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Shafter chamber salutes outstanding citizens

The Shafter Chamber of Commerce held their annual Chamber Awards Banquet last Thursday night, recognizing some of Shafter's best and brightest.

Chamber's Debbie Haley welcomed the packed house and invited them to participate in the silent auction and enjoy a dinner served by Hodel's Country Dining. The Shafter Police Department Honor Guard presented the colors and Pastor Steve Seymour did the invocation. After the completion of the dinner portion of the evening, Mayor Chad Givens presented the State of the City Address, focusing on the bright future he sees ahead. (See separate story.)

Seven awards were presented, beginning with the Young Person of the Year. This honor went to Charlotte Franz. Franz is an outstanding student who shines not only in the classroom, but throughout the community as well. She is active in the Shafter Young Adults Theater, as well as the Shafter Learning Center, and several other organizations. Franz currently is holding a perfect 4.5 GPA at Shafter High School, while taking a full load of Advanced Placement classes. Franz is a good example of hard work and what can be accomplished with determination and a good support system. Franz thanked her family for all of their support and guidance.

The Citizens of the Year award went to Vincent and Julie Wilson. The couple have been helping run a food distribution program at Jesus Saves Church for for more than a dozen years. They began packing food on their own and driving around and giving it to those families in need. They received support from Pastors Steve and Lori Seymour, and they even built a building next to the church to house the food and hold the program. Vincent thanked their pastors, as well as everyone involved in helping out with the program. "We started this because I felt a calling to do it, we knew it was the right thing for us," said Wilson. Julie Wilson also thanked everyone involved and also commented that they were just as blessed by the program as the people that they bless, week in and week out. "We are so blessed, and we are so thankful for the chance to be a part of this wonderful project."

Cesar Lopez was honored with the Youth Development award. Lopez has been a long-time coach of girls softball, including a traveling team currently competing. Lopez said that he started coaching while his girls were playing, wanting to spend more time with them and be involved in their experience.

"I don't have any kids left in the program, but really, they are all my kids," said Lopez. "I am so proud to be a part of this and to be a positive part of their lives. I am most proud of seeing these girls grow up to be productive young ladies in the community."

Gilbert Alvarado received the Humanitarian Award for his commitment to the city. Alvarado has served on the Shafter City Council for two decades, as well as a member of several clubs and organizations in town, including the Shafter Lions Club. Alvarado was instrumental in the return of the Shafter Christmas Parade, which has become a Shafter staple once again. Alvarado said that he has had a great time serving the people of Shafter and is thankful for the opportunity. He also had some heartfelt words for the late Jon Johnston, who, Alvarado said, was a giving leader. "I thought of him as a mentor, and I owe him a lot," said Alvarado. "I really didn't get a chance to tell him thank you, so I want to say it now.".

Barbara Gladden received the Community Service Award. Gladden was instrumental in bringing the AYSO soccer leagues to Shafter, enabling the community to have a chance to play soccer without having to travel. Gladden also helped with the leagues, as well as with the Shafter High Soccer programs. She has been a champion for the Safe Surrender cause here, even organizing a baby shower at the Shafter Fire Station for a Safe Surrender Week celebration, collecting a large amount of baby supplies for the cause.

"I love Shafter, and I haven't been afraid to tell everyone I know it. I used to talk about Shafter so much when I was working in Bakersfield that a few of the people actually made a trip to Shafter to find out what all of the fuss is about," she said.

Gladden has served in several clubs and organizations, including the Shafter Woman's Club, the Shafter High Boosters Club and many others. Gladden also helped lead a Domestic Violence Awareness program at Shafter High School, having a booth at lunchtime giving out information and talking to the kids about the importance of being aware of the domestic violence issue. "I have loved working for these causes, and being involved in the greatest city you can live in," said Gladden.

Nick Riddick received the Community Champion Award. Riddick has been the animal control officer for the city for over 10 years. Riddick has led the department into partnerships with rescue organizations, as well as Petco, using their store as an adoption event site, giving the shelter's animals a better chance of finding that forever home. He has also been a champion for educating the community on the importance of treating their pets as members of the family. He has held informational workshops, as well as being active on their social media pages to help educate people and give them help in supporting their four-legged family members.

Riddick has led free pet food giveaways for those pet owners who may need some help, as well as bringing the SNIP Bus to Shafter, giving the community an affordable option for getting their pets spayed and neutered.

"I have loved serving the city of Shafter and look forward to continuing to educate and help the community love their pets as one of the family."

Riddick said that he wants to thank his hard-working staff as well as the community for making his job a great one.


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