The Annual Distinguished Citizens Awards Banquet is held in January each year. It is considered the official introduction of the Board Chair for the new year. The evening features the previous year’s accomplishments as well as the coming year’s priorities and goals. This year, over 300 community, county and state leaders and business representatives attended. It is a gala evening with an excellent meal, highlighting the “Outstanding Citizens of the Year”

Barbara Pizzola

Barbara Pizzola

Outstanding Woman of the Year

"Our Woman of the Year has been in our community for years and not sitting idling we may add! Her family started a small business in The Dalles over 40 years ago and was an essential service for many of us here in our community but also to many that were even outside of Wasco County. As most of you know running a small business takes dedication, hard work, endless hours, and the ability to please your customers with service. Our honoree has all those qualities and she never turned down an opportunity to help.
She volunteers for many events and organizations. You might see her serving in a beer garden, helping with serving chili or burgers food at a fundraiser, coordinating from the behind the scenes to help keep an organization running, or you may even see her in our Court Systems being a much-needed advocate for our Youth with CASA. She is willing to help wherever she can! She is truly TOUGH ENOUGH and willing to do anything she sets her heart too. We love that she is willing to put on that Pink Shirt and do about anything it takes to raise money for our community. Her nominee stated this “Barb goes at 110% percent and gives of herself and time to the community. Her and the other members of the Fort Dalles Rodeo’s Tough Enough to Wear Pink agree and thru their efforts were able to raise funds to help bring two Digital Mammography Machines to MCMC, along with providing vital funding to the Breast Health for Strong Families Program providing mammograms to local people that qualify.
This year Barbara had to make, what seems to be the hardest decision in your business career … what was next for A’s Sewing Shop? After 40 years it was time for her to close the business and move on … NOT OUT of The Dalles though. You will find her working in town, being an awesome grandma, and a loving and supportive mom … all the while still rolling up her sleeves while getting things done for our community."

Jim Wilcox

Jim Wilcox

Outstanding Man of the Year

"Our visionary has been very active all his life with serving others and his community. He began at a local credit serving its customers with their amazing ‘we can do this’ attitude. As he grew in our community so did his leadership and service. His new career in helping people transition from home to home just fit him so well and The Dalles. He always puts his clients first and makes sure they are taken care of no-matter-what! He has been recognized by both his region and the state for his work, leadership, and service to others
But our Man of the Year doesn’t just serve in his career, as all our honorees tonight, but he has given of himself both in time and financially. He was given a second chance in life and when he survived, he came back with a stronger passion for life and people. He had a vision of what our community could become.
He has traveled to Salem and Washington DC to advocate for local concerns, issues, and ideas!!! He has been a part of so many elements that make our community amazing and our home! He has served our city by being involved with our airport for over 27 years. His desire to see our community connected led him to be a strong part of the Sister City program and he continues that involvement even today. He is very active with The Dalles Lions Club but some of you may not know that he served as a baseball coach for 24 years and a referee on the wrestling mats for 30 years! He has done it all from making doughnuts to singing in a barbershop quartet and all in the name of The Dalles and still makes sure that our local foster children have an annual Christmas Party!
We have been told that he has a fearless and dedicated attitude and we agree as it takes just that to serve as a previous Mayor of The Dalles."

Courtney Kiser

Courtney Kiser

Outstanding Educator of the Year

"Educator of the Year is recognition to one of the teachers in our area. It is not determined by accomplishments, being published, or winning at state. It is a nomination of people who have changed your heart, given you a longing for education, caused you to change your stars in life and tonight’s winner has accomplished just that.
They have been active and engaged in our community for a very long time. They have been teaching for 40+ years and coaching every sport they can. If you go to any high school sports games, you’ll usually see them quietly watching and supporting our community.
Normally, at this point, I continue the story and make you guess but instead, I am going to read quotes from our community about this teacher who has given his heart to the community and the students. Many times, teachers don’t know until years later, and sometimes they never know, that they had an impact on a student’s life so tonight I want this teacher to hear the impact they had on our community and many families …

“For a lot of us, he’s been one of our favorite teachers and coaches as his compassion is incomparable.”

“You coached us in 8th grade, and you just made it an all-around fun time!”

“We have always been impressed by his attitude, volunteerism, love for students and community!”
“He is one of the corner stones of my childhood when I look back.”
“You were an amazing 2nd grade teacher.”
“He is one of the most giving people I have known. His kind heart and love of the children in our community is unmatched. “
“My grandson just loves you so much. Thank you for being so kind.”
“He has been so wonderful to my clan through the years! Such an amazing teacher who has given so much of his time, humor, love and dedication to this community. If you ask my kids, they will tell you even to this day he was one of his favorite teachers. Seeing him show up to watch my kids play sports made each of them smile! Big hugs and love from all of us”
“You will always hold a special part in my whole family’s heart. From me to all 3 of my children, my nieces and any other families or youth you have stood behind and supported! Bless you always.”
“What a truly wonderful person who has given so much of himself to others. You, to this day remain the most kick ass teacher I’ve ever had, and I can think of no one more deserving of this gesture of “giving back” from the community. Thank you for making my middle school years so much fun, and memorable. You deserve the world!”
“He was my inspiration to become teacher. He makes learning fun and is engaged with each and every student! He is a terrific man and he deserves so much! He is loved by so many! “
“He’s the most genuine person and teacher. So, giving, caring, loving, and kind! He deserves the world!”
“You have always had a very special place in my kid’s lives growing up. Seeing you at almost every sporting event we go to, speaks to your unwavering commitment to the youth of our community. Thank you for your kindness, encouragement and being such a caring, positive role model. My kids could not have made a better choice for the officiant at their wedding! You will forever be a part of their special day and in the heart of this community. We love you!”
“Our son was so excited that next year he was to have Mr. Kiser as his teacher. When Mr. Kiser announced he would be retiring at the end of the year that whole class begged and pleaded and even got a petition going asking him to stay one more year. Mr. Kiser stayed one more year”

Jacob Field

Jacob Field

Outstanding Youth of the Year

"Each year we have the privilege of honoring a student that has gone above and beyond for their community and this year’s honoree has done just that for our area, the schools, and our community.
Our student volunteers on a regular basis and does it with intention and purpose to make a difference in everything they do. I had the honor of meeting our Student a few years ago and was so impressed with his level of collaboration, leadership, ingenuity, and creativity on a team. I was thrilled that he was nominated along with other amazing students and I was equally excited that he was chosen to receive this award tonight (no – the committee does not let me vote, sway, or try one of my sales tactics on them for their decisions).
Our student has a specific interest and wants to make sure our elementary schools, fellow students, and our community have opportunities to learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). They help organize maker camps at our local elementary schools and at our awesome Wasco County Library (which if you haven’t been you need to go … it is not the library that we knew growing up, it is much cooler than we could have ever imagined).
Our student worked on a very special project this year that made a very big difference for a special and amazing student. He was a part of a special task force that consisted of four 18-year-old students that worked on research, design, building, programming, and testing a very unique and specialized gaming controller for a Columbia High School student, Garcia with Cerebral Palsy. Their goal was to create a controller that allowed Jose Garcia to enjoy a gaming experience equal to his peers, despite the motor function limitations he faces with Cerebral Palsy … wow, just wow! Our student also has an internship with the STEM Hub here in the gorge which allows him to continue his passion for mentoring our younger students on a consistent basis. He has volunteered at many of the Robotics competitions and help host them too. These tournaments bring people from all over Oregon to our city. The talent of our youth today is amazing, and I am so proud of our kids and what they are creating and accomplishing while still in school that is making impacts on our world!
I am so glad that I had the opportunity to have seen our Student of the Year in action when he was a part of the Bazinga Bots with The Dalles High School and can’t wait to see what he creates next!"

Project ELFF

Project ELFF

Outstanding First Responder of the Year

In 1986 an idea was conceived that would help support a need in our community. It took collaboration, vision, many community partners, and many phone calls to each other. This idea came to life shortly thereafter and it is still going strong today due to all the partnerships, the community, and an unmeasurable amount of passion.
Over the course of time participation has grown and today there are some new partners, some of the same, but still the same drive to help support the community. Many of you have heard of this idea which has become an annual project that truly does support and helps many in our community.
This project first took place on the evenings of the first Tuesday and Wednesday of December. Volunteers gathered to canvas the East Side of The Dalles during the first night and then reconvened on the second night to canvas the Westside. Over time, it expanded to include the first Thursday in December where volunteers gather to collect food in the communities of Dallesport and Murdock.
The Command core leaders take charge of the entire event. Planning and organization begin in early September and continues up to and beyond the food collection event. Prior to the actual event, assigned volunteers go to local businesses to ask for cash donations. The money donated is used to purchase food items to add to the food pantries.
During the big event, fire apparatus hit the streets to announce their presence in area neighborhoods with lights and sirens going and their assigned volunteers canvassing door-to-door collecting non-perishable food for local food banks. Local assisted living facilities donate resources and time to help transport community volunteers from area to area. The food collected by this project first goes to the drop point at Meadow Outdoor Advertising who donates space for this purpose. The food is counted and sorted on-site by The Dalles Lions Club each evening. The food is later stored at the Salvation Army. On the third evening, the same process takes place over in Dallesport and Murdock where the food is collected, taken to the Dallesport Fire Station for sorting a counting and used locally to help community members in need.
This longtime program collects an average of 16-17,000 food units annually however as many as 23,000 food items have been gathered to help those in need from around the community. Food donations are distributed between the Salvation Army and St. Vincent De Paul to fill Christmas food baskets for some 250 families in town and stock the food pantries for future use. This project is always a big boost to the inventory for the Salvation Army and St. Vincent’s and a tremendous help to those in need.
An army of staff and volunteers is needed each year to keep this annual event organized, on track and successful. A total of 152 community volunteer collectors, 27 MCFR volunteers, 25 Dallesport Fire volunteers, 5 MCFR Administrative Staff, and members from The Dalles Lions Club, Salvation Army, and St. Vincent De Paul turn out for this community event. As many of you are familiar with this project and most likely guessed early on … we are grateful for all the work this organization has done for 33 years and continues to do for our area.

Eunice Denudt

Eunice Denudt

Outstanding Volunteer of the Year

"Our volunteer of the year had a different beginning in The Dalles. She didn’t live in our community from the beginning but moved here to be with family.
She has been described as one that does not sit idly and always has the need to serve others. I also learned that she also has a bit of a sweet tooth and one of her favorite stops is Momma Jane’s to enjoy that coconut syrup, a woman after my own heart!
She’s admired because of her strong faith in God and she is a woman who firmly believes that she is here for a purpose and a vision … to help others. She hasn’t always been able to do for others and had to ask for help just a few years ago. She had suffered a stroke that left her, temporarily, not able to walk or talk. She had to rely on others to help her relearn to walk and talk and during that time an act of kindness spoke to her and it truly gave her comfort and peace. She decided that when she had regained her speech and her ability to walk that she was going to make sure that others would receive that same gift and hope that it would give them the same comfort.
So, she began her quest to do just that. She still uses an oxygen tank, her arthritis in her hands makes it difficult, and she is on a low fixed income BUT THAT DIDN’T STOP our honoree. She made a plan and she has stuck to it for a little over 3 years now. She has now crocheted over 150 cozy blankets that she delivers to Columbia Basin for each of their welcome baskets, she says she could make more, but she does this while she watches tv and she only crochets during the commercials.
Each resident now has a blanket that has been handmade, with a lot of love and prayer, with the hopes that it will give them the same comfort it did for her. (I just want to go and buy her some more yarn now). She never forgot the wonderful feeling it gave her to have something handmade just for her during her rehabilitation and the many moments of feeling down or frustrated.
Now we know that our honoree, like so many of you out there tonight, doesn’t like attention for her acts of kindness as she is doing this from her heart, but that is what tonight is all about! Our community gets to say THANK YOU to so many for all they do for our area."

John & Pat Clausen, Carlton & Pam Clausen, Gary & Susan Brown

John & Pat Clausen, Carlton & Pam Clausen, Gary & Susan Brown

Outstanding Agriculture Achievement of the Year

"Tonight, our theme is Visionaries of our time and I can’t think of a better type of operation that defines visionary than agriculture. We are going to start way back to four generations ago when the landowner had the vision and plan to create something that would be sustainable now and into the future. Farming can be hard work but also a type of work that is dependent on weather, seasons, schedules, and the market. It is a daily risk-taking endeavor whether it is wheat, cherries, grapes, or seed crops. Farmers must have passion, intention, purpose, and a plan!
This operation did all that while accomplishing something great that is not common in today’s operations. This family-run operation has combined 6 family operations to be independent of -each other and yet working altogether. You have siblings that married into other farming families and thus expanding to 6 farms under one workforce, and when we say force we mean a strong family unit that strives to stay together and work together no matter what. In today’s world, many of the children of farms often go off to college and choose to leave the farming operations behind and began a new career away from their hometown. This family defies that norm ... the kids have come back and are just as involved as their parents.
The operation consists of wheat and cattle and has taken risks along the way to keep it sustainable. Some of those risks have consisted of actually moving all your operations to a different land due to poor soil conditions but not really knowing if the new land is going to produce at the level you had hoped. The past County Extension Agent really respected the family as they were willing to work with the extension to try new things and they were willing to be a test pilot for new practices. This operation was always an early adapter of new methods and their agent loved working with them for just that reason, well besides, that they were just really nice folks. Some of those adoptions that were outside of farming were spouses going to work full time during the lean times to help support the families. You do what you need to do to survive and you do it just because it is the right thing to do. I have enjoyed learning what each of these families has done outside of their daily farming practices … they have been instrumental in helping with 4H clubs, FFA, serving on the Wasco County Extension Advisory, 4H judging, involvement in the Wasco County Fair, and one of them was even our Cherry Queen in 1967. They have served on local non-profits boards and helped with organizations that serve our communities. In other words, even though they are busy enough with farming they have made it their mission to also serve their communities.
When talking to their children it was awesome to hear the pride that each one had for their parents and the entire family operation. They mentioned qualities like humble, honest, self-motivated, hard workers and when there is a need to get something done, you can count on all of them, and their parents never spoke wrongly about anyone.
One of them even shared a little funny story and I just have to share it too. One of the siblings is pretty much terrified of cute little grasshoppers because her brothers used to throw them on her when she was little. She still dislikes them to this day, the grasshoppers not her brothers.
I am so honored to recognize this entire family operation and would like to introduce to you all those who have the passion to carry on the vision of their grandparents and parents while instilling their values in their children so that they can continue …"

Spooky’s Pizza

Spooky’s Pizza

Outstanding Business of the Year

"Our business of the year began in 1966. It has changed a bit since then and it has changed in ownership, but one thing remains the same … passion to serve the community with customer service, fun, and an excellent product that the team is proud to serve!
The big change began in 1999 when a phone call and an offer that couldn’t be refused was accepted by the new owners, so after 16 years, this business opened its doors once again to The Dalles. Although some of the community had its doubts about maintaining a successful restaurant so far from the local city center, it was a gamble worth taking. But With a perfect combination of organization, creativity, passion for quality, customer service, and some old-fashioned hard work, this family has successfully spent the last 20 years ensuring that their customers have left the restaurant satisfied and a craving for more. Alongside them was their son, who began bussing tables at the age of 12. He has also spent his 20 years learning and growing in the restaurant. While also watching his parents work to build a community within its doors.
The dad has been in this particular restaurant business for over 40 years. Managing restaurants throughout Oregon, California, and Texas (Go Cowboys!), gaining the restaurant intelligence and experience that he enjoys. After 50years, the original recipes continue to satisfy customers with their unique flavors. This family’s passion is to ensure that the restaurant and its recipes, grow with its community and its customers.
As a family, they thrive on their ability to provide the community and beyond with high-quality ingredients, superior customer service, and consistency.
They give so much back to the community without requesting anything in return. They’ve received several awards from the community but have never received one personally. Tip a cop, tip a firefighter, habitat for humanity, make a wish foundation, our local schools, and army national guard, just to name a few.
Now growing a 3rd generation within the Stanek family, the support of its employees, and customers who have become family, hold these restaurants walls together.