Aloha, Awards Celebration

Chamber honors Lebanon leaders with Islands flavor

By Sarah Brown

The annual Lebanon Chamber of Commerce’s Community Distinguished Service Awards Banquet filled the Boulder Falls Conference Center March 5 to honor those in the community who are recognized as making a positive impact in Lebanon.

The Chamber awarded Drew Briese as Junior First Citizen.

“He is huge in our community,” said Rose Dixonberry, last year’s winner. “He does everything without being asked, (and) Drew is a huge advocate for our youth.”

As owner of Briese Custom Concrete, he has donated his time and materials for multiple projects, including the Lebanon Skate Park and the Optimist gazebo at the library.

The award for Man of the Year was presented to Nick Brooks for being a mentor and servant leader to the city’s youth.

“He has a real passion for athletics,” said Tom Oliver, last year’s winner. “But his passion isn’t just for the sport itself; it’s about using the lessons players learn to help them develop into successful adults.”

Brooks has coached football, basketball and baseball; served on the Booster club and JBO baseball boards; and served on the Lebanon Schools Foundation and school board.

“Along the way, he’s helped shaped the future of many of our children,” Oliver said. “He opens his home, his heart and his wallet without hesitation.”

Betty Schmidt was honored as Woman of the Year, for being “a staple of the Lebanon community for many, many years.”

She was honored for her work with the school district’s backpack program, the Strawberry Festival and Oregon Jamboree, and support of local nonprofits. Schmidt has served on many boards, and is always present at Chamber functions.

“She leads the way for change, growth and innovation in our community,” said Kristin Hyde, last year’s winner.

Dr. Bob Wimmer was awarded Senior First Citizen.

Wimmer has a long history of serving Lebanon in the field of medicine. He began practicing at Lebanon Community Hospital in 1976, and served with Samaritan until his retirement in 2009.

“He was appreciated by all of the other providers, staff and patients he cared for,” said hospital CEO Marty Cahill, who presented the award.

Wimmer currently serves on the board of directors for Willamette Manor Assisted Living Facility and Lebanon Hospital Foundation, and is a member of the Lebanon Community Choir, the Allocation of Matching Fund sub-committee, and the Lebanon Strawberrians.

The chamber also presented an award for Large Business of the Year to the Lebanon Fire District, and for Small Business of the Year to Appletree Restaurant and Lounge.

Helen Nelson, president of the Chamber’s board of directors, noted that LFD is “a critical part of our community,” responding to thousands of calls of service in a year. Plus, she said, LFD also provides CPR training, teaches fire safety to school children, hosts an annual Community Day, and partners with COMP-Northwest in multiple capacities.

Nelson said the owners of Appletree are “quiet givers to the community.” They open their space for nonprofits and fundraisers, and they donate to support local favorites such as the Star Spangled Celebration, Shop with a Cop, Polar Plunge and Lebanon High School athletics.

The Lebanon Chamber Volunteer of the Year was presented to “encouragers” Gamael and Jenny Nassar, otherwise known around the community as “Mr. G ’n’ Jenny.”

Since arriving in Lebanon a year ago, they’ve actively sought out ways they can help others, said Shelly Garrett, executive director of the Chamber. They’ve involved themselves with veterans, children, SafeHaven, the Elks, the business community, and other nonprofits.

Garrett presented the Lebanon Chamber Business Leader of the Year to Gary Marks, Lebanon’s city manager, for improving “Lebanon’s livability and economic development with his pro-business attitude.”

As the driving force behind the Lebanon 2040 Vision and Strategic Plan, Marks’ hard work for the city includes wetlands mitigation, downtown restoration and revitalization, art and tourism, and more.

The Frankie Gray ‘Answering the Call’ award was given to Jennifer Pulliam.

“Described as a light when entering a room, with an infectious joy, she accepts everyone equally,” Garrett told the crowd.

Pulliam demonstrates her love for the community by giving time, skills and money, Garrett said. She volunteers for every need, including Lebanon High School music and arts, assisted living homes, Strawberry Festival, the Boys & Girls Club, Lebanon Chamber, local clubs, and Dala’s Blue Angels.

“I didn’t even know I did all that stuff,” Pulliam exclaimed through her tears.

Umpqua Bank presented a $500 check for this year’s Nonprofit of the Year to Enliven Foundation, which “takes an unusual approach to changing generational poverty” by helping single parents overcome obstacles.

Community awards were also presented at the banquet to honor club members, volunteers, board members and staff whose service is esteemed.

They are: Coach of the Year, Mark Trask and Kasey Urrutia; Lebanon Boys & Girls Club, Shane Vorderstrasse; Lebanon Chamber Ambassadors, Cindy Ongers; Lebanon Optimist Club, Doris Moddermand; Lebanon School District, Jan Miller and Glenda Claborn; Rotary Club of Lebanon, Dr. Ken Orwick; Lebanon Soup Kitchen, Amy Prisco; Samaritan LCH Auxiliary, Janet McFetridge; Strawberrians, Andrea Bruce; Strawberry Festival Board, Leesa Adams; Willamette Manor, Karan Klien.