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Chamber to honor contributions to community

The Shafter Chamber of Commerce will hold their annual Community Awards on Thursday night, March 14, at the Ford Theater. The event honors individuals, groups and businesses that have enriched the community and helped make Shafter a great place to live.

The honorees will join others, such as Fred Starrh, Jack "Woody" Colvard and Jon Johnston as recipients of the awards recognizing outstanding contributions to the community.

Recipients this year are: Hitchcock Auto Parts, who was named the Business of the Year; Health Professional of the Year honoree Maria Martinez; Fabian Jimenez, who won the Youth Development Award; and Shawn Pennel, who will receive the Education Award.

They also will be giving Natalie Leyva the Youth of the Year award; the Citizen of the Year award to Bob Wiebe; and the Humanitarian of the Year award to the Shafter High School's Pride Pantry.

Receiving awards for Hitchcock's will be Jesse Escobedo and Dustin Hooper. Hooper is taking over the business in a process that keeps Escobedo on board for the transition.. Hitchcocks also celebrated their 100th year in business this last year, making them one of the oldest businesses in town, still serving the community. Escobedo said that the secret to their longevity is customer service. "They can get a part anywhere, but if you give them great service, they will come back."

Jimenez is being recognized for his work with the Salvation Training Ground, a championship basketball team that is coached by Jimenez and a volunteer staff.

STG was coached by Fabian Jimenez, as well as Mike Watts, and have played together for the past three years, with a couple of the team members coached by Jimenez since they were 4 and 5 years old.

The season begins in late March, with the season culminating in the middle of July. The team won all of the tournaments they entered this season, including a Regional Qualifying tournament held in Hanford, that qualified them for the state tournament.

Jimenez said that their success is due in large part to the chemistry that they have on the team for them being together for so long, as well as the amazing support they have received from the coaches, volunteers and their sponsors.

STG is a 501 nonprofit organization that allows the girls to compete on a big stage, even being from a small city, going up against teams from much larger areas, including their opponents in the championship game, the San Diego Pirhana. With the title game being played in San Diego, the Pirhana had a big home court advantage, but the girls of STG didn't let the pressure or the hometown crowd deter them from getting the championship. They beat the Pirhana in the final game, 16-9, after getting wins of over 10 points in their previous two contests.

The awards night will begin with the doors opening at 5 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m. and the awards to follow.


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