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Strong Takes Top 2009 City Honors
Carla Strong was named 2009 Citizen of the Year while Cynthia Diaz carried off the Youth of the Year honors and Bob Eden's Otter Bob Productions was named Business of the Year during Saturday's Community Awards Banquet sponsored by the Man of the Year/Citizen of the Year Committee, the City of Riverbank and the Riverbank Chamber of Commerce.

Sometimes known as 'Commandant Strong,' according to Esther Rosario who was the previous Citizen of the Year, Strong displays an energy and efficiency in community affairs "which frightens me," said Rosario, but possesses a loving heart that extends sympathy to all.

Coming to the podium to accept the honor, Strong spread her thanks around but choked up in regretting the absence of the one person she most thanked for support - her husband, who died a few months ago.

Covering an extraordinary range of interests, Strong is a Westamerica bank official who currently serves as both president of the Riverbank Chamber of Commerce and the Riverbank Rotary Club but also found time to distribute groceries to the needy and ring a bell for the Salvation Army outside local stores last Christmas.

"Carla is deeply and broadly involved in community activities, service organizations and in one-on-one community development," chamber member Leonard Hansen wrote in his nomination.

She is also active in the Stanislaus Elder Abuse Prevention Alliance and its coffee klatches and flu shots for senior citizens, has chaired Beyond Earth Day for three years, promotes the Adopt A Grandparent program for providing gifts to seniors in a local nursing home, has served on the Downtown Redevelopment Committee and teaches financial responsibility courses to Riverbank High seniors.

Other nominees for Citizen were Dorothy Nygard, a registered nurse who founded Riverbank Community Garden out of concern for the health of fellow citizens, is very involved in Earth Day activities and has testified at City Council meetings on public health issues.

Also nominated was the late James Layton, who was killed in Afghanistan at the age of 22 while serving as a medical corpsman. His parents represented him on the stage and everybody at the dinner rose to their feet and offered a round of applause at the mention of his name.

For the Business of the Year award, Bob Eden of Otter Bob Productions competed against Milli Sanders of The Write Design and Daryl Daniel, who owns the Sno White Drive In. Eden was so busy providing music for the event, taking photographs and announcing the raffle prizes, someone had to pry the camera from his hands so he could accept the Chamber of Commerce award.

Youth of the year Cynthia Diaz was chosen from five Riverbank High seniors, the others being Jessica Arauza, Michael Belluomini, Israel Hernandez and Monica Mendoza.

Diaz is distinguished by her grade point average of 4.33, the highest in the school.

She is a member of the student leadership class, belongs to the Trinity Club, Math Club and Interact Club affiliated with Rotary, is an AP student and participates in sports.

Outside of school, she volunteers for the Cheese & Wine Festival, the city's Spring Clean-Up, After School Program and Reading Is Fundamental and tutors other students in math. She is planning to study pre-law or criminology/criminal justice at the University of California or a private college.

Mayor Virginia Madueno gave the welcome speech, Scott McRitchie led the invocation and County Supervisor Bill O'Brien and representatives from the offices of Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, Senator Dave Cogdill and Congressman George Radanovich presented certificates to the award winners.