Tom Brock was named man of the Year and Kathleen Chaves was named woman of the year during the Baker County Chamber of Commerce awards banquet held Saturday evening at the events center.
Tom Brock, right, accepted the Man of the Year award from last year’s co-recipient, Gregg Hinrichsen, far left, and Debi Bainter of the Baker County Chamber of Commerce. (Baker City Herald/Ed Merriman)
“Not many in Baker County know of Tom and his amazing capacity to give. Tom is just a quiet volunteer; he is a silent volunteer,” said Ginger Savage of the Baker 5J School Board in a nominating letter.
She described Brock as “one of those volunteers that is working to keep kids out of the News of Record section of the newspaper” by helping keep kids off drugs and alcohol.
“Tom works with kids who do not go out for football, basketball or scouts,” she said. “Tom doesn’t give up on them and he gives them a reason to go to school.”
One of the things Tom does is helps kids build wheelchair ramps and do home improvement projects for low-income residents of Baker County through the Baker Middle School Builders Club he founded five years ago, according to a nominating letter from Shandra Lee.“Tom Brock deserves to be Baker County Man of the Year. Our students deserve to see their hero recognized,” Lee said.
Chaves was honored as woman of the year for her successful efforts in securing grants that helped pay for some of the largest projects in Baker County over the past decade, including $1.6 million in grants and other funding for the Crossroads Carnegie Art and Cultural Center renovation project, as well as $2.1 million in grant and other funding for the Baker Sports Complex.
Kathleen and her husband, Richard, have also been longtime volunteers and supporters of the local YMCA youth sports programs, Eastern Oregon Regional Theatre, AAU sports programs, the OFF-Road Vehicle park, East-West Shrine Game, the Baker County Fair, 4-H programs, and Knights of Columbus, according to nominating letters and information presented by Mary Tomlinson.
With all those volunteer efforts and the time she spends helping Richard run their call center and Chaves Consulting in Baker City, Kathleen also volunteers regularly at their son Dylan’s elementary school.
Marian Brown was named Legacy Woman of the Year.
Brown was honored for her many years volunteering at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, 5,000 hours in live performances at the Leo Adler Theater there, and her work in theater performances and other volunteer work with the Sumpter Valley Railroad, Crossroads Art Center, Oregon Trail Days in La Grande, Baker City Methodist Church, Parlor Tour hostess at Geiser Grande Hotel, Soroptimist Service Club, Haines Elementary School, according to the nominating information provided by Gay Stackle.
“Marian worked on projects for college scholarships for women. She was a top seller for nuts during their yearly fundraising project. She achieved all this while using her bicycle as transportation, because she does not drive due to her legal blindness status,” said Stackle.
Gary Yeoumans was honored as the 2008 Legacy Man of the Year.
Yeoumans retired after 33 years with the Soil and Water Conservation Service, but before and after his retirement he stayed busy as a bee with his volunteer work coaching Little League, helping maintain baseball fields, housing players for baseball tournaments and helping umpire.
At Baker High School Yeoumans’ volunteer efforts included helping out at track meets, working in the concession booth for track, football, baseball and basketball, selling tickets at those events and at wrestling meets, assisting with FFA, the Forestry Club, chaperoning dances and proms, and helping with choir fundraising. For the past several years he has been a volunteer with District and 1A State basketball tournaments.
He’s also been a regular blood donor to the Red Cross, a member of the Elks, a bellringer for The Salvation Army and a SMART reading volunteer at the South Baker Elementary for the past three years, and that is the short list of volunteer work that also includes the Lions Club, Baker Flying Club, the Me-N-U Dance Club and many others, according to nominating information provided by Sheryl Blankenship and Deryl Leggett, who recapped the award presentation made to Yeoumans prior to the awards banquet as he was out of town vacationing in Hawaii with his wife, LaVonne, on Saturday.
Lew Brothers Les Schwab was honored with the 2008 Business of the Year award.
“Lew Bros. has a long standing history in this community, and history always includes family. And that’s how you are perceived — like family, be it at the store, on the street or at a sporting event. With genuine warmth and a sincere smile,” said Scott Martin in his nominating letter.
“The generosity shown by Lew Bros. to their community family, should it ever be tabulated and tallied, is overwhelming,” Martin said, listing a few of those who have benefitted from their generosity, including the Baker County Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA, Leadership Baker Class, CASA, the Quarterback Club, the high school rodeo club, St. Elizabeth Hospital, the golf club, School District 5J and many others.
“Trust may be part of the Les Schwab mantra, but Rocky and Diana, Jim and Vicky, Pleas and Mary Jo and all the group have made their slogan extend further — into our homes,” Martin said in the nominating letter.
The Dan L. Forsea & Sons Ranch near Richland won the Excellence in Agriculture award, presented by Bob Harrell of Harrell Herefords, last year’s winner.
Dan L. Forsea founded the ranch after he immigrated to the Hells Canyon area in 1908 and married Blanche Ross and relocated to the Richland-Halfway area. Their sons Bob (and wife Mary) and Walt (and wife Norma) Forsea later operated the ranch and today Walt still rides the range during roundup to help his son Dan Forsea and wife Renece run the ranch.
According to the nominating letter from Randall Guyer, Jr., every generation of the Forsea family have been active volunteers, starting with Dan’s and Blanche’s involvement in the Eagle Valley Grange in the early 1900s, Bob’s work with the Weiser Elk Club, Huntington VFW and Richland Lions Club, Walt’s efforts as a member of the Pine Eagle School Board in the 1960s and 1970s and numerous other organizations including the Baker County Overall Planning Commission, Baker County Livestock Association, Richland Lions, Grand Master of the Eagle Valley Grange, a Boy Scouts leader and an organizer of St. Stephen’s Episcopal church services in Richland in the 1960s through 1980s. Walt’s wife Norma also serves as the Eagle Valley Grange treasurer, a supporter of Troop 438 and is a former member of the Baker County Budget Committee.
That tradition of service continued with Dan and Renece. Dan was an Eagle Scout with Troop 448. He is a Pine-Eagle School Board member, has been a member of the Eagle Valley Grange, a member and chairman of the Eagle Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, and is currently president of the Baker County Livestock Association. Renece served as secretary and was named volunteer of the year for the conservation district, and she has also been very active in the Grange and was volunteer of the year for the Richland Wildflower Project.
The Agriculture Support Business of the Year award presented for the first time this year went to Cal and Denise Ransom and family,
owners of Richland Feed and Seed.
The Ransoms moved to the Richland area in the 1980s after purchasing a dairy farm, which they ran successfully with the help of their children, Kyle, Dana and Tyler, until the opportunity arose to purchase Eagle Valley Feed and Seed, which they renamed Richland Feed and Seed. Kyle and his wife, Charity, recently returned to Richland to help run the business, and the Ransoms opened a second store in Halfway.
According to the nominating letter submitted by Patti Packard, the Ransom family has a reputation for taking time to get to know their customers and welcoming them with a cup of coffee that is always available. They also have a history of commitment and service to their church, community, country and state, including volunteering, including 4-H, Cub Scouts, Little League, the Halfway Fair, Pine Valley Fair Association, Pine-Eagle School Board and the Baker County Republicans Central Committee.
Over the years Cal has also served on several state and county agricultural boards, including president of the Baker County Livestock Association and as a member of the Oregon Beef Council, Select Sires Board, Eastern Oregon Dairy Farmers and the Dairy Herd Improvement Association.
Kerry Jones, owner and founder of Black Lyon Publishing of Baker City, was named Entrepreneur of the Year in an award presented for just the second year by the Northeastern Oregon Economic Development District, to honor entrepreneurs who recognize the opportunity and take the risk to open a new and successful business in Baker County.
In presenting the award, Lisa Dawson, NEODD regional director, said Jones moved her romance novel publishing business from Seattle to Baker City in 2007 and has had great success, signing 20 authors and competing with nationally in the romance novel publishing business.
“This award recognizes an individual who has excellent entrepreneurial character” and is showing by her success that starting a new business is an excellent way to grow the economy in Baker City and Baker County,” Dawson said.