By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
The Running Springs Area Chamber of Commerce held their annual installation of officers and awards ceremony dinner at Pali Mountain just west of town at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4. During the evening, they installed their new chamber board of directors, along with recognizing individual members and businesses that have greatly contributed to the Running Springs area and community in 2023.
During the evening, they honored a Business of the Year, an Organization of the Year and their Citizens of the Year. The weather in Running Springs, which bills itself as “the gateway to the San Bernardino Mountains,” was excellent all day and the evening, too, for this well-attended event.
As attendees arrived, they were greeted by a wide variety of silent auction items that had been donated to the chamber for this event. The auction took place over the evening with the winners posted at the end of the evening. The wonderful musical entertainment prior to dinner was played by the duo Pat Huckaby and Brad Rensick. The dinner was the usual excellent fare served by Pali Mountain chefs.
After dinner, the installation ceremony saw Kevin Somes installed as president for the 18th year and Michael Lee as vice president again, showing great confidence in these experienced volunteers. Stephanie Burrows was installed as secretary and Vickey England as treasurer. The members of the board of directors are Cathy Clemens, Casey DuVall, Dean Langley, Steve Peter, Niko Rynard and Jordan Zarate.
Sidney Sonck, representing Senator Ocha Bogh, and Lewis Murray, representing Supervisor Dawn Rowe, presented each with a beautiful certificate from each elected representative.
The Business of the Year was announced by chamber President Kevin Somes as SkyPark at Santa’s Village for their years of capital investment into the community and the fact that they’ve hired thousands of local residents. They volunteer to help the chamber and are one of its largest member companies. They are constantly trying to improve and be a part of the community. They support the community through local days, fundraising events held there and other programs.
SkyPark’s Bill Johnson said, “We are now sustainable and are getting to the point where we can reach out to help the community in ways we can. Our ‘Making Spirits Bright’ program is just one outreach we have.”
The Organization of the Year is both the Arrowbear Lake Fire Department and the Running Springs Fire Department because of their dedication to the community during last winter’s snow storms. They set up Charles Hoffman Elementary as an evacuation center and cooked meals. Paul Lindley of the Arrowbear Lake Fire Department accepted the certificates and plaques for them, saying, “When common people come together, they become better people. Through the storm we became a solid community together.” Dedication was seen during the storm as both departments dug out others, delivered medications to homebound residents and set up emergency centers.
The Running Springs Fire Dept made Calvary Chapel into an emergency evacuation center when the Red Cross was unable to. They support and sponsor local sports teams and the chamber of commerce. Rick Elsberry said, “I see so many here who helped us to do our job and we are here to help others. We love our jobs and Running Springs.”
The Citizen of the Year honor was presented to two worthy recipients: Jaime Stiansen and Emily Balcome. Balcome was recognized for her years on the chamber board and her community help over the years. This award also recognizes the extreme measures she went to last winter when a group of students became stranded at camp during the unrelenting snowstorms and all she did to get them safely off the mountain.
Jaime Stiansen has been involved in the community for years, through the Charles Hoffman Elementary School PTA, and as a force behind others. She helped others during the storms by delivering food and medicines and coordinating needs for others, facilitating for her neighbors, plus she is always cleaning the town as she walks.
Stiansen said while accepting the honor, “We need to look out for our neighbors. The benefit of living in a small town is we have the opportunity to shine. The majority of issues would be reduced if we became a community of great neighbors. Whatever the future brings and whenever we are challenged, we need to look out for our neighbors and we will be better off ourselves. I am grateful for the opportunity to live here.”
A special recognition went to Dan and Carol Wagner of Bacon/Wagner Excavating who are retiring after decades of supporting the community and raising five kids in the community. Over the decades, they have sponsored the Paint the Plow program, they made donations to food baskets, COVID supplies to the community and so much more. They do plan to travel, but never to move from the community where Dan grew up. He started school in Running Springs when the school hosted grades kindergarten through 12.
Also recognized for her years of contributions to the community was Dixi Willemse. President Somes said she was behind the scenes, always silently offering help and making suggestions, plus assistance when needed. “She oversaw the youth snow program at Snow Valley, helped with the Snow Valley Fire Department and I hope in the future she will return to be an active member on the board.”
Jennifer Hurlbut was recognized for her years of work on the board, now that she has sold her Rustic Arts location to Havenwood. She will remain on the Holiday committee for the chamber. Havenwood should be opening Thanksgiving weekend in its new location.
The Running Springs Area Chamber of Commerce helps promote businesses in the mid-mountain area, including Running Springs, Arrowbear Lake and Green Valley Lake and acts as an advocate for the area with the county since they do not have a municipal advisory council. All members of the board are residents of the local community.
The chamber board members are elected to two-year positions and sponsor such events as the Running Springs Farmers Market & Artisan Faire, Mountain Top Days, Halloween Merchant Trick or Treat, the Easter Egg Hunt, the annual tree lighting ceremony, Veterans Day and more.
The chamber receives $45,000 a year to market the community. They are using some of those funds for digital advertising, creating some content seen on various streaming services. Next year, they will create a new website. Upcoming events they have on the calendar include the Nov. 11 Veterans Day ceremony at the monument in town and, on Dec. 2, the holiday tree lighting ceremony and a “shop the town” event. The chamber meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. See their website for history and more information at RunningSpringsChamber.com.