By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Chamber awards Mike Borges as 'Citizen of the Year'
Mike Borges Citizen of the Year
Mike Borges received the the “Citizen of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award” Friday evening from the Ceres Chamber of Commerce. Presenting the annual award at the Ceres Community Center was Lisa Mantarro Moore in the absense of Marge Derby. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Mike Borges’ decades of service to the community and passion to make life better for others in Ceres prompted the Chamber of Commerce to award him the “Citizen of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award” during Friday’s 54th annual Ceres Community Service Awards & Installation Dinner.

The occasion allowed the Chamber to install board members for the new year as well as single out a number of businesses and individuals for various awards based on voting of members.

Borges’ selection was made by past Citizen of the Year recipients.

His life has been dedicated to serving his country and community.

After graduating from Modesto High School in 1974, Borges learned how to be a restaurant cook and decided to join the Army where he became a military police officer. He worked as an MP at Fort Benning, Ga., for nearly four years.

Following his discharge in 1979, Borges returned to Ceres and began working as a Ceres Police Officer. In his 34 years of service to the badge, he faced a number of dangerous situations as well as provided for a safer Ceres. He worked in every area of the department and led the agency as the Deputy Chief until his retirement after 34 years of service.

Shortly after Borges retired from Ceres Police Department in 2014, he was hired as Escalon’s police chief, serving for six years before deciding to finally retire.

Throughout his professional career, Borges’ commitment to family and community has never wavered. He has served as a Lions Club member and is currently its president. Borges also coached for Ceres Youth Baseball and was a member of its board. He also served as a member of the Ceres Booster Club, Ceres Wrestling Club and the Ceres Street Faire Committee.

“Mike has a tendency to wear more than one hat at a time such as when his boys were attending Ceres High and he would go from barbecuing linguiça as a Booster member, to cheering his sons on from the stands to coaching youth with Ceres Youth Baseball even when his kids were grown,” said Lisa Mantarro Moore in presenting the award. “Mike has volunteered for over a decade to support Ceres athletics, most notably serving as a member of the Football Chain Gang on Friday nights as well as volunteer, including Susan, for all the Ceres Wrestling tourneys. He even took on a team of tee-ball kids for one of his officer’s children where he again led by example all for the betterment of kids and his community.”

He and wife Susan have raised three sons, all who live in Ceres. They learned to emulate their father’s example of community service, from law enforcement to coaching football and wrestling.

Other nominees were Bret Durossette and Brandy Meyer.

Rocky Fisher honored

The Chamber event took on an emotional turn when Rocky Fisher was posthumously awarded with the “Distinguished Service Award,” an award accepted by his widow, Sharon, and his family. Many in the audience knew Fisher and still grieving from his sudden death on Nov. 8.

Fisher moved to Ceres in 1957 and fostered a deep sense of commitment and community service. The 1969 Ceres High School graduate volunteered for decades, mostly as a member of the Ceres Lions Club, where he served in numerous offices and was once named “Lion of the Year.” Rocky had been a principal organizer and worker at many Ceres Lions fundraising events, including the Lions Omelet Breakfast in Ceres and Crab Feed. His barbecue skills were put to good use to help raise funds for Ceres schools, Soroptimists, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and the American Cancer Society. He also worked for the Stanislaus County Fair parking lot fundraising effort and maintenance at Camp Pacifica, a camp for hearing impaired children. Fisher also served as the Lions’ president, vice president and tail twister. 

Rocky regularly volunteered to man the Arrowhead Club booth at the Stanislaus County Fair, cooked for the Ceres Relay for Life Breakfast and helped with construction projects at Ceres parks and both the Daniel Whitmore Home and Clinton Whitmore Mansion.

He also coached Ceres Youth Baseball and delivered food and staples to the needy through the Salvation Army. 

He also helped maintain the Howard Stevenson Grove at the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park and served on the Ceres Street Faire Committee and Whitmore Mansion Committee.

Sharon Fisher said the qualities that made her late husband “such an outstanding human were he loved unconditionally with all of his being. As he loved, he was also loved and respected by many and never met a stranger. Throughout our life together he was 100 percent gentleman, provider, father, husband and friend – and he did all that with a smile that brightened his happy personality and those true blue eyes.”

She said Rocky was always eager to help and lived by the motto of “get ‘er done.”

The other nominee for the award was Sherill Petersen, owner of Sam’s Cafe in Ceres.

Sharon Fisher
Sharon Fisher, the widow of Rocky Fisher accepted an award on behalf of her late husband at Friday’s Chamber banquet. With her are daughter Sherrie and grandson Derek Fisher. - photo by Jeff Benziger

“Volunteer of the Year”

Daniel Martinez was named the “Volunteer of the Year.”

Others nominated were Gary M. Condit and Kim Johnson.

Since moving to Ceres over five years ago, Martinez has jumped in to volunteer in a number of areas to help the community, including youth sports.

Martinez, who was recently elected to the Ceres City Council, is a member of the Ceres Lions Club and Knights of Columbus. He has raised money and gathered sponsorships for teams in Ceres Youth Baseball – of which he also served on its board – and volunteered for various activities raising money for Ceres schools. He attends and helps with raising money for Ceres Pups Wrestling team. A former Ceres Chamber board member, he also was a recent sponsor of the Chamber’s One Table, One Community event held last September.

Martinez has assisted in promoting the annual “Love Ceres” event by posting signs; sold newspapers for the annual Salvation Army’s Kids Day fundraiser; dressed up as Santa at the Ceres Christmas Festival; and helped Ceres Police pass out gifts to children at Christmas time. Martinez has also helped set up the Ceres Street Fair.

His wife Kayla is the elected city treasurer. They have three children.

Daniel Martinez volunteer of the year
Daniel Martinez was honored as "Volunteer of the Year" by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce on Friday evening.

“Young Citizen of the Year”

Delia Vidal, daughter of Steve and Leticia Vidal, was honored by the Chamber as the “Young Citizen of the Year.” The award was presented by Eileen Stokman.

The 17-year-old Central Valley High School senior has donated over 400 service hours to the community.

Delia works for the Ceres Unified School District ASES program and in 2021 created a new event, a holiday party for all CUSD elementary special education students.

She has sewed blankets for babies in the Natal Intensive Care Unit ward and gift baskets for parents of newborns. Delia also sewed masks to donate to hospitals and others in need during the COVID pandemic; and sewed blankets for animals in local shelters.

At CVHS, Vidal has been involved in leadership and the California Scholarship Federation for four years; and the Ambassadors Club, National Honor Society and the Women Empowerment Club for the past two years.

Others considered for the award were Samantha Cunningham and Kimberly Ochoa.

Delia Vidal
Delia Vidal was honored by the Chamber as the “Young Citizen of the Year.” The award was presented by Eileen Stockman. - photo by Jeff Benziger

“Large Business of the Year”

Bronco Wine Company of rural Ceres was named “Large Business of the Year.” Bronco Wine was founded in 1973 by Fred, Joseph and John Franzia and has become a major vintage varietal wine source to the California wine industry and is currently recognized as the fourth largest winery and the largest vineyard owner in the United States.

Since its inception in the late 1800s, the Franzia family and Bronco Wine Company have been committed to growing, producing and selling the finest quality wines. Bronco Wine Company’s diverse products are sold in over 90 countries worldwide in addition to being distributed throughout the U.S.

When CEO Fred Franzia passed away in September, the company’s mantle turned over to Dan Leonard who accepted the award.

Walmart Supercenter was the other nominee for the award.

Bronco Winery Dan Leonard
CEO Dan Leonard accepts the “Large Business of the Year” award on behalf of Bronco Winery. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Small Business of the Year”

Ceres Karate/Duran Family Fitness was honored Friday with its “Small Business of the Year” award.

The business has been serving the Ceres Community for over 30 years. They have given a place for countless number of young people to learn self-defense, karate, krav Maga as well as promoting academics, self-awareness and self-esteem. They have maintained their outstanding business model over the years and continue to serve the community. The Duran family has continuously dedicated time and efforts to the community and its youth. They offer robust educational classes for adults and children and work diligently to give young people a sense of identity and to make sure they have strong values.

Others nominated for the award were: California Landscape Supply, Footnotes Dance Studio, The Floral Cottage and Vic’s Churros.

Duran Ceres Karate
Mike Duran of Ceres Karate accepts the “Small Business of the Year” award. - photo by Jeff Benziger

“Legacy Award”

Doing business since 1940, IC Refrigeration of Ceres was bestowed with the “Legacy Award.” The business has grown into one of Ceres’ larger firms with today over 70 employees. 

Imfeld Cloutier Refrigeration Service opened its doors in 1940, when Bill Imfeld, wife Margaret and business partner Paul Cloutier formed the business focusing on dairy refrigeration and mechanical operations. Two years later with World War II looming, Cloutier relocated, leaving the fledging business in the hands of the Imfelds. Because refrigeration was an essential service locally, IC grew as a business and in the 1950s relocated to South Ninth Street in Modesto.

In 1956 38-year-old Margaret passed away leaving Bill alone to expand into air conditioning services. He sold the store fixture portion to employee Gus Karros who later consolidated with Major Sysco. From that juncture, IC established its reputation as a residential heating and air company.

In 1997, IC expanded as a mechanical contracting company for commercial buildings, bringing with it a demand for quality, skilled workers. After a hiring spree from a Modesto sheet metal shop, Kevin Silva joined the team.

Kevin led the effort of handling new kitchen installations for McDonald’s throughout Northern California. Continued work for McDonald’s helped IC Refrigeration create a specialty sheet metals department, now recognized within the company as the Restaurant Division with 15 employees. Aside from food-warming systems, hood designs, transient-proof (in some areas bear-proof) waste cans and even floor mop sinks IC is now setting a standard for McDonald’s operations. IC also works with Wendy’s, Dominos and Panda Express restaurants with similar services.

Today, simply rebranded IC, the company employs nearly 70 employees, maintains a 50-plus vehicle fleet, and the workload is divided into four quadrants:

• 40 percent kitchen buildouts and equipment;

• 35 percent commercial and residential heating and air conditioning installation;

• 15 percent fire protection services; and

• 10 percent service repairs.

What many people don’t know is that for the last 16 years IC has been volunteering to help Ronald McDonald Charities, which focuses on disabled kids through its Camp Ronald McDonald Eagle Lake. Each year, IC sends a team to help open the facility in preparation for the summer season. However, this year, they also saw an opportunity to help the house in Sacramento with its toy drive. Family members of several employees have been blessed by this organization in time of medical crisis. They have seen first-hand what kind of impact Ronald McDonald Charities has had, so it’s extra special for them to be involved and it also gives IC employees a way to help during the Christmas season.

La Morenita Restaurant was also nominated for the award.

IC Refrigeration reps
Accepting the “Legacy Award” for IC Refrigeration were manager Tony Flores and Daniel Martinez. Daniel Martinez was also named the “Volunteer of the Year.” - photo by Jeff Benziger

Renee Ledbetter, who left her post as president of the Chamber while retaining a place on the board of directors for two years, mentioned how the Chamber nearly folded following the pandemic. When the Chamber made the announcement, a wellspring of support followed.

“Without the support of this board, this Chamber would have folded at the end of last year,” said Ledbetter.

She also thanked her family for the support while she served.

Incoming President Brandy Meyer noted the banquet has been around as long as she has but the Chamber dates back 60 years.

“My goal this year is for the Chamber to shine bright, be strong and rock steady,” said Meyer. “The Chamber has had its share of challenges like everybody else these past few years but tonight we celebrate together in one room, in-person, with new friends and old friends, family, colleagues and businesses.”

Officers installed

Installed on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors were President Brandy Meyer (Meyer CPR & First Aid); Vice President Irene Ortiz (Ground Up Productions), Treasurer Donna Lambert (Save Mart Supermarket); Parliamentarian Paul Huckaba (Bronco Wine Company); and directors Renee Ledbetter (Ledbetter & Associates / EXIT Realty Consultants), Herman Bhatti (GNN Real Estate), Kelly Cerny (Stanislaus County, Retired), Rahil Chadha (American Pacific Mortgage), Jason Chapman (GDR Engineering), Vick Sekhon (GNN Real Estate), Eileen Stokman, Shella Joiner (Sharky & Mellas), Chad Suydam (California Landscape Supply) and Ryan Guinn (Pentecostals of Ceres).

The city of Ceres has two liaisons to the Chamber: Christopher Hoem, Director of Community Development; and Tamra Spade, Economic Development Manager.

Ceres Unified School District’s liaison to the Chamber is Dan Pangrazio, Assistant Superintendent.

Auditor/Controller is John “J.C.” Curtis of Boss Deller & Company and the administrative assistant is Amy Medina.

Brandy Meyer Chamber president
Brandy Meyer is the new president of the Ceres Chamber of Commerce. - photo by Jeff Benziger
Chamber directors oath 2023
President Brandy Meyer (right) installed members of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors on Friday. They were: (left to right), Ryan Guinn, Irene Ortiz (obscured), Chad Suydam, Renee Ledbetter, Eileen Stokman, Shella Joiner, Vick Sekhon, Donna Lambert, Paul Huckaba, Herman Bhatti, Kelly Cerny and Jason Chapman. Rahil Chadha was absent. - photo by Jeff Benziger