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KINGSBURG – The Kingsburg District Chamber of Commerce’s annual award dinner Feb. 15 was a night filled with surprises and hushed anticipation.

As the award recipients were described by Master of Ceremonies Judy Case McNairy, the audience listened intently to see if they could guess who would be named. Repeatedly, the honorees said they were humbled and surprised by the recognition. And that, said Chamber Executive Director Kaitlyn Groft, was what the awards ceremony was all about.

“I really appreciate, like for instance when Rob Gong won, he had no idea. You could tell in his voice and in his face how honored he was. That’s what it’s all about that they feel that honor.”

This year’s event, hosted at the Kingsburg Historical Park, included the two new categories of Agriculture Business of the Year and Agriculturist of the Year. Here is the list the 2018 Kingsburg District Chamber of Commerce’s Awards honorees:

Citizen of the Year

Rob Gong was named as the Citizen of the Year and was described as a generous person who gives of his resources to assist various Kingsburg organizations. Gong is known for his volunteerism at Chamber events, loaning of equipment to local schools and his donations to local churches to assist with missionaries. Gong is active in revitalizing the Downtown and has several projects in the works currently. He was raised in Kingsburg, continues to run a family-owned business and is raising a family here.

“[Gong] meets all the requirements to be Citizen of the Year with his church involvement, generosity with time and resources to the community and work with the Chamber on all events, either when asked or just because he volunteered,” McNairy said. “[He’s] very charitable to clubs, organizations and schools and supports the youth groups in Kingsburg whenever possible or requested. This just touches the surface of everything this man has done for our community.”

Business of the Year

Berman’s Flowers was named as the Business of the Year. The owners are Craig and Leslie Carpenter. The flower shop is known for being an outstanding supporter of Kingsburg’s organizations. “Whether it is sponsoring a community event or a kid’s sports team or just donating time and resources, this business has the community at heart,” McNairy said.

Berman’s has been a landmark in the community for more than 60 years and is the No. 1 place to go for help in celebrating life’s most special occasions. Berman’s is a cornerstone in supporting the community in the worst of times as well as they’re known for carrying the burden of everyone’s mourning and sorrow while keeping an ever-growing prayer list for our community close at heart. The Carpenters contribute their time, money and resources to numerous community organizations. Their shop is often the headquarters for meetings, fundraising dinners and even a cold storage for the annual Swedish Festival pancake breakfast.

Agriculture Business of the Year

Oscar Ramos of OFR Inc. was named as the first recipient of the new Agriculture Business of the Year award.

“This business has deep roots invested in Kingsburg as its owner was born and raised in Kingsburg and had big dreams for this community right from the start. The dream started out small, with help from his father, and quickly grew to the regionally renowned corporation it is today,” McNairy said.

OFR Inc. has received many new farm labor contracts in 2017, causing a need to hire many more employees and to relocate to Kingsburg for more office space. Ramos sits on the California Farm Labor Contractor Association Board and serves as the 2018 president of Bravo Ag.

Agriculturist of the Year

George Jackson was named as the first recipient of the new Agriculturist of the Year award. Jackson was born and raised in Kingsburg and grew up working on the family farm. He was active in FFA where he met his wife. After serving our country, Jackson returned home to raise turkeys and grow wheat. Twenty-two years later, he switched to stone fruit, pears and apples and founded his own packinghouse which is still a family-operated business. His company includes two sons, son-in-law and his 12 grandchildren.

High School Educator of the Year

The High School Educator of the Year award recipient is Santinder Klair. She’s credited with being kind hearted and having a significant effect on her students through the years.

“This teacher works diligently with students in the classroom and goes out of her way to make sure they receive help. She helps with the after-school tutorial and took on the MED club with little notice,” McNairy said. ‘[Klair] has worked on Kingsburg High’s next generation of science standards for biology, instructs students after school and is an all-around great teacher with a fantastic spirit about her.”

Elementary Educator of the Year

This year’s Elementary Educator of the Year is Beverly Rosas who is touted as going above and beyond the call of duty “to streamline the most effective and efficient ways to teach students struggling with disabilities, fitting a powerful curriculum into her half-hour sessions,” McNairy said. Rosas not only works with students with diagnosed disabilities, but also works to assist students who need a little help to catch back up to their peers so they won’t require official special education services. Rosas is known for finding a way to fit struggling students in to her program. “She works tirelessly at engaging the students in multiple modalities to find the best way for each individual to learn.”

Public Safety Officer of the Year

Captain Kevin Clark was named as one of the Public Safety Officers of the Year. Clark has been with the Kingsburg Fire Department since 2003 as a full-time firefighter/paramedic. He was born and raised in Fresno and has a wife and three daughters. Clark received a life-saving award from the KFD and currently manages medical equipment and supplies, serves as the EMS paramedic liaison officer and customer service. He was promoted to captain in 2016 and is currently the Fire Department’s Union president.

Public Safety Office of the Year

Captain Wayne Osborne was also named as a Public Safety Officer of the Year. He’s been employed with the Kingsburg Fire Department as a volunteer since 1993 and has worked full-time since 1999. Osborne was born and raised in Kingsburg and has a wife and two children. He received the Award for Gallantry from the Kingsburg Police Department in 1999 and was the KFD Union president from 2004-2017. He now serves as their vice-president. Osborne was promoted to captain in 2012 as well as serving as a peace officer/ fire investigator. He currently works as a fleet manager, with the Explorer Program, in prevention and their public safety committee.

Gold Seal Award

David Meyer was honored with the 2018 Gold Seal award and was described as an advocate and ambassador for Kingsburg. He has served on several communities and boards, including the Chamber and the Historical Society boards. Meyer partnered with the Hillblom Foundation to raise $10,000 for the local library branch and published a book featuring the traditions, events, architecture and people of Kingsburg. He donated 100 percent of the proceeds back to the library. His passion for local history drove him to help save the historical jail. He formed a citizens group to raise funds and provide guidance to turn Kingsburg’s small jail into the museum it is today. He has diligently been opening and closing the jail every day for the past nine years. Meyer took on the task of bringing the Communities of Courage and Compassion Exhibit to Kingsburg and worked on the exhibit for the past few years to help local families understand this chapter in Kingsburg’s history.

Junior Citizen of the Year

Jacob Wilson was named as the Junior Citizen of the Year. He’s known for his kindness, open heart and willingness to help others. When he was a fifth-grader, Wilson organized a can recycling drive and raised $300 for sports equipment for his school. He has since continued to donate to deserving organizations. When a classmate was injured, he rallied his water polo team to host a bake sale and help with the medical bills. He was named as an honorary chairman after raising $2,500 for Curesearch, has donated to the Kingsburg Cancer Volunteers for the past three years and is often found volunteering at local blood drives. Wilson works as a computer tech teacher’s assistant, is a member of the varsity swim and water polo teams and is listed on the KHS honor roll.

Junior Gold Seal

Jackson Kuramoto is this year’s Junior Gold Star recipient. Kuramoto was described as an amazing student leader with a strong work ethic who “works to make things better on campus. He is a role model for his classmates and raises the bar in AP classes.” Kuramoto is a valedictorian who is enrolled in four honors classes and eight Advanced Placement classes. He is the president of the Green Club and Pre-Law Club and serves as the ASB treasurer. He’s worked as a farm laborer and at the local gun club. He’s served an internship with U.S. Congressman David Valadao and as an aide at the Japanese Cultural School. He was also a student representative on the Western Association of Schools and Colleges team and City Council.

Recycler of the Year

Nelson’s ACE Hardware was named as one of two Recyclers of the Year. ACE Manager Randy Grumbles and Assistant Manager Dylann Trimble accepted the award for the store. The hardware store diverts 62 percent of its total generation from the landfill for recycling. They recycled approximately 135,616 pounds this past year and always have clean recyclables with no contaminations. Their bins are full of clean, flattened cardboard boxes. “Management is always ready and willing to educate their employees on the newest recycling education and are always friendly and willing to work with Mid Valley Disposal to ensure they have good, clean recyclables,” McNairy said.

Recycler of the Year

KCAPS was named as the second Recycler of the Year. Dean Johnston was on hand to receive the award. The agency recycled approximately 114,884 pounds in 2017. Since they operate a thrift store and food bank, they are constantly diverting materials to be reused rather than going to a landfill. They also reuse food that would be thrown away to be used for those who need it. Employees are trained regarding correct recycling diversion techniques and have multiple sorting sections that get hauled away or that they haul it away themselves. Their bin is always filled with 100 percent clean recyclables. “This store tries to salvage and save as much as possible which lengthens the life of materials and creates a higher diversion from the landfill,” McNairy said.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or

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