Hundreds came out to support the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 50th Annual Awards Gala, Saturday, Feb. 20, at Pechanga Resort & Casino.
Each year, the Chamber honors exceptional businesses, service and charitable organizations and individuals who have been of outstanding service to the community and demonstrate strong values and leadership.
Jeff Kurtz, 2015 Chairman of the Board and general manager of the Promenade Mall passed the gavel of leadership to Jerry Konchar, 2016 Chairman of the Board and chief financial officer for Pechanga Resort & Casino.
Kurtz wrote in his outgoing message, “The collective efforts of so many individuals over the past 50 years have always helped point the way to a community characterized by business strength, charitable hearts and community pride.”
Highlighting this year’s event was the Lifetime Achievement Award given posthumously to Stan Harter. Touching tributes from 3rd District County Supervisor Chuck Washington, State Senator Jeff Stone, and Temecula City Councilwoman Maryann Edwards commemorated the life of a man devoted to family, respected for his business and legal acumen, valued as a friend, and dedicated to community service.
Harter practiced business and taxation law for 29 years, served on the City of Temecula Planning Commission, served as chairman of the board for the Chamber for many years, sat on the board of directors for the San Bernardino County Bar Association as well as the Economic Development Corporation of Southwest Riverside County. He was also involved in numerous other business and charitable organizations.
The 2015 Valley Young Professional of the Year is Emily Falappino, vice president of operations for Grapeline Wine Tours. “I am the product of so much internship here in the Valley — it’s a privilege to pay it forward!”
The 2015 Welty Award for Tourism Professional of the Year — named after R.J. Welty who built the first hotel in Temecula in the 1890s — went to Gillian Larson of Reality Rally for her creative local, national and international promotion of the area through her annual event that brings TV reality stars to the city. Larson, who is from South Africa, stated, “We live in a most amazing country and a most amazing Valley. This is the utopia of the country!”
The 2015 Ambassador of the Year is Liza Vega-Tallman of Novell & Novell Counseling Services is Vega-Tallman the 2015 and 2016 ambassador chair. “It is easy to be an ambassador for such a wonderful chamber!”
The 2015 Ruby Service Charitable Organization of the Year (nonprofits of $500,000 or less) is Rancho Damacitas Children & Family Services, a residential campus and nine comprehensive programs serving foster children.
The 2015 Emerald Service Charitable Organization of the Year (nonprofits greater than $500,000) is Jacob’s House, a hospital hospitality house that provides shelter for physical, emotional and spiritual support. Founded by Shawn and Stephanie Nelson, named after their son Jacob, the home has served 165 guests from 25 states and two countries in the past two years. “We can’t change the destiny, but we can impact the journey,” Nelson said.
The 2015 Bronze Business of the Year (1-5 employees) is Exit Alliance Realty, a 3-year-old franchise run by Shawn Sorensen whose philosophy is putting people above profits. Sorensen promotes ‘Random Acts of Kindness Alliance Give Back Day.’ “She has a heart for the community – we are a giving office,” she said.
The 2015 Sterling Business of the Year (Six to 25 employees) is the Southwest Riverside County Association of REALTORS® (SRCAR). SRCAR enhances the ability and opportunity of its 4000 plus members to conduct their business successfully, ethically and professionally. “We are humbled and honored to be recognized,” said CEO Connie Lynch, who has been with the association for 25 years.
The 2015 Gold Business of the Year (25-50 employees) is John Hine Temecula Mazda Subaru. “Our business has been in this Valley for 10 years,” said John Hine, “and the community has been very welcoming to us.”
“We live here, play here and work here. Our team did this,” said vice president and general manager Bill Brumbaugh, “This is for them!”
The 2015 Platinum Business of the Year (50 or more employees) is Southwest Healthcare System that includes Inland Valley Medical Center and Rancho Springs Medical Center. “This would not be possible without our 1500 employees, staff and Board members,” said Brad Neet, CEO. “They help fulfill our vision of “Building relationships that touch the heart.”
The 2015 Chairman’s Choice Award is Brian Connor, director of marketing for Southwest Healthcare System. Connors is also a TVCC board member, board member of The Circle of Safety SW Riverside County, and adviser to Southwest Auxiliary board of directors.
The 2015 Citizen of the Year is Julie Ngo of Julie Ngo State Farm Insurance Agency. Ngo serves on various Boards of Directors: Rancho Damacitas, Old Town Business Association, National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, and the Rotary Club of Temecula. “Thanks to my parents, my surrogate family (the Silvermans), my friends, my office staff and a community that embraced me 10 years ago,” Ngo said.
The evening meal featured filet mignon with roasted shallot demi-glace and jumbo prawns with caper chardonnay sauce; dessert was chocolate ganache and mousse tartlet and a raspberry cheesecake.
The silent auction had 55 packages, including VIP seating at a Dr. Phil show taping, signed sports memorabilia, wine and food, hotel stays, couture and spa treatments, hot air balloon rides, show/concert/museum tickets. There were even trips to Napa Valley wine country and the “Cheers” bar in Boston.
“Please accept my heartfelt congratulations to all of the nominee businesses, organizations and individuals being recognized tonight,” said incoming TVCC Chairman Konchar, “It’s quite an honor to have your peers recommend you as the best in your category. I would like to thank each of you for your partnership with the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce and we look forward to another year making sure our mission ‘Where Business Meets Opportunity’ is fulfilled!”
The evening ended with dancing to music by Timmy D Productions.