Volunteers helping Riverbank were honored at the 53rd annual Community Awards Banquet on Saturday at the Community Center.
Organizers recognized the efforts of the Business of the Year, Youth of the Year and Citizen of the Year for their contributions to the quality of life here.
All the nominees deserved credit, officials said, but only one in each category received the honor for 2015.
Eli Vernon, Diane Talbert and Galaxy Theatres took top honors during the evening banquet and ceremony.
Emcee for the evening was Sylvia Jimenez, 2014 Citizen of the Year. The primary duties of the Citizen Of the Year is to conduct the club meetings after selected, then host the Awards Dinner the next year. The awards were presented first to the Business of the Year, then Youth and finally Citizen of the Year.
The Business of the Year honor was presented by newly-elected Chamber of Commerce president Anthony McKinney, who was also nominated as Citizen of the Year.
Business nominees were Galaxy Theatres Luxury+ and Central Valley Community Resources, Inc.
McKinney told the crowd that although the general chamber membership nominated businesses, the board made the final decision. The award went to Galaxy Theatres. Manager Nathan Paul accepted for the chain, which is based in Southern California, opening here 15 years ago. Paul mentioned the coming of the IMAX screen later this year.
He said they’re planning on being able to open on March 25, screening Batman vs Superman.
Next up was the announcement of Riverbank Youth of the Year.
As they came forward, Jimenez told the audience of the accomplishments of each nominee as mentioned on their nomination papers. Jimenez said Tim Brown has been involved in every community service activity the football team participated in and his work ethic and integrity are above average. She said he has shown his leadership and character in his actions on his team. Valleri Gobel is a member of the Riverbank Teen Action Committee for several years, she said. The group is involved with the Teen Center, among other activities. Also, she has been instrumental in getting RHS Drama students to volunteer at the Haunted Halloween Hayride at Jacob Myers Park in October. Also, she serves as Ricky Raccoon or Dusty the Downtown Dog during special events sponsored by the city.
Nathaniel Martinez is extremely involved in helping the community through his church activities. He participates in extracurricular activities at school, earns good grades, plays sports and is well respected by his peers, Jimenez said. Mikala Stewart was nominated because of her service in activities at school and her work with students with special needs, according to Jimenez.
Eli Vernon helps coach youth basketball, working with 8- and 9-year-olds, teaching basic skills. He is active in his Boy Scout troop where he volunteers in community cleanups and assists in projects serving the elderly, in city programs and food drives.
Always a ‘dramatic’ addition to any event he’s participating in, Vernon was dressed in a top hat, bow tie and vested suit, resembling the Mad Hatter character from Alice in Wonderland.
The nominees are all Riverbank High School seniors. They will receive a scholarship for their efforts as they move on to further their education after graduation.
Vernon was named 2015’s Youth of the Year. He made his acceptance speech comments to the audience in a Seuss-like verse presumably written earlier, perhaps while dinner was being served.
Finally, Jimenez called up the nominees for 2015 Citizen of the Year.
They included Pastor Elias Cordova, Chamber President Anthony McKinney and Diane Talbert, Secretary of the Riverbank Chapter of Royal Neighbors of America #9890.
Talbert was nominated for her efforts providing a free luncheon for local Veterans each November, reactivating a former yearly event that now has been held for the past seven years.
McKinney was nominated for his volunteer time as a City Planning Commissioner and member of the Mayor’s Budget Advisory Committee, among other efforts.
Pastor Cordova was nominated for his assistance with serving the homeless in Riverbank.
Talbert was selected as 2015 Citizen of the Year, and will head the MOY/COY club for the coming year. She’ll also serve as the Grand Marshal of the Christmas Parade in December.
The first ‘Man of the Year’ in Riverbank was honored in 1962, Bruce Blakely the original recipient. Soon, women were being nominated and selected for the recognition, so it became necessary to change the name of the club, but those who had already been named MOY wished to retain that designation, so it became the MOY/COY club — Man of the Year/Citizen of the Year.
Former City Councilman and Mayor Allen Trawick (1965) is the oldest surviving club member.
After the dinner and award announcements, the committee held drawings to give away the prizes that had been donated by members of the club and local businesses, raising the funds necessary to provide the scholarships to the Youth of the Year.