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McKay named Citizen of the Year
Ultimate volunteer in Ceres for over 50 years
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Dick McKay rises to his feet as wife Isabel McKay smiles in approval when he was announced as the Citizen of the Year at Friday evenings banquet. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Richard McKay, a longtime Ceres resident, retired Sheriff's captain and community servant for over 50 years was honored with the 2015 Citizen of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award at Friday evening's Community Service Awards & Installation Dinner. The 47th annual event was held at the Ceres Community Center.

McKay was chosen by past award recipients and was introduced by last year's recipient, Rocky Fisher, with the help of Jeff Malone.

"I don't really know how this person has escaped not being Citizen of the Year this long," said Fisher, who has known McKay for over 35 years. He described McKay as the "ultimate description of the word volunteer" and noted that he has given over 50 years of service to clubs, schools and the youth of Ceres. McKay has been volunteering at Harvest Presbyterian Church for over 40 years.

"That is why any time anyone needs help with a project this person is one of the first people to go to," said Malone of McKay. "As a parent, a grandparent, along with a great spouse, they have instilled in their kids the same drive to serve their community and as a family have pledged and given thousands of hours of service to Ceres."

"This is a fantastic honor," said a surprised McKay who immediately launched into a warning to "never play cards with Lisa Mantarro Moore." He explained that Moore called him a month ago to make sure wife Isabel would be present and explained that their daughter Shawna Nunes was being honored to keep him from catching on to his impending recognition.

"I was once a deputy sheriff and thought I was pretty perceptive," said McKay. "It's a good thing I'm retired today.

"Thank you very, very much. I really appreciate this honor."

The Chamber allowed the community to vote through its website on the remainder of the awards given out Friday evening. Over 500 ballots were tallied.

Lonny Davis, owner of Davis Guest Home, active member of the Rotary Club of Ceres and humanitarian through Hope Haven West, was selected to receive the Distinguished Service Award. Others nominated for the honor were county Supervisor Jim DeMartini and Courier newspaper editor Jeff Benziger.

Davis has a passion to help the world's poor and collects and refurbishes wheelchairs and distributes them to the poor. It's been estimated that he helped provide mobility to 10,000 over the past decade. He also serves on the Stanislaus County Homeless Task Force and is a member of the Ceres Police Department's Community Advisory Council. Davis also contributes to many worthwhile causes in the Ceres area.

Davis said it was ironic that he was receiving an award given that he was once considered "the bad boy of Ceres." He said a "spiritual collision" at age 19 converted him from being "Al Capone to Mother Teresa in a 24-hour period. All my friends thought I had gotten ahold of bad acid."

Lisa Mantarro Moore was named the "Volunteer of the Year." Others nominated were the American Legion Post #491 and Lou Toste, president of Ceres Youth Soccer Organization.

"Lisa Mantarro Moore is the epitome of volunteerism," said Ceres Chamber of Commerce President Renee Ledbetter.

She has been involved in the planning and management of the Ceres Street Faire for over 15 years, leads the Clinton Whitmore Mansion Foundation and chaired the Ceres Chamber's Political Action Committee which promoted passage of Measure E on the November ballot to double the Transient Occupancy Tax. Moore also helps the Ceres High School Boosters Club and is an active member of Habitat for Humanity, League of Women Voters and Soroptimist International of Ceres. She is also a member of the Stanislaus County Family Justice Center Foundation.

"Well this is indeed an honor to be in the room of the people who have helped built this community, just gives me great pride," said Moore, an aide with state Assemblyman Adam Gray. "Every year I get to come here because I'm so fortunate I get to work in a field where my boss lets me do all the fun stuff I like to do in and around my work day."

Exit Realty Consultants was named "Business of the Year." The criteria for the honor includes one of more of the following characteristics: exceptional growth and creation of jobs, revenue growth, innovation of products or services, provides exemplary customer service, volunteers in the community, demonstrates economic support in the Ceres area business community.

Supermom's Frozen Yogurt was also nominated for the honor.

EXIT Realty opened in 2011 and franchise owner/broker Kris Klair has believed in giving back to the community. A portion of each transaction is donated to Habitat for Humanity. For the past three years the business has also offered a Giving Tree program that has supplied over 250 Christmas gifts for underprivileged children. It also hosts an annual barbecue in October to raise funds for a local cancer foundation at Emanuel Medical Center.

Klair praised the Chamber under the direction of Ledbetter, one of his agents.

"We'll always be giving back to the community as much as we possibly can," said Klair.

Sole Save Shoe Repair was bestowed with the "Downtown Business of the Year" award. Located on Fourth Street for many years, the business is known for the repair of shoes and boot, baseball gloves, belts and handbags. Cobbler Frank Cardenas has been known to repair and donate shoes to the needy. His business also offers an outreach apprenticeship to men.

Cardenas, 69, engaged the audience with remarks that drew laughter. He said he grew up in Ensenada, Mexico, and came to the United States with little education or skills. Frank shined shoes but found the work disappointing. While working in Stockton he was trained how to repair shoes. He came to Modesto because his wife was called to be a pastor in Ceres while he took over Leo's Shoe Repair in Manteca.

"I'm here because the Lord has been good to me," said Cardenas. "I'm really proud, I'm really humbled to be living in Ceres and have my business in Ceres."

He mentioned that his clever business name has a double meaning in that he is out to save human souls as well as shoe soles.

Ceres Dry Cleaners was also a nominee.

Michael Thompson was selected as the "Young Citizen of the Year." Kendall Meyer was also nominated for the honor.

A member of the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Corps, Michael was presented the Theodore Roosevelt Youth Medal for Outstanding Performance of Duty and named the Cadet of the Year in 2014. He had consistently earned straight-A grades at Blaker Kinser Junior High School where he earned the Presidential Academic award. Now at Central Valley High School, Michael regularly volunteers for the Ceres Woman's Club, the "Love Ceres" event and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He logs in an average of 100 hours of volunteer service annually. He also participated in the Academic Decathlon, and Honor Band member. Thompson earned second, third and fourth place ribbons at the Science Olympiad.

In accepting the honor, he thanked teachers, best friends and his parents and great-grandmother Evelyn Edwards for helping him along.

The "Service Club of the Year" award went to the Center for Human Services/Ceres Partnership. Other groups nominated were the Ceres Garden Club, Ceres Masonic Center, Ceres Rotary Club, Soroptimist International of Ceres and the Howard Training Center and Love Ceres.

Known simply as the Ceres Partnership, the organization serves families on a daily basis, provides emergency services such as food, clothing and utility bill assistance. It was started as a community collaborative and was incorporated into the Center for Human Services nearly 12 years ago. The group offers school readiness classes, nutrition classes, art classes, clinical services to focus on depression or behavioral issues and a food pantry in conjunction with the Salvation Army. The group also helps to put on a Thanksgiving Dinner to 500 families each November, gives gifts to children during the holidays and puts on a community baby shower during the Love Ceres event. The Partnership recently moved from downtown Ceres to Grandview Avenue.

Jennifer Rangel accepted the honor and thanked the community for assisting "strengthen the families here in hopes of strengthening Ceres."

Superior Fruit Ranch was given the 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.

Alfonso's Mexican Grill was nominated for the honor.

Superior started in 1906 when Fred Moffet and E.S. Welch purchased 320 acres on Whitmore Avenue between Ceres and Hughson. His daughter, Margaret Long, assumed office duties in the 1950s. In 1955 Margaret's son Sid Long became the ranch foreman and later the corporation's president, a position he still holds today. Like his grandpa, Sid served on the Turlock Irrigation District board of directors. His son, Scott Long, went off to college but returned as foreman and general manager. The ranch is known for giving back to the community, such as helping to develop Ceres Unified School District's student farm at Hidahl Elementary School.

"Legacy, to me, first means that we're getting older," joked Scott Long. "It's also the fact that my family has wanted to be proactive in the community and it's been beneficial."

Sid Long took a moment to say "it's been great growing up in Ceres, going to school, living here, a lot of good people, a lot of good friends and we just look forward to a lot more good years."

The banquet also saw the installation of new Chamber directors Narinder Bahia, Becki Barton-Nicholes, Geri Lewis, Lea Ann Hoogestraat, Juan Romo, David Gonzales and Benjamin Sivils and treasurer John "J.C." Curtis. The Board of Directors has voted to re-elect Renee Ledbetter as president and Helen Condit as vice president, each to another two-year term. Outgoing board members were recognized.

Chamber president Renee Ledbetter played a video presentation on work the Chamber is doing in the community. She said the Chamber's goal this year is to increase the number of businesses connected to local students and graduates "creating job training through internships and increasing employment opportunities in Ceres and the surrounding area, with a particular focus on agriculture."

Ledbetter said the Chamber will also be partnering with Ceres Unified School District to launch a new Business Academy program designed to help the Adult Education program and Project YES and the community "in helping those who have a dream of entrepreneurship." Guidance will be given to existing business persons or those who want to go into business on developing a business plan, securing small business loans or other resources. Wells Fargo, California State University Stanislaus and the Alliance are partners in the program.

She noted how the Chamber initiated the electronic Certificate of Origin program in 2014 and have processed over 1,300 in 2015. The documents certify a country's country of origin for the exporting country. One company using the service is HM Clause, which breeds, produces and sells vegetable seeds to growers worldwide. Ledbetter said the program has grown by word of mouth.

Ledbetter also announced that the annual Smoke on the River barbecue event will be sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.

"It's not only going to be an honor to be able to call our event a KCBS event but it's going to have a huge impact on our community," said Ledbetter. "It's going to capture major attention, it's going to be good for our economy, it's going to be good for business attraction and it's going to be good for tourism. Yes, I said tourism. People are going to come to Ceres!"

She also noted that the Ceres Street Faire, set for May 7-8, will be bringing back the Saturday parade.

The event featured an auction conducted by C.J. Brantley, an auctioneer with Pacific Auction Company of Davis. Items up for auction included an Anderson Valley Wine Country Ridge-top Vacation Home in Mendocino County; and a vacation stay in a private condo in Los Cabos, Mexico; as well as autographed sports memorabilia.

The Chamber had on display outside the Community Center the 2016 Ford F-150 Super Crew 4x4 truck that it plans on giving away at this year's Ceres Street Faire in May. Only 650 raffle tickets, costing $100 each, will be sold for the first-time giveaway now until the Street Faire. The truck has been provided by Country Ford Trucks of Ceres. Proceeds will go to Chamber operations and scholarship fund.