"The bounty of Sunnyside" was the theme of this past Saturday night's Spirit of Sunnyside awards banquet and the event, hosted by the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, set about doing just that...celebrating the "bounty" of everyday people who serve the community.
The Youth Award was presented to the Sunnyside Police Explorers organization that includes 25 volunteers who provided 2,100 hours of community service in 2011. Emcee Jim Restucci noted the group, started here in 1981 by then-Sergeant Ed Radder, participated in 53 community events and provided more than 400 hours of bike patrol in 2011.
The Volunteer Award was given to Rachel Carrera for her work with Life Options, an orphanage in Mexico, Nuestra Casa and the time she donates on behalf of the Sunnyside School District. Like all of Saturday night's recipients, Carrera was humbled and surprised by the honor. In accepting the award she told the packed crowd that we are on this earth not to be served, but to serve others.
The Educator of the Year Award was presented to Tom Dolan, who with his metal shop students have made a difference in Sunnyside with donated projects such as the plant hangers in downtown and the homecoming float. "It's just a job," he smiled upon receiving the honor. "If you don't have fun at work, why go?"
The Health Care Person of the Year Award recipient was Mary Arthur of Sunnyside's Eagle Rehabilitation. Arthur was bestowed the honor because of her vision and perseverance to improvements at the facility, including the expansion currently underway. "This is your award," Arthur said to the audience. "It goes to you because of your support."
Crystal Cervantes and Dulcenea Salon garnered the Beautification Award for 2011. Restucci said the honor was bestowed for their decision to remodel their shop space and open their doors in downtown Sunnyside in August 2011, just months after a devastating fire that destroyed two businesses. "They transformed their business into something quite special," Restucci said.
The Business of the Year Award was presented to Mark and Sara Cook of Morris Floral and Gifts. Restucci noted the downtown Sunnyside shop is the longest running retail business in the same location in Sunnyside.
The Cooks were presented the honor not only for the shop's longstanding operation, but for the couple's commitment in the wake of the downtown fire last May that destroyed two restaurant buildings. "We are still recovering from that event; however, it's businesses like this one that will help us in the recovery," Restucci said in applauding the Cook family.
The Business Person of the Year Award was presented to DeAnn Hochhalter of Advanced Collision. Hochhalter was selected for the award, in part, because her business was chosen to restore the first-ever Studebaker Avanti.
Hochhalter was also praised for her volunteer service to Sunnyside, including her work on the Sunnyside Planning Commission, with the Miss Sunnyside candidates and downtown revitalization.
Suzi Carpino was presented the Hero Award for her work with troubled youth through Sunnyside's Promise. Restucci said Carpino's work "...takes a special type of person, you can't judge individuals, you have to understand where it is they are coming from and you have to have a tremendous heart and, in some cases metaphorically, a firm hand."
The Spirit of Sunnyside's Pioneer Award was awarded to John and Sally Saras. Both longtime teachers in the Sunnyside School District, the couple was honored for the work they've done in preserving Sunnyside's history since retiring from the school district in 1987.
Restucci praised the Sarases for their work on the board of the Sunnyside Museum Historical Preservation Association, noting "...their tireless efforts on the Museum Board ensure that future generations will be able to continue to learn about our city's unique heritage and that Sunnyside's history will never be forgotten."
The evening concluded with three additional Spirit of Sunnyside awards; to Radder who is retiring as police chief at the end of this month; to Restucci as the Public Official of the Year and Pam Craig for the Community Service Award.
Restucci was honored for his work on the city council and for the terms he served as mayor. Craig, who now lives in Wenatchee, was honored by Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pam Turner for her years of service to the chamber.
Radder, who is retiring after 34 years on the Sunnyside police force, was praised by chamber President Gerald Roy. He said of Radder, "We would be remiss in not recognizing tonight, a good friend of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, someone who embodies the principles of respect."