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KINGSBURG – It was a night of surprise and gratitude during the 97th Annual Kingsburg District Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony on Jan. 17.

Mike and Patty Smith were named as the Citizens of the Year and were shocked to tears as the description of their volunteerism slowly revealed they’d been chosen for the honor.

The couple was praised for their willingness to help by preparing food for numerous local charitable causes.

Mike Smith has been a Lions Club member for more than 25 years and has taken care of the shopping, set up, food prep and clean-up for their cooking activities. He was also the past-president of the Kingsburg Gun Club and was always cooking for their events. He also lent a hand in cooking for the Kings River Golf and Country Club events.

Patty Smith is a member of the Kingsburg Cancer Volunteers and has donated her time to various events as well. This past year, they helped at fundraiser bringing awareness to cystic fibrosis and 100 percent of the proceeds went to the nonprofit.

In recounting some of the organizations they’ve been involved with, Mike Smith said they’ve done it all out of love for Kingsburg.

“We moved to Kingsburg in 1976 and got married in 1979 and tried to help Kingsburg as much as we can,” he said. “We’ve been through softball, swimming and every other function in this town. We love Kingsburg and we want to thank you guys very much for doing this.”

To kick off the ceremony, Mayor Michelle Roman highlighted the surge in new businesses in town and the incentive programs the City Council has enacted stating they’re “gearing up for an even better 2019.”

She recapped the numerous new and remodeled businesses along Draper and predicted that at next year’s awards dinner, even more would be on the list.

“There’s many more to come in 2019 so we’re very excited. The Council wishes you a prosperous New Year and great things are sure to come.”

Outgoing Chamber Board member Stan Ruiz was honored by Chamber Director Kaitlyn Castaneda and President Jason Poynor for his years of service with the Chamber.

“I can’t tell you enough about this gentleman,” Poynor said. “He’s a brother-in-arms basically for life. He served in the Marine Corps and once a Marine, always a Marine. He’s held the motto even after the uniform came off. You saw it in the board room and on all the committees he’s served on. He’s a very honorable man.”

Other award recipients honored that night were:

Junior Citizen of the Year: Sydney Luttrell was described as hard-working, dedicated and multi-talented. She’s the Senior Class president at Kingsburg High and in the top three percent of her class with a 4.16 grade point average. She founded the Random Acts of Kindness Club and currently serves as the president. She’s been a California Scholarship Federation member for four years and was the cross country and track team captain.

Luttrell was the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership representative, a Rotary Top 40 honoree and earned the Daughters of the Revolution good citizenship award. She serves as an AVID tutor, a special services tutor and works with students with disabilities at school. She is also an AWANA and children’s church leader at Evangelical Covenant Church. She’s volunteered for the Joni and Friends Camp for families with disabilities and served as an escort at the Evening to Treasure. Her goal is to become a special education teacher.

Recycler of the Year: Mid Valley Disposal chose Safe Food Alliance as a business that’s making a difference in the environment by reducing waste, recycling and conserving resources. Their company-wide recycling programs, educational efforts and diversion were among factors that made them this year’s honorees.

“On average, Safe Food Alliance diverts 12,184 pounds of recyclables and 20,556 pounds of organic waste from landfills a month. The willing team at SFA is continuously striving to make this company a clean and eco-friendly environment,” their nominee wrote.

Business of the Year: Gold Standard Mortgage was recognized for their contributions to local youth sports. Brothers-in-law Ryan Dias and Nick Merlo opened the firm in 2015 and have also sponsored billboards along Highway 99 highlighting Kingsburg High sports teams.

Agriculture Business of the Year: Kingsburg Insurance’s staff members are involved in some form of community service. The company started in 1948 and is owned by Scott and Randy Carlson. They specialize in providing agriculture and farm coverage for growers, farmers, ranchers, harvesters, packing plants, distributors, shippers, haulers and farm-labor contractors.

Elementary Educator of the Year: Special education teacher Elizabeth Peterson was chosen for being patient and creative in teaching valuable life skills and helping her students find strategies to overcome their unique challenges.

“She is a team player and is always willing to help out students, parents and other staff members with whatever they need,” their nominee said. On a recent Saturday, she provided a covered facility so teachers and students could build a float parade out of the rain. “She demonstrates this caring attitude in all that she does.”

Public Safety Officer of the Year: Retired Fire Chief Tim Ray was honored for his longevity with the Kingsburg Fire Department having started as a non-paid volunteer in 1986. He was hired as the City’s first full-time firefighter/paramedic in 1989 and rose to fire chief in 2011. He secured grants to hire full-time staff, purchase new equipment and vehicles for fire and ambulance service. Ray is a member of the state and international Fire Chief’s Associations is the current president of the Central Valley Fire Chief’s Association.

Chief Ray’s accomplishments include California State Fire Marshall’s Office certification as a fire officer and chief fire officer; graduation from the National Fire Academy as an executive fire officer; Sequoia Safety Council paramedic for 25 years; Per Diem Paramedic of the Year award on several occasions; Employee of the Year, 2014; Tulare County Firefighter of the Year, 1987; and Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce’s Safety Employee of the Year.

Chamber Director Castaneda said she was glad that the Smiths, who typically work outside of the limelight, would be publicly thanked for their giving spirit.

“Today we’re recognizing [the Smiths] who are completely behind the scenes and never get recognition and to me, having them recognized is so important. Earlier today, Mike was here and was supposed to be a guest but instead he was working. He got here and didn’t even know the people, and just went to help them.”

Of the other awards, Castaneda agreed that recognizing all the different businesses and community members’ contributions was worthwhile.

“Especially the junior citizen [Sydney Luttrell]. They need the recognition now so they know their work is being noticed and it instills that work ethic into them at that young age so they can keep doing it.”

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