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AECs Ernie Brache is Citizen of the Year

Inga Pachukes, Geren's also honored at Chamber Banquet
by: Marcus Hathcock, Citizen of the Year Ernie Brache, left, accepts his award from Chamber Banquet Emcee Bill Bailey.

Avionics Engineering and Consulting Inc. President Ernie Brache is the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year.

Brache, 55, received the honor at the chamber's annual awards banquet held Saturday, Feb. 17, at Persimmon Country Club in Gresham.

'Ernie has gone above and beyond for the community,' said Chamber Director Lynn Cabe. 'Any time a need comes up, he says, 'I'll take care of that.' If anybody deserves this award, it's him.'

Cabe cited Brache's contributions to the annual Hometown Holiday Festival and Parade. Brache donated the use of his company's building as well as 'thousands of dollars' in equipment and other furnishings for the event. Brache's company also prints the chamber newsletter free of charge every month.

Speechless after receiving the award, Brache still was in shock as crews began to clean up the meeting hall after the banquet.

'I'm humbled and honored,' he said. 'When I accepted the plaque, I just had to look around the crowd and say thank you.'

Chamber Board President Lacy Renard - last year's Citizen of the Year - was pleased at the selection of Brache.

'Ernie has done so much over the last several years,' she said. 'He just seems to always be willing to help out with events and sponsorships and volunteering. His company's corporate philosophy seems to be very community-oriented. He's just a very smart, positive, upbeat person who's happy to help out.'

Renard said Brache's leadership has helped foster some of the area's most successful and impacting community efforts. AEC employees conceived both the grassroots fund-raising group Random Acts of Kindness and the Sandy Relay For Life.

Brache moved to Sandy and started AEC in 1984 after moving to the United States from Cuba with his family. The business provides technical manuals to a number of industries, including aerospace, marine and motor coach. With his wife, Rosemary, and son, Marcel, he enlarged the company to one of the largest employers in the Mount Hood corridor; it now has offices in Canada and Germany.

'Ernie is the most perfect family man I've ever met,' Cabe said, 'and he treats all of his employees that way.'

Brache's service hasn't gone unnoticed by the community; he has been nominated for the honor several times before, as has AEC (which won Business of the Year in 2003).

'As I have grown a little older - hopefully a little wiser - I realize that we are part of a community,' Brache said. 'I realized the need to be involved and proactive, and I made a conscious decision in the last few years to help where I can.

'It's easy to be a recipient,' he continued. 'But we have to remember to give and give generously.'

He said he finds himself challenging his colleagues in the Sandy business community to get involved.

Brache said he has especially enjoyed working on the Hometown Holiday Festival, since it's geared toward children and has the potential to build fond memories for generations to come.

'I'd like to see this be something memorable where people can come in 15, 20 years with their children and say they remember when they went to this. We'll watch it grow and be a part of our lives.'

Inga, Gerens, RAK and the can girls

Sandra Jordan of Inga Pachukes accepted the award for Business of the Year, which Renard said the business earned primarily for its leadership in making the multi-business Christmas on the Boulevard event a success.

'It's great to know that somebody's thinking about you and that your business is making some kind of impact,' Jordan said. 'You don't always hear it when you're working in the trenches.'

Geren's Farm Supply won the award for Pioneer Business of the Year, an honor given to businesses that have been in town for at least 15 years.

'This year is the 25th anniversary of Geren's, but aside from that, their business is very supportive of the local FFA/4-H kids,' Renard said. 'They're very supportive of the community.'

The yearly humanities/community service award went to Luke Lyons, Becky Buckelew and Rebecca Monckton of Random Acts of Kindness, the community do-gooders who have helped cancer patients, families who have lost their homes and people in need of food, clothing, water heaters and wheelchairs.

The 'RAK Krewe' was humbled by the honor and quickly diverted attention away from the trio of organizers.

'This award is for anyone who has ever helped RAK or responded to a need through RAK,' Monckton said. 'There's no way we could do it alone.'

Lyons echoed Monckton's sentiments. 'It's not about the three of us,' he said. 'RAK operates on the theory that everyone wants to make the world a better place; they just need a channel to do it. All we are is that channel.'

Sandy High School seniors Lauren Gilbertson and Brenna Hoffman were the first recipients of the chamber's Youth Citizen of the Year award for their leadership during this year's record-shattering canned food drive, which netted 59,123 cans for the Kiwanis Christmas Baskets program.

'It's an honor, and I'm really proud to be serving the community,' Gilbertson said. 'I think it's a privilege for me and Brenna to be the first to accept this award, and we're excited that not only adults and businesses are getting recognized.'

Although humbled by the award, Gilbertson and Hoffman encouraged the community to really investigate to find unsung heroes for next year, not just ones who have the most publicized charity events.

'I'm more excited that the award was initiated than necessarily receiving it,' Hoffman said, noting that she's anxious to see how it prompts other young people to do good things in the community and how it brings positive attention to them.