The first annual Chamber of Commerce Community Service Awards kicked off on Saturday, July 27 at the Masonic Hall in Patterson.

The event, which honored outstanding citizens in the Patterson community, was hosted by former Patterson Police Chief and current Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse, and featured an all-star lineup of local and state dignitaries to present the awards.

Members of the community came dressed in casual-elegant attire and mingled about naturally while finding their seats before Dirkse led the group in singing the National Anthem followed by the Chamber of Commerce Oath of Office.

The first award recipient of the night was Man of the Year, Ken Herger. Herger is most known around the community for forming the Barnstormers in 2015, to preserve the agricultural identity of the community by collecting, preserving and displaying antique farm equipment.

Herger, like the other awards recipients, was presented an award from Chamber of Commerce President, Marybeth Bragdon on behalf of the Chamber; Mayor Pro-Tempore, Dominic Farinha, on behalf of the City of Patterson; County Supervisor, Jim DeMartini, on behalf of Stanislaus County; Councilman, Dennis McCord, on behalf of Assemblyman Adam Gray; District Representative, Melissa Santos, on behalf of Congressman Josh Harder and Field Representative, Jennifer Hidalgo, on behalf of Senator Anna M. Caballero.

After Herger shook hands with the dignitaries, he asked all of the Barnstormers in attendance to stand up. Once the Barnstormers were standing, Herger thanked them all for their hard work and they received enthusiastic applause from members of the community.

Herger reminisced of the Patterson he knew in his youth, back when there were still farm equipment manufacturers in town like Red Bennett, and the Washburns owned Patterson Frozen Foods.

“A lot of unique farm equipment was built right here,” said Herger. “I asked my brother Carl to help me and he agreed; we decided to start a group called Barnstormers because most of the old equipment was in a barn. I asked my friends to help because it was a bigger project than I thought it would be.”

Herger continued, “Barnstormers is a group of about twenty-five men and women from our area that think like I do and want to save our past. We as a group meet once a month to restore old equipment and do different things. The community has been a big part of our success. We are all volunteer, non-profit. Come visit our museum in Vernalis.”

Next up to receive awards was Woman of the Year, Naomi Jacobson. Jacobson, a Patterson resident of 30 years, has worn many different hats in the community. She is most notable for being the Chairman of the Patterson Christmas Parade. Under Jacobson’s leadership, the parade has grown into something truly special for the community.

An emotional Bragdon gave a heartwarming thanks to Noami and proceeded to kiss her on the cheek as the crowd gave a simultaneous, “awe.”

Farinha jokingly suggested cloning Jacobsen, saying that having more of her would be, “wow,” for the community.

“I want to thank the Patterson-Westley Chamber of Commerce...It’s been brilliant; They’ve done wonderful things,” said Jacobson. “The parade is something that brings this community together. It is a fun-filled family event. It is a free event for the community and we always want volunteers and people to join us. Each year it gets bigger, and bigger.”

“I have definitely commandeered this challenge (the Christmas parade) for many years,” said Jacobson, a statement that incited a thunderous applause from the crowd, thus making the rest of her sentence inaudible. “It is a one-hundred percent free event for the community.” Adding that someone had suggested the Chamber monetize the event by charging for booths, Jacobsen said, “no, we don’t want to commercialize it; we want to give back to the community. It is a family function.” She also announced that the parade will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the city’s incorporation. “We will be doing something along that theme, and we hope everybody participates. If you want to volunteer, get ahold of me.”

Volunteer of the Year recipient, Juanzette Hunter was introduced by Dirkse and received a lot of praise from the dignitaries.

“Somebody said, ‘oh you’ll meet Juanezette, she does everything,’ and that is an accurate statement. I think giving Volunteer of the Year to Juanzette is extremely appropriate,” said Dirkse.

A smiling Hunter could not hide her grin as dignitary after dignitary stopped to share heartfelt words with her.

“She very much deserves this honor,” said Bragdon, after tearfully hugging Hunter.

“It’s an honor to present you with this award, Volunteer of the Year...to harness really what you have done over the decades, we would be here for hours, honestly, it is such a pleasure to present you with this award,” said Farinha.

Hunter has been actively involved with the Patterson Soroptimists and Apricot Fiesta board for over 13 years. She is often credited for her love of mentoring the youth in the community, and has helped to see many big ideas become a reality.

“I just can’t think of a more deserving person to receive Volunteer of the Year,” said DeMartini.

The last award, for Business of the Year, went to Sandra and Juan Perez, of Business of the Year winner, JP & Sons. The Patterson natives have played a substantial role in the communitys’ youth sporting programs. The rumor of the evening was that Juan and Sandra drove all night from Texas to deliver sporting equipment to over 100 kids in the community before finally arriving to the awards ceremony just in time to partake.

“Juan and Sandra have helped a lot of families in the community. They have turned the (Ravens Organization) into one big family. They do this out of the greatness in their hearts, with no expectations in return,” said one member of the community.

The event was catered by Francesca’s Restaurant & Lounge, and the food was spectacular. Colorful displays of fire roasted mushrooms, bell peppers, squash, tomatoes, carrots, onions and arugula immediately demanded attention as they rested atop a rustic wooden serving platform; tri-tip and salmon with a lemon pepper sauce were the entrees served alongside a bowtie basil pesto salad with sundried tomatoes and vegetarian penne pasta marinara.

Each table was equipped with a bottle of Copper Ridge cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay that paired lovely with either entree. The dinner was capped off by carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

The first annual Chamber of Commerce Community Service Awards was paced wonderfully, and served as a great reminder of the importance that outstanding citizens can have on a small community like Patterson.

“It was an honor for my office to support the Patterson-Westley Chamber’s First Annual Volunteer Service Awards Ceremony. It is important for our community to come together to celebrate local service, and I am inspired by the contributions of this year’s award recipients,” said Congressman Josh Harder.

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