Banquet held earlier than usual, on a Thursday

by: BILL VOLLMER - This year's Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce banquet drew a large crowd on Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Inn at Cross Keys Station.The 2013 Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet — held Thursday, at the Inn at Cross Keys Station — shined a community light on a handful of very deserving honorees.

The banquet — held earlier than it historically has been, and on a Thursday night instead of a weekend night — drew a strong attendance. Following a prime rib dinner, catered by Black Bear Diner, awards were handed out. They included Community Champion, Senior Citizen, Volunteer, Public Servant and Business of the Year honors.

The Community Champion award became plural when husband and wife Stan Nowakowski and Maura Schwartz were honored.

The two keyed the effort to establish a state scenic bike route — the Madras Mountain View Scenic Bikeway — in the central part of the county this year. The route begins and ends in Madras, and travels through Metolius and Culver, west to the viewpoints ridge above Lake Billy Chinook, to Mountain View Drive and back to Madras via Belmont Lane.

The route is one of just 13 in Oregon. Being on the biking map is expected to bring tens of thousands of dollars into the local economy each year.

Nowakowski spoke for the couple Thursday. (Schwartz was in Africa doing consultant work.) He noted how he’d been in love with bikes since childhood. The pair also are lead figures for an annual bike roundup in Madras, where they fix bikes for kids and teach safety. They are also regular participants in the MAC Dash and started the Bike Share program at the 509-J School District.

by: BILL VOLLMER - Dennis and Mona Hardman, of Metolius, were honored as Senior Citizens of the Year.A couple was also honored as Senior Citizens of the Year. Mona and Dennis Hardman, of Madras, were singled out for the tireless efforts with the local Habitat for Humanity. The pair, who were co-chairmen of the project, facilitated the recent home start for Habitat, with Dennis designing and preparing the plans for the home, and Mona overseeing the fundraising. Sharon Marvel wrote the grant application.

The Hardmans are also members of the local Lions Club.

Back in the early 1990s, Madras resident Jesse Rodriguez decided he’d play Santa Claus and started Farm Workers Toy Drive. He is still brightening Christmas for local children, obtaining donations from local businesses, agricultural entities and individuals, as well as reaching into his own resources to secure presents. Each Christmas, he dons Santa gear and he and his wife, hands out the gifts at his home, to long lines of eager children.

Rodriguez operates Rodriguez Landscaping with his sons. Though 70, he continues to regularly do manual commercial landscaping work. He takes care of the landscaping needs of nonprofits at no charge.

Since 1979, Tom Kirsch was a member of the Mountain View Hospital Board of the Directors. His leadership of 34 years, 10 of them as chairman, working with seven CEOs, gave the hospital district stability and continuity.

Since moving to Madras in 1973, Kirsch has been active in Knights of Columbus and the Madras Kiwanis.

On Thursday, Kirsch was honored with Public Servant of the Year. A man of few words, Kirsch said he was moved and honored by the tribute.

by: BILL VOLLMER - Chamber Executive Director Joe Krenowicz congratulates Stan Nowakowski, who was honored along with his wife, Maura Schwartz, as Community Champions.Kirsch was presented the honor by St. Charles Madras Administrator Jeannie Gentry, who had the banquet crowd in stitches telling how Kirsch (owner of Madras Produce) explained to her the difference between male and female carrots.

The night’s final award was the Business of the Year. To no one’s surprise, it went to the Madras agricultural business Central Oregon Seeds Inc.

Along with being a successful seed processing business, COSI has recently diversified into the basalt industry. They take rock from their basalt field off Quaale Road north of Madras and grind it into soil restorative product. They also hope to provide basalt rock for jetty projects in the future.

Managing partner Mike Weber spoke for the ownership group, all of whom were on hand and joined him on stage. They included Jack Root, Don Boyle, Larry Sullivan and Dean Brooks.

While many businesses stay out of local politics and heated issues, COSI recently stepped into the forefront with the Madras Aquatic Center, making direct donations to help offset its budget deficit. All of the ownership group made public their support of the MAC levy last spring and urged all members of the agriculture community, and the community at large, to support pool operations, citing its importance to Jefferson County as a whole.

COSI’s support no doubt helped the MAC win the vote.

Along with support of the MAC, COSI is a strong supporter of various youth and community entities.

The annual chamber awards are the defacto awards for the central Jefferson County area, primarily going to Madras, Metolius and Culver residents over the years.

“It is a pleasure to take the nominations, facilitate the selection process with a committee and present the deserving recipients with their very appropriate award on behalf of their community,” said Krenowicz.

The banquet was held on the third Thursday of the month, when the chamber usually holds its After Hours programs, at a hosting business.

“Using the Business After Hours evening for the banquet increased our attendance by it not impacting personal/family weekend time nor other community events,” said Krenowicz.

Krenowicz noted how the evening — especially in light of the Rodriguez, Kirsch and COSI awards — showcased the local agriculture industry and its importance in Jefferson County.

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