“California Dreamin’ ” was the theme for Friday night’s Escondido Chamber of Commerce’s 106th annual Installation and Awards Dinner, held at Pala Mesa Resort, at the resort’s outdoor wedding venue.
MC’s for the evening were Rorie Johnston, president and CEO of the Chamber and longtime Chamber board member Kevin Svetich, who traded quips throughout the evening.
Special guests were Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and Marie Waldron of the 75th Assembly District, who made presentations to the incoming and outgoing board chairwomen.
Special awards were given to the following:
Volunteer of the Year
The Jim Felix Community Volunteer of the Year Award, given for “active and continuing community service, commitment of time, money and hands on involvement” went to Dana Nuesca, executive director for Seeds of Hope. Seeds of Hope works on both the nationaland local level to prevent and combat sexual exploitation/trafficking, drugs, alcohol and violence.
Nationally, Seeds of Hope works with the U.S. Embassy and are members of a Costa Rican task forced call Conacoes, which is working to change laws, investigation and conviction procedures, and to train the student leaders of Seeds of Hope to go into high schools across the country to lead the youth of Costa Rica to take a stand and “Break the Chain.”
Locally, clubhouses provide after school and weekend classes in high- risk communities. The goal of the clubhouses is to give hope to children by providing preventative education, spiritual guidance, and restoration for girls and boys ages 12-17.
Nuesca also serves on the leadership team of the Xchange church in Escondido, which is actively reaching out to those in need andgiving them help.
She and her husband, Kalani, have been married for 28 years. They have one son, who is serving in the Air Force, and three grandchildren. Seeing the face of her grandchildren and their innocence drives her to fight against sex trafficking for all children.
Civic Engagement Leadership Award
Tom Hawthorne was awarded the Jack Raymond Civic Engagement Leadership Award, an award established by the Chamber in 2008 to recognize individuals, organizations and/ or programs that go “above and beyond,” engaging, enhancing and benefitting our community.
Gregg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith, presented the award to Hawthorne, who provided the largest donation for the Veteran and Family Resource Center located at 250 N. Ash St., which broke ground on February of 2015. He noted that Tom Hawthorne and his wife, Dorothy, provided$550,000 for the $2.7 million project.
Community Organization of the Year
California Center for the Arts, Escondido, was honored as Community Organization of the Year. This award is presented to an organization that has performed outstanding service for the city and is widely recognized by the community.
CCAE’s mission is to bring the community together to discover, create, and celebrate the visual and performing arts. The center’s sprawling 12-acre campus houses a 1,500-seat concert hall, a 400-seat theater, an art museum, free community events, extensive education programs and a full-service conference center. Last year 300,000 people visited the center, which was voted as one of the Best Live Music Venues by the Union-Tribune Reader’s Poll and was top ten in three categories of the 2016 A-list awards, including Best Theater, Best Museumand Best Wedding Venue.
Jerry Van Leeuwen, executive director, accepted the award.
During the presentation Johnston quipped that she had seen Svetich on stage at the center for the “Dancing With our Stars” event during which many local celebrities demonstrated their dancing skills onstage. Svetich suggested that maybe next year Mrs. Johnston ought to give it a try. She said she’d think about it. The event raised $85,000 for the center.
Entrepreneur of the Year
Debbie Young of Sculpt Nouveau was honored as Entrepreneur of the Year. Sculpt Nouveau is a specialty coating and surface finishing company, which began 20 years ago and now has 23 stores distributing products in the U.S. Australia, Canada, the U.K. and Escondido.
A Los Angeles native, Young moved to Escondido and raised two sons now grown, oneof them a veteran who has been awarded two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star in the Afghan war.
Svetich said, “Debbie gives back by contributing to many charitable organizations and she serves as a board member of the Escondido East Rotary Cub and Escondido Community Child Development Center.”
Business Leader of the Year
Svetich then asked all past board chairmen to stand and take a bow. One of them was past Chairman and Business Leader of the Year Ken Lounsbery, who presented the Business Leader of the Year award to Jose Monforte, owner of Cocina Del Charro.
Lounsbery described the long, successful arc of the Monforte family who opened the original restaurant in 1978 on Quince Street, with just three tables.
In 1978 Jose Monforte was asked to interview for a general managerposition of a Mexican restaurant. There was only problem: There was no restaurant, no menu, no staff—just an idea.
Monforte took up the challenge and started the restaurant between a wiring factory and an auto body shop. In the coming years the restaurant grew: First another 10 tables, then 20 more. By the 1990’s it grew to accommodate 150 guests with room for private parties of another 150.
Eventually Jose’s son joined the operation and in 2007 the family opened their other Cocina, this one in San Marco’s Restaurant Row.
In 2011, the Original Escondido restaurant was moved to its current location at 890 W. Valley Parkway.
Montforte attended Friday’s installation with virtually his entire family, who were all delighted to join him in accepting the award and posing for pictures with the plaque.
Community Enhancement Award
This award is given to an individual or business that works toward stimulating the economy and quality of life in Escondido. The award went to Jason Han, of New Urban West, a privately held builder and developer of distinctive communities.
Han is responsible for identifying new investment opportunities and oversees all aspects of execution, including acquisition, entitlements, project development, construction, sales and marketing for projects in the San Diego area. Escondido and the surrounding area are home to projects such as Brookside at Reidy Creek Golf Course, Ranchos at Vistamonte in San Pasqual Valley, Oak Creek near Felicta Park, Amanda Estates in southwest Escondido and Harmony Grove Village. In all his company has built about 1,000 homes.
Board Members of the Year
Outgoing Chairman of the Board Alicia Reeves selectedDan Meyer and Paul Smith as Board Members of the Year.
Meyer of Escondido Disposal and Smith of Farmers Insurance were described as the “dynamic duo,” who took on the challenge of developing the Chamber’s annual Golf Tournament. By partnering with police Lt. Al Owens, they were able to raise funds for the Police Athletic League. The police officer involvement in youth sports created a bridge between law enforcement and the community to ensure that Escondido is a safe place to live, work and play. The two will be planning the upcoming Golf Tournament on September 16.
Ambassador of the Year
Joe Coyle was recognized as this year’s Chamber Ambassador of the Year. A 30-year resident, he is vice president of business development for the Printer Repair Depot. He likes Zig Zigler’squote, “If you can help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.”
Outgoing Chairman of the Board Alicia Reeves was recognized for her year of leading the Chamber. She described how rewarding the year was for her, and how much she felt that she and board were able to accomplish. She thanked her business Pacific Standard Insurance Services, Inc. (where she is vice president) for its support, and thanked her husband, Tommy and family, including their 4-year-old son, Tommy for their support. During this period she was editor of the Escondido Magazine, a publication of the Chamber and was able to use her journalism degree from California State University, Chico.
Mayor Sam Abed asked the officers and directors to rise and takethe oath of office standing next to their tables.
Linda Bailey, the principal of Community Strategies Group Inc., a public relations firm specializing in consensus building and community outreach, took the gavel and outlined some of her goals for the coming year. She described the Chamber as a vital component of the community that helps bring various elements of the city together. She has served on the Palomar Health Board of Directors and is past chairman of the Escondido Charitable Foundation and past president of the Rotary Club of Escondido. She is former CEO of the Escondido Chamber and received the Chamber’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2009 and Business Leader of the Year Award in 2010. In 2010 San Diego Business Journal named her one of their Women Who Mean Business and one of their Most Admired CEOs.