By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY – Staff Writer
The Rotary Club of Crestline-Lake Gregory sponsored its 21st annual Mountain Communities Awards Banquet on Thursday, May 11 in the Whittier Room of Thousand Pines Camp.
During the evening, 10 community groups honored their special members who have made the community better through their volunteerism and dedication, plus two Mountain Heroes were selected from the many nominated by the community. Honorees were from across the mountain top as were the organizations honoring them.
The Mountain Heroes recognized this year included Dr. Kimberly Fricker, superintendent of the Rim of the World Unified School District who went above and beyond her assigned duties by opening school district facilities for emergency services, dispensed all the food at the schools to those in need and coordinated emergency shelters at Charles Hoffman Elementary and Rim High School.
Dr. Fricker directed that Grandview School be used as a helicopter landing site for food after Goodwin’s Market collapsed and helped to coordinate food deliveries by the Sheriff’s Department. She coordinated getting the roadways cleared enough for school busses and the schools ready to safely reopen after the storms and to maintain graduation dates, as previously scheduled. Her advocacy helped to open Highway 18 for residents to return to the mountain after being stuck down the mountain during the storms.
Goodwin’s Market was honored as a Mountain Hero for all they did to distribute food during the storms and the dedication of their employees who walked to the store to work when the roads were closed, keeping that vital food supply open during the snowstorms. They continued this dedication to help others in the community after the store’s roof collapsed, when they gave out the food in their warehouse and sea container to be sure the community had food.
Goodwin’s Vice President and General Manager Mike Johnstone sent his top department managers to receive the honor and they were humbled at the recognition. Bill Mellinger, the master of ceremonies for the evening, read a statement from Johnstone saying, “I want to thank all. This is a big impact to our community and I want to thank our staff who stepped up and made sure others were OK, even when they were personally affected. We look forward to reopening and serving our community again, as soon as possible.” That statement received a thunderous response from the attendees.
The Rotary Club of Crestline-Lake Gregory recognized Stanley and Linda Oswalt as their Rotarians of the Year for all they’ve done to support the club and the community, including the backpack giveaways, helping to create the peace garden at the Iacono Center at the Boys & Girls Club, being actively involved with the EarlyAct Club at VOE Elementary School and so much more. They had vacationed in the mountains since childhood and, now that they live here, have jumped in with both feet to be involved and make a difference in their new community.
Rebuilding Together Mountain Communities (RTMC) honored Diane Davis, who, despite having setbacks in her life, has been involved with RTMC since 2000. She manages the several hundred volunteers on Rebuilding Day, set this year for June 24; volunteers are still needed. She has been on the RTMC board of directors for over a decade. She is also involved in other community activities, including leading Bible study groups.
Firefighter-Paramedic Robert Stine was honored by San Bernardino County Fire for his part in working during the 2023 storms, even when off duty volunteering his time to assist others, taking on jobs and responsibilities way beyond his job descriptions by using his knowledge and skills to help others in their time of desperate need.
The Mountain Homeless Coalition recognized Wendell Wilson for his dedication to the organization and his direction of the purchase, in conjunction with the Housing Authority, of their first six homes to transition the homeless to housing in the Big Bear area. He hopes to create a car repair business where donated vehicles can be restored by volunteers, including homeless individuals, and given to the homeless.
Crestline Connect, a community networking group of individuals and nonprofit organizations, honored Sara Green for her many activities helping the mountain communities flourish, including starting up the Friday Market Nights and concert series at Lake Gregory and her work with the Crestline and Running Springs chambers of commerce. She serves on the board of the Rim Ed Foundation, is a volunteer at Heaps Peak Arboretum and is the Nam Jam Fest co-chair. Many other groups benefit from her expertise, dedication to duty and friendly but productive personality.
Soroptimist International of Rim of the World selected Sandy Puglisi as its honoree this year. As a 13-year Soroptimist member, Sandy has maintained their website, keeping clear communication between the members and community. She has designed their programs for events such as Making a Difference for Women and posters for their annual Breast Cancer Walk Day. She received the Soroptimists’ Silver Dollar award in 2022 and the President’s Award in 2012.
The Rim of the World Educational Foundation honored Priscilla Williams, their chairman for Partnership with Schools grant program. Pricilla volunteered during the blizzard, distributing food at the Tudor House, and she works with the Rotary in their reading program at the schools, volunteers for RTMC Rebuilding Day, interviews student applicants for scholarships at Rim High and attends school board meetings, representing Rim Ed Foundation.
The Crest Forest Senior Citizens Club recognized one of its dedicated volunteers, Jeronimo Breen, who acts as purchasing agent for the club, securing the needs that enable the club to run its many programs, including the thrift store, the senior nutritional luncheon program, the lunches and programs at the Leisure Shores clubhouse and office supplies and equipment. He also is “Mr. Fix-it” for the many little things that can be repaired with duct tape. Jeronimo also is the set-up guy and take-down guy for the many events at Leisure Shores. The club runs very smoothly with Jeronimo’s smiling face helping at every turn.
The Mountain Sunrise Rotary club recognized 22-year Rotary member and Past President Geoffrey Hopper for his many years of “Service Above Self,” including serving as master of ceremonies at the Rotary auction for 15 years, serving as chairman of the auction committee for 20 years and creating the Geoffrey and Lauralea Scholarship program for Rim High graduates. He overcame educational difficulties to become a successful lawyer, holding several prominent positions within the Riverside Bar Association and wants to inspire others to success.
The Women’s Club of Lake Arrowhead honored their member Geri Quintero for her unwavering dedication to volunteering over a third of the club’s volunteer hours at the Blue Jay Thrift Shop in support of the Women’s Club, dedicating 279 hours working there last year. The club gets a percentage of the profits of the shop, based on volunteer hours, which enables the Women’s Club to donate college scholarships and to other non-profit groups.
The dinner was a festive evening, with a delicious buffet dinner served by Thousand Pines, hosted by President Mary-Justine Lanyon and Past President Bill Mellinger. They presented certificates from the Rotary club to each honoree, as well as certificates from 3rd District Supervisor Dawn Rowe, who was unable to attend in person as she was attending a post-snowstorm disaster meeting in Wrightwood that evening.
The Rotary Club of Crestline-Lake Gregory meets weekly at noon on Thursdays at the San Moritz Lodge for lunch. For more information, visit their Facebook page or their website, crestlinerotary.com.