By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Lane honored as ‘Citizen of the Year’
• Chamber honors Delhart’s Furniture, Blaker Brewing, Ramon Mendez
Ken Lane.jpg
Ken Lane (left) received the “Citizen of the Year” honor Friday evening as he was applauded by event emcee and lifelong friend Eric Ingwerson. Lane, who recently stepped down after 13 years on the Ceres City Council, was lauded for his active community service. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Ken Lane’s many years of community service earned him the honor of being named “Citizen of the Year” at Friday’s 50th Annual Community Service Awards banquet hosted by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce.

Lane was introduced by former Citizen of the Year Becki Nicholes at the event, held at the Ceres Community Center.

He was cited for his countless hours devoted to community causes and committees. In his earlier years Lane gave a lot of time to serving on the board and as president of the Ceres Falcons youth football program board of directors. Through membership in the Arrowhead Club, Ken helps provide scholarships and athletic activities. He has been an active member of the Ceres Lions Club which routinely raises funds for the Ceres community and he has served on committees which have assisted in the Ceres Street Faire and the annual Crab Feed. He also has helped with parking at the Stanislaus County Fair to bring financial support to Ceres youth.

Lane also puts in many long hours of manual labor to maintain the historic Daniel Whitmore Home. He and the committee helped raise over $10,000 in donations for the recent painting and home improvements. Lane also helped build a garage at the Daniel Whitmore Home. 

Lane served on the Ceres Planning Commission from 1999 to 2004 when he was elected to the City Council. He was re-elected in 2009 and in 2013 and retired last month.

Lane was born to Elvis and Faye Lane, and raised in Ceres. His community service has included service on the Measure J Committee which helped pass school bonds to build Central Valley High School. He has been employed with MoCal Office Systems in Modesto.

He served on the League of California Cities’ board of directors from 2012 to 2018. He was also the League’s Central Division president from 2011 to 2012. Lane also played Santa with his wife Yvette as Mrs. Claus at the Ceres Christmas Festival.

“I love this community and I served it to the best of my ability for 20 years as a public official and an elected official and it’s always been an honor.”
Ken Lane

“I love this community,” Lane said as he received the award, “and I served it to the best of my ability for 20 years as a public official and an elected official and it’s always been an honor.”

Other nominees for the honor were Herb Henry, Scott Siegel and Mike Welsh.


Service Award

Savannah Pritchett was given the “Distinguished Service Award.”

Pritchett was honored for her “quick thinking” act of courage led to the rescue of a kidnapping and assault victim in July 2018. The 24-year-old Ceres woman was working at the Triple R Gas Mart in Waterford when the victim came into the store and asked for help after convincing her captors that she had to use the restroom. Savannah quickly locked the doors before handing her cell phone to the victim to call 911 for help. Pritchett then instructed the woman to lock herself in bathroom. Two of the four suspects, aged 16 and 18, tried to get inside the store. Savannah unlocked the door and told the men that the victim was using the restroom. The men hung around to find the woman but were greeted by armed deputies instead.

Savannah Pritchett.jpg
Ceres resident Savannah Pritchett was given the “Distinguished Service Award.” - photo by Jeff Benziger

Three suspects were apprehended and deputies found guns inside their car.

“Had it not been for the quick thinking and courage of Savannah’s part, who knows what would have become of the young victim that day,” said Tom Westbrook, Chamber liaison and director of Community Development for the city of Ceres.

Ken Sylvia was also nominated.

Volunteer of the Year

“Volunteer of the Year” honors went to Ramon Mendez. Also nominated was Von Renner.

According to presenter Mario Hernandez, Mendez has been an “ambassador of the Ceres community” and cited how he attends and helps out at numerous events. Mendez assists with Chamber of Commerce and Ceres Rotary Club events, “Love Ceres,” the Highway 99 Clean-up Campaign and the “Every 15 Minutes” anti-drunk driving program at Ceres high schools.

Ramon Mendez.jpg
Ramon Mendez was given “Volunteer of the Year” honors. - photo by Jeff Benziger

“Ramon is what is called a connector,” said Hernandez. “He enjoys talking and connecting business owners. If you need help, Ramon usually has a referral for you. He is always there to support various programs and activities throughout the community and is always willing to lend a helping hand, whether it’s helping to sell tickets, set up or clean after events, pick up trash around town – no matter the task big or small – Ramon is always there to help.”

As an employee at the Ceres Chapel of Franklin & Downs, Mendez has provides help and inspiration to people in their loss, said Hernandez. He has been known to runs errands for sick friends or offer rides to doctor’s appointments for those unable to drive their selves.

Downtown Business feted

The Chamber bestowed its “Downtown Business of the Year” award on Delhart’s Home Furnishings. Former Mayor Jim Delhart accepted the award.

The award is given to the business that has one or more of the following characteristics: growth for job creation and revenue, proven exemplary customer service, involvement in the Ceres community and demonstrative of supporting the Ceres economy.

Delhart has operated his furniture businesses in Ceres for 63 years “in good times and in bad,” noted presenter and Chamber director Brandy Meyer.

“Jim will tell you when times were tough he adjusted his prices to reflect the tough economy. When times were good he still offered the best prices in town for furniture. But what he may not tell you is that in both good times and bad he prayed a lot – he prayed for our community.”

Jim Delhart.jpg
Jim Delhart accepts the “Downtown Business of the Year” award on Delhart’s Home Furnishings. Behind him are Mike Kline and Ken Lane. - photo by Jeff Benziger

The former mayor and councilman has supported Teen Challenge and local sober living houses for men, often employing them for deliveries and general labor.

Meyer also thanked Delhart for improving downtown through façade improvements still underway on Fourth Street buildings he owns.

“Without the blessings of God in my life, I would be nothing, but God said I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” said Delhart. He joked that someone who drove by the store spotted him and didn’t recognize him because he didn’t have a mattress on his head.

Delhart said while he lost his wife 13 months he still has his “best friend Jesus.”

“I’m not slowing down. In fact, I’m gonna speed up because I don’t have much time left so I’ve got to do all I can do in the time. I’m 83 years old but God has blessed me to no end.”

He thanked the Ceres community supporting him for 63 years.

Ceres Dry Cleaners was also considered for the award.

Business of the Year

Blaker Brewing was bestowed with the “Business of the Year” honor.

Blaker Brewing, located at 1063 Montclaire Drive, Ceres, celebrated its first year of its craft brewery in Ceres.

“Tom Lucas and Don Clark had the foresight to restructure a long-time family dairy business that in today’s world is faced with many challenges,” said presenter and Chamber Vice President Shella Joiner. 

Tom Lucas Blaker Brewing.jpg
Tom Lucas accepts “Business of the Year” honor for his Blaker Brewing. - photo by Jeff Benziger

“Blaker Brewing has demonstrated a strong and successful path to developing working relationships with other Ceres businesses by providing distribution to our local stores and restaurants. Blaker Brewing has also voluntarily contributed to many activities throughout Ceres and the county to benefit local non-profits, fundraising events and service clubs.”

Blaker Brewing continues to experience revenue growth and expansion, and soon plans to open a second location in Atwater.

Tom Lucas thanked his supportive wife for standing by his side, and his father who decided to go with his plans to branch out from the family farm based operation. He also thanked his employees and the Chamber.

“We love that Ceres is where we brought our business,” said Lucas. “I hope to get more of you. It’s an awesome community; it is unlike any other.”

Luxury Limousine and Supermom’s Frozen Yogurt & More were also nominated for the award.

‘Young Citizen of Year’

Jhaala Coleman-Curry received the “Young Citizen of the Year” honor.

The Young Citizen of the Year Award is presented to a young person who has devoted exceptional service to the Ceres community. The requirements for this award include that the nominee must be within the ages of 11 and 18 and reside within the Ceres Unified School District.

“Jhaala Curry has shown she loves her city of Ceres,” said Samantha Hill, the 2017 recipient of the award.  “The amount of all the volunteer work she has done, in such a short amount of time, is very impressive. She is very focused and dedicated to doing what is good for her community. She enjoys going out and educating fellow teens and she possesses a ‘can-do’ attitude that so many of us wish we had around us – all the time.”

Curry carries a 3.8 GPA and is a member of the Hope Club where she helps to inspires teens. She is a member of PHAST Club where she serves as a public speaker educating people on how they can stop the use of tobacco. She is one of 30 students selected to be a part of the Stanislaus County Office of Education’s 2017-18 Leadership Academy. Through the Academy she has volunteered feeding the less fortunate at the Salvation Army, assisting Community Hospice with their Hope Chest and volunteering for the Police Academy League’s 25th Anniversary Celebration. She interned for former Congressman Jeff Denham

This year, Jhaala will be a sixth grade camp counselor in the spring, she is a member of the Ceres Rotary IMPACT Club and serves in the C.A.M.P. Program which gives her the opportunity to go into elementary schools and help teach.

Legacy Award

The Legacy award, designated for individuals and/or businesses that have contributed through service, support or volunteer efforts to the Ceres community for more than 40 years, was given to GDR Engineering. Also nominated was Stuart David Fine Furniture.

Paul Huckaba of Bronco Wine Company presented the award and said the locally-owned business has helped shape the Ceres community and Valley. GDR Engineering opened its doors in 1978 and has provided extensive engineering services for both private and public projects. Private projects have ranged from residential development of all sizes, to large commercial and industrial business parks. Additionally, GDR has engineered many public works projects ranging from small road projects to large infrastructure studies and city master plans.

Max Garcia Larry Lew.jpg
Max Garcia and Larry Lew accept the Legacy Award for their long-operating Ceres business, GDR Engineering. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Their experience and expertise in the industry has allowed GDR to develop strong working relationships with local municipalities, as well as small and large developers.

Founders Larry Lew and Max Garcia accepted the award.

“It’s great and the firm is going to be here to serve the area forever,” said Lew, a former city manager and city engineer.

Installation of officers

The event also served as the installation and swearing-in of new Ceres Chamber Board of directors. Herman Bhatti, who was attending a wedding in India, was installed as the new president of the Chamber and is taking over from Juan Romo.

“It’s been a great 12 months,” said Romo. “I am very proud of our board. We’ve done a lot of great things and I know that this year the new incoming president and vice president are going to do even greater things.”

Shella Joiner became the new vice president. John Curtis is treasurer and new directors are Raj Bhuller of Lucky Star Logistics; Jason Chapman of GDR Engineering; Darlene Collier of Wells Fargo Bank; Mario Hernandez of Enterprise Rent-A-Car; Lea Ann Hoogestraat of Hoogestraat Consulting; Paul Huckaba of Bronco Wine Company; Donna Lambert of Save Mart Supermarket; and Brandy Meyer of Meyer CPR & First Aid.

Waiting on tables were Ceres FFA members. 

Swearing in Chamber.jpg
Sharing laughs over a miscue of the oath during their swearing in are Chamber of Commerce officials (left to right), Brandy Meyer, Donna Lambert, Raj Bhuller, Jason Chapman, Paul Huckaba, Shella Joiner and Mario Hernandez. - photo by Jeff Benziger