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Special to The SUN
And the winners are …
On Saturday, Jan. 19, the Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual membership celebration and presented the yearly community recognition awards.
The categories this year included Volunteer of the Year, Citizen of the Year, Non-Profit Organization of the Year and Small Business of the Year. The Non-Profit and Small Business recognition were new to the awards schedule.
In order to be considered for an award, the individuals, organization or business had to be nominated, then reviewed by a selection committee consisting of community members with no vested interest in any of the candidates or businesses.
The Southwest Organization for Sustainability also handed out five awards to businesses that focused on environmental impacts as part of their business practice.
Green Business of the Year
Multiple categories were developed this year to incorporate a broader scope. There were four winners in six sectors.
In the Service Industry category, Step Outdoors, an outdoor experience company, owned by Stacy Boone, was the winner.
In the Manufacturing category, Growing Spaces was the winner.
In the Automotive category, Piedra Automotive garnered the award for their recycling efforts, and in the Food and Beverage category, Pagosa Brewing Company gained glowing praise.
The overall winner was Growing Spaces, for improving their scope of “green” outreach and embracing green practices into their everyday business life.
Small Business of the Year
Nominees for this inaugural award included Wolf Creek Run, with owners Ted and Diana Cureton; Home Again, with owner Lvonne Wilson; and Pagosa Brewing Company, owned by brew master Tony Simmons.
The winner was Happy Trails Ladies Boutique in historic downtown Pagosa Springs, owned by Maria MacNamee. Happy Trails has been in business for 18 years in the same location, has doubled sales in the past 10 years — even in these difficult retail times — and is a huge contributor to the community. Happy Trails sponsors fashion shows where the profits are given back to a community foundation and they are a consistent contributor at most community fund-raisers. A tip from the owner for a successful business: Reinvest in yourself and your business; always be grateful and appreciative of your customers; plan for the best, but prepare for the worst; and stay positive, be realistic and be flexible. All nominated businesses focused on customer service and the owners believe this trait is critical to obtaining and maintaining clientele, and to thriving, not just surviving, in today’s economy.
Non-Profit Organization of the Year
The competition was hot and the decision difficult in this category. Non-profit entities in Pagosa Springs fill many gaps. Imagine how our community would function if even a fraction of the nonprofits were not in existence. There are more than 60 active non-profit agencies in Archuleta County, not including churches.
The non-profit nominees for this inaugural award were GECKO (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors), the Humane Society of Pagosa Springs, Archuleta Seniors, Inc., Pagosa Pregnancy Support Center and Habitat for Humanity.
The winner was the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA). The selection was not made based on the National Monument designation that the archeological site received in 2012, but more on the fact the designation was received partly because of the excellence of the volunteer organization. In the world of “preserved archeological sites,” CRIA is a model volunteer organization. This group has been active for 18 years — 10 as CRIA and eight under another name. The group provides services for over 12,000 people annually with the site open to the public only from May-September. Their volunteers log over 12,000 hours and travel over 47,500 miles at their own expense. They write most of the grants and give back to the community by offering free tours to our schools, seniors and tourism diplomats. They also offer educational programs such as Life at Chimney Rock, Native American dancers, and night sky viewing. Joan Ward, board member and outgoing president of the organization, was on hand to receive the award.
Volunteer of the Year
The Volunteer of the Year award was so difficult a decision that, for the first time, a tie was announced.
Nominees in this category included Mike Hayward, Stella Lang, Ray and Nancy Bush, Beverly Haynes, Tim and Laura Moore, and Kenny Daniels. All the nominees devote an incredible amount of time to this community.
The two award winners this year are Joan Ward and LaQuita Johnson. Each of these ladies is a force to be reckoned with in the community. Joan’s major contributions are directed towards supporting the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association, where she has logged more 600 hours. The Humane Society of Pagosa Springs is another recipient of her services, claiming over 300 hours in volunteer hours, with Joan coordinating volunteers, mailings, specials events, adoptathons and even spending quality time walking dogs and working with the animals. Joan also finds time to work with the Nuturing Center and the Pagosa Achievement Center at the High School utilizing her skills as a trained nutritionist and dietician. She also finds time to help out with her church, Loaves and Fishes, and other community organizations along with her husband, Mike Ward.
When there is an event in this community, you can be assured that La Quita Johnson has a hand in it. If she is not coordinating the event, she is assisting, or some of her goods have been generously donated. She has put on two fashion shows benefitting the Pagosa Youth Center, Head Start and three food banks. She has been the coordinator for various Rotary functions, including Casino Night, Hollywood Mania and another event in May of 2013. She started off this year by creating a fund-raiser for the Education Center. She exudes graciousness as a Visitor Center diplomat welcoming people to our community, singing the praises of our community and guiding visitors into our businesses. You will see her in sweats working to get a function together or breaking it down, then dressed to the nines meeting and greeting the event attendees.
Our community should be very grateful to these nominees for their time, talents and financial generosity.
Citizen of the Year
A Citizen of the Year nominee must have lived in Pagosa for at least three years, made an economic, cultural or philanthropic impact on the community, or affected a life-style change through their services.
The theme this year appeared to be “Service Over Self” or “Quiet Philanthropy.” The nominees for this category included Buddy and Siri Schuchardt, Jim Stone, Mike Hayward and Muriel Eason, and Kenny Daniels. The winners were 30-plus-year residents, Jack and Katy Threet. Although the Threets were not able to be in attendance at the awards ceremony, they expressed their surprise and gratitude at receiving this award. The Threets are well known in the Rotary world, as Jack is not only an important local supporter and participant in many ways, but also a supporter of Rotary International. Jack and Katy Threet started the United Way program here in Archuleta County in the late ’80s, prior to it being absorbed into the regional United Way of Southwest Colorado. They were also campaign chairs for the organization in 2009. The Threets were thrilled to be selected as grand marshals for the Fourth of July parade several years ago, and Jack has extended his love of gardening to various areas in Pagosa Springs by either physically landscaping or financially contributing to landscaping efforts. Their financial contributions cover nearly all facets of the community, including youth, seniors, cultural events and even our yearly fireworks display. In a phone conversation, Jack expressed thanks for the award by saying, “We just love Pagosa and love to help — well, everyone that we can, that is.”