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Community Award Winners Named

A mother-daughter pair swept the boards at the Riverbank Community Awards Banquet. Norma Torres-Manriquez was chosen 2007 Citizen of the Year and her daughter Daisy Torres named Youth of the Year - while County Bank was recognized as Business of the Year.

After her teen daughter's raised hands and squeal of delight at winning, Norma's speech was comparatively subdued and County Bank branch manager Carla Strong's speech of acceptance almost formal.

Lulled with music, food and wine, the crowd that gathered at the Community Center on Saturday evening was in a genial mood and clapped warmly as officials called nominees to the stand and listed their accomplishments.

Recognizing voluntary contributions to the community, the Citizen of the Year and Youth of the Year awards are based on nominations from the public and decided by a ballot of the Man of the Year/Citizen of the Year (MOY/COY) Club. Consisting of previous winners, the club was founded in 1962 and made its first award to Bruce Blakely.

The Chamber of Commerce chooses the Business of the Year, also by a ballot of its members.

Nominees for the Citizen of the Year were Karate for Kids Academy owner Scott Pettit, Healthy Start Director Esther Rosario and Torres-Manriquez, a Social Services specialist for the city.

The five nominees for the Youth of the Year prize are all seniors at Riverbank High School and included Patricia Albor, Kelly Erazo, Alfredo Sanchez, Adriana Vigil and Torres.

Three businesses were nominated for Business of the Year, namely Starbucks coffee shop at Patterson and Oakdale roads managed by Desiree Stanton; the County Bank branch in Crossroads managed by Carla Strong; and Rio Arts, the local group formed to promote the visual and performing arts and represented Saturday by its director Shawn Strohman.

Joe Galindo, 2006 recipient of MOY/COY award, made the presentation to Torres-Manriquez, last year's Youth of the Year Vivian Studebaker congratulated the younger Torres and Chamber of Commerce official John Cox honored Strong.

"Norma (Torres-Manriquez) is the epitome of someone who volunteers for the love of helping others with no thought of recognition for her efforts," said the nomination for Citizen of the Year Torres-Manriquez.

For a number of years, she has instructed youth in Ballet Folklorico and Mexican native dances and taken them to competitions; she has guided youngsters through her church work and teaches catechism each week. She has led fundraising for the Riverbank High School band and color guard. Her other volunteer activities include the Salvation Army Extension Unit, the Beyond Earth Day event and the annual Cheese and Wine Exposition.

Youth of the Year Torres belongs to the Riverbank High color guard, cheerleading squad and volleyball team, according to her nomination. She maintains a 3.4 grade point average, is in leadership class and a member of the California Scholastic Federation. Outside of school, Torres belongs to the Ballet Folklorico dance team, teaches catechism at St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church and volunteers for the Cheese and Wine Exposition. She also led a walkers group at Riverbank's first Relay for Life, has served as a sixth grade camp counselor for Cardozo Middle School and helps the Salvation Army distribute toys to needy children.

County Bank, chosen Business of the Year, was established in Merced in 1977 and now has 41 branches including the Riverbank branch opened in June of 2006. Staff members traditionally pledge their time and resources to support community programs. Strong is a local Rotarian who serves as financial director for the club's Cheese and Wine Committee, has been chairperson of the Riverbank Beyond Earth Day event and serves on the Chamber of Commerce board. She and her team participate in the Stanislaus Elder Abuse Prevention Alliance and also provide input to the city's Downtown Redevelopment Committee.