Photo by Laura Gjovaag
The 2016 honorees at the Granger Chamber of Commerce awards banquet. Left to right, back row, Gary Sanders, Rudy Guzman, Pam Fleming, Ron Fleming and Brandon Velazquez; front row, Sierra Heitzman, Victoria Alvarado, Curtis Willey, Amy Zuetenhorst and Ruth Ramirez.
GRANGER It was a night at the beach Saturday for honorees at Granger Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards banquet.
The meal was marked by performances from the school district’s newly revived music program.
The evening’s highlight featured nine awards presented to city residents, volunteers and workers.
Ron and Pam Fleming received the Community Volunteer of the Year award from Pastor Laurence Guisinger, who served as the banquet’s master of ceremonies.
The Flemings are long-time teachers in the school district for many years, and Mr. Fleming is known for his running accomplishments, including 26 marathons and two ultra-marathons. He ran the original course from Marathon to Athens in Greece, finishing in the Panathinaiko Stadium.
Mrs. Fleming is also active with the Granger chamber.
Sierra Heitzman received the chamber scholarship.
The senior class president and National Honor Society activities coordinator said she will use the $1,000 scholarship at Washington State University to pursue a degree in psychology and communications.
Ruth Ramirez was named Young Woman of the Year. She has been involved in DECA, drama, volleyball, National Honor Society, Enactus and her church youth group.
“She is an individual who can be relied on for help with any event,” high school counselor Greg Herrera said.
The Young Man of the Year award went to Brandon Velazquez, whose school involvement includes FFA, football, DECA, wrestling, track and migrant student activities.
Herrera told the audience Velazquez has overcome major health issues in high school, battling cancer.
“He has learned the importance of being proactive in the face of adversity,” Herrera said.
Second grade teacher Amy Zuetenhorst received the Certified Employee of the Year award.
“In her room, everyone is somebody and everyone is headed towards success,” presenter Superintendent Margarita Lopez said.
According to Lopez, Zuetenhorst also worked with the Educational Service District to improve staff development, bringing back skills and mentoring new teachers at Roosevelt Elementary School.
“I have hard-working kids,” Zuetenhorst said. “It’s an honor to represent Granger.”
Gary Sanders received the Classified Employee of the Year award. He has worked in the district in a variety of roles for more than 20 years.
“Gary and his staff work to ensure the district is a safe and secure place for all staff and students,” Lopez said.
She told the audience Sanders was promoted to maintenance director in 2014 and has done well at not only supervising, but also jumping in and getting his hands dirty when needed.
Sanders was humbled by the honor, and told the crowd he’d started out as a bus driver 21 years ago.
“I see some faces from back then out there,” he said.
Victoria Alvarado received City Employee of the Year honors from Mayor Charles Wheaton.
Alvarado, a part-time court clerk for the city, has put in extra time to make sure the city’s court runs smoothly.
“I’ve been blessed with a wonderful staff,” Wheaton said. “Sometimes, some people have a chance to be a bigger hero. She runs an entire department herself and does hard work day after day.”
Alvarado said she shared the honor with other city employees who have acted as her support system.
The Business of the Year award went to Rudy Guzman, whose Classic Trophies business has been in town since 1994. As he received his award, someone yelled out, “Did you make it yourself, Rudy?”
“I did,” he said.
Curtis Willey, past chamber president and former firefighter, received Chamber Member of the Year honors. Willey is known for events like the Christmas Lights tour.
“I love this community,” Willey said. “It is an honor to be recognized.”
A dozen students served the meal during Saturday’s banquet. Tips helped pay for the students’ trip to Washington D.C. this summer.
Elissa Simonson provided decorations. The high school and middle school band provided entertainment, directed by Sarah Lawson.