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Fishers service earns award
Chamber honors Lions Club member as Citizen of the Year
Rocky Fisher
Rocky Fisher (right) was honored as the 2014 Citizen of the Year by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce. Last years recipient, Pastor Adrian Condit (left) did the introduction at Fridays banquet at the Ceres Community Center. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Rocky Fisher's varied and wide swath of community volunteerism was recognized Friday evening when he received the Ceres Citizen of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.

The honor was bestowed by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce at its annual Citizen of the Year and Installation Banquet at the Ceres Community Center.

Most of Fisher's community service is channeled through the Ceres Lions Club but his effort to help others goes much broader.

"While a large part of Rocky's part of community service has been through the Lions Club activities, his community involvement has left his heart and soul all over the city," said Pastor Adrian Condit, last year's award recipient who gave Fisher his honor. "Rocky has worked and been a principal in organizing every Ceres Lions fundraising event, including the Lions Omelet Breakfast in Ceres."

Fisher has worked in the Ceres Lions Club's crab feed, county fair parking lot fundraising effort and maintenance at Camp Pacifica, a camp for hearing impaired children. He has also served as president, vice president and tail twister of the Ceres Lions Club.

He regularly volunteers to man the Arrowhead Club booth at the Stanislaus County Fair, cooks for the Ceres Relay for Life Breakfast and helps with construction projects at Ceres parks and both the Daniel Whitmore Home and Clinton Whitmore Mansion. Rocky also coached Ceres Youth Baseball and currently delivers food and staples to the needy through the Salvation Army. Fisher had devoted hours of time to maintaining the Howard Stevenson Grove at the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park. His barbecue skills have been put to good use to help raise funds for Ceres schools, Soroptimists, Boys and Girls Scouts, Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department and the American Cancer Society.

"Rocky is always one of the first to arrive and the last to leave, insuring success of all events," said Condit. "Rocky sets an outstanding example for the people of Ceres to follow in supporting their community. I'd like to say that all of us need to practice more of Rocky's life."

Fisher, who was born in Missouri and came to Ceres in 1957, graduated from Ceres High School in 1969 where he was on the track team. He served in the U.S. Army and retired from the construction industry. He and wife of 44 years Sharon Fisher have three children.

"I don't think I can say too much tonight," said Fisher upon receipt of his plaque. "It's pretty overwhelming. Every one of you out here is just my people that I love and love to help. My wife, I thank you honey for letting me do this. My family misses a lot of stuff. I'm going to retire someday doing this - I don't know when - because I really enjoy doing it."

The 2014 Distinguished Service Award went to Troy Slaybaugh for graffiti clean-up efforts. Linda Mathis, manager of the Ceres Youth Baseball Snack Shack, was also nominated for the honor. Slaybaugh is known for going all over Ceres painting over graffiti and correcting acts of vandalism quickly after it is found or reported. When he's not engaged in graffiti abatement, he's helping to eliminate blight in the community.

"I love doing the right thing," said Slaybaugh in receiving his honor.

Jim and Colleen Bergamashi of the Ceres Garden Club were honored with the "Volunteer of the Year" award. A former barber shop owner, Jim supported youth athletics and in 1968 was Parade Chairman for the Ceres Harvest Festival. He also served in the Chamber of Commerce presidency in 1971 and has been a 60-year member of the American Legion. As a couple, Jim and Colleen have been members of the Elks Lodge, SOS Club, Corvette Club and NorCal Rec. Today they are active in the Ceres Garden Club, helping to beautify the city.

"What do you say besides ‘thank you,' "said Colleen in accepting the honor. "You do what you have to do and want to do and hope everybody else does the same. Thank you so much."

Jim deflected the attention, saying lots of others are good volunteers.

Other nominees for the award were Fisher, Shane Parson of the Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children and James Runyan of the Ceres Lions Club.

Richland Ace Hardware was named the "2014 Business of the Year." Established in the 1970s under a different name, the business has a provided good service to Ceres. It changed from a Tru-Value Hardware store in 2001 to Ace Hardware. Today it is a proud sponsor of the Children's Miracle Network and has made countless contributions to Ceres schools, sports programs, non-profit groups and police and fire groups. Harold Fudge owns the Ceres franchise as well as one in Tracy and both have received J.D. Powers Award for excellence in Customer Service from 2007 and 2014.

Accepting the award were two employees of the store, Lynda Michelena and Vicki Forrest.

Other nominees for the award were Ceres Karate, Farmer Boys restaurant and Supermom's Frozen Yogurt.

Two young men were up for the "2014 Young Citizen of the Year" - Michael Thompson and Aiden Moore. However, it was Moore who was given the award, based on Chamber members' votes.

Last year's recipient, Couper Condit, called Aiden "active in his school and his community" and said "he is known as a hard worker and he always gives back to his community." Moore is second-degree brown belt in karate and plays on the school baseball, wrestling and football teams and a member of the National Collegiate Scholarship Association, the National Honors Society, and was high school valedictorian. The son of Randy and Lisa Mantarro Moore also serves on the Ceres Street Faire Committee and Whitmore Mansion Foundation and is involved with Relay for Life and Habitat for Humanity.

"This guy's not only strong and smart, has a very caring heart," said Condit of Moore. "He's always willing to lend a hand to anyone in need."

Aiden thanked others for helping him give back to the community, including Ceres Karate, Coach Bret Durossette, the Condits and his mother.

"It's really an honor to live in Ceres where people can get recognized at any age for doing volunteer work," said Aiden.

Ceres Drug Store was named the "2014 Downtown Business of the Year." Other nominees were Ceres Dry Cleaners, Delhart's Home Furnishings and Steps Dance Studio.

The store originally opened in 1907 in a different location. It was reportedly the first store in downtown Ceres to have electricity, said presenter Kris Klair. Today it is the oldest continuously operated, privately-owned business in Ceres. The Smernes family purchased the business 30 years ago as the sixth owners of Ceres Drugs.

"This family is constantly giving back to our community," said Klair. "Each year this business donates two $200 scholarships to Ceres High School and Central Valley High School to students studying careers pre health science or related fields. They donate gifts or financial contributions to various organizations in Ceres."

Ceres Drugs fills over 330 prescriptions per day and is a gift shop as well as a pay station for many local utilities.

"They also deliver a service you just don't find very often anymore," said Klair.

Amy Browning, a longtime employee since she was 16, accepted the award on behalf of the Smernes, who were absent because of a death in the family.

Recognized as "2014 Service Club of the Year" was the Soroptimist International of Ceres. Others vying for the honor were the Ceres Garden Club, Ceres High School's ASB Leadership, Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children, Ceres Masonic Center, Howard Training Center, Love Ceres and Project YES.

The club of professional women has existed in Ceres for over 40 years and focusses on serving by striving to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. Over 65 active members work on various committees and provide monthly mentor workshops for junior high school girls such as crafts and lessons in smart decision making and career planning. The Soroptimists also recognize two high school girls each month. The group also provides over $5,000 in high school scholarships each year, hosts the Distinguished Young Women's program to build leadership for high school juniors.

"These women truly exemplify the meaning of service," said award presenter Lucy Jaska.

"We can't thank you enough for this honor," said Soroptimist President Denise Wickham, "but we don't do the service in our community for recognition and honors; we do it because the women and children of our community deserve this and we're proud to service..."

The "2014 Legacy Award," which honors individuals and/or businesses that have contributed through service, support or volunteer efforts to the Ceres community for more than 40 years, went to Bronco Wine Company.

Others in the running were Alfonso's Mexican Grill, Stanislaus Farm Supply and Superior Fruit Ranch.

Presenters Jeff LeBeouf gave an overview of the company which operates in a rural area southwest of Ceres. Fred, Joseph and John Franzia founded the family-owned winery in 1973. "Since its inception, the Franzia family, Bronco Wine Company, have been committed to growing, producing and selling the finest quality wines of the highest value to their customers."

The diverse brand of wines is sold in over 90 countries and throughout the United States. Bronco has become a major vintage varietal wine source to the California wine industry and is currently recognized as the fifth largest winery in the United States.

The Franzia family's involvement with wine production goes back to 1893.

The Franzias and Gallos have had a family relationship when in 1930 Ernest and Amelia Franzia married. The Franzia Winery started in Ripon in 1933. Teresa Franzia loaned her son-in-law Ernest $5,000 start his company. Bronco was incorporated in 1973.