and Technical Institute, Doctors Medical Center Foundation, L Street Architects Limited, Modesto Junior College Technical Education and The Cruise Company. Five Minute Car Wash and Gagos Properties marked 50 years of Chamber membership, while Rogers Jewelry Company reached 75 years.

Seven members of the Chamber Board of Directors were recognized for their service, as well, including Amy Wolfe; Chris Ricci; Jim Ridenour; Michael Moradian, Jr.; Ron Owen; Kathy Halsey and Pamela Cullers. The Gala also marked Ralph Curtis’ final day as Chairman of the Board. Curtis, who has led the Modesto Chamber’s Board of Directors for the last four years, ceremoniously passed his gavel to new Board Chairman David Gianelli on stage before receiving a special plaque celebrating his unprecedented four years of service and leadership.

Member’s Choice Awards

At this year’s event, the Chamber was also proud to celebrate the many great companies, corporations and entrepreneurs that have created an unrivaled business community here in Modesto with the 2014 Member Choice Awards. Nominations for the nine categories of the Members Choice Awards are accepted from the Chamber’s entire membership and the year’s recipients aren’t notified until their names are called at the Gala.

This year, Village Baking Company took the award for Small Business of the Year, one of the night’s most prestigious awards. Owner Joanne Ramos accepted the award on behalf of her business. Over 65% of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce is made up of small businesses, and Halvorson noted that the Chamber considers small businesses to be the cornerstone of the community.

The Stinson Family received this year’s Distinguished Service Award, while the Latino Community Roundtable took home Nonprofit of the Year with a spirited speech from President Maggie Mejia, who asked the assembled attendees to commit to giving back to local nonprofits and reminded members that the LCR is run entirely by the generosity of local volunteers. Mejia also took the opportunity to ask attendees for donations on behalf of the LCR. “I’m not ashamed to ask, we need your money!” smiled Mejia. “I tell you, when you’ve got the opportunity to solicit some funds, you’ve got to do it,” joked Halvorson.

Welcome Team Ambassador of the Year was awarded to Susie Fagundes, owner of Intrinsic Elements, and Edward Jones Financial Advisor Brad Blakely won the Vera Girolami Ambassador of the Year. This year’s Gala also marked the inaugural presentation of the Leadership Modesto Graduate of the Year Award, which was shared by LeMo 2013 graduates Meredith Brandsma and Mike Garcia. Stanislaus County Assistant CEO Keith Boggs and Current Steering Committee chairperson Chris Helton of NAI Benchmark presented the award and noted that in the last three decades, LeMo has resulted in over 100,000 volunteer hours being donated to the community.

Chamber Member of the Year

California Prudential Realty - Accepted by Craig Lewis<br> Presented by Stephanie Montanez & Brad Hawn.

Chamber Member of the Year

This year’s Awards also included the presentation of the Chamber Member of the Year Award to past-emcee and Modesto Chamber of Commerce Land Use and Transportation Committee Chairman Craig Lewis.

Lewis, who has led the committee in a huge effort to establish a General Plan that paves the way to a better future for the community, said that he first came to Modesto on his honeymoon 37 years ago. He noted that Stanislaus County continues to have some of the greatest people in the country, and this factor—which kept he and his wife in Modesto nearly four decades ago—continues to keep them both involved in the community.

Lewis also commended Dave Gianelli on his vision of creating meaningful local jobs by focusing on establishing shovel-ready projects in Stanislaus County during his next two years as Board Chair.

The Annual Gala was capped by an award presentation that was also one of the most memorable events of the evening. Lynn Dickerson was awarded the Robert J. Cardoza Citizen of the Year Award. After she accepted the award with a beautiful speech that touched on how much Modesto has meant to her family, a chair was brought out on stage for Dickerson and she—and the audience—were treated to a rendition of Sinatra’s classic “My Way” by David Halvorson.

The show closed with a message from Andrew Mendoza, a spokesperson from Kaiser Permanente, the Title Sponsor for this year’s Gala. Mendoza commended the Chamber for 100 years of creating and reaching goals and benchmarks for the community. Mendoza then asked attendees to “join us in celebrating and honoring the Chamber for those 100 years that they’ve honored others. We want to praise the Modesto Chamber of Commerce for truly knowing how to thrive.”

On behalf of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, thank you, our membership, for helping us thrive together for over 100 years.

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