Saturday, 25 May 2024

Lake County celebrates its stars

KELSEYVILLE – On Sunday the 12th annual Stars of Lake County Awards added many deserving individuals and groups to its long list of honorees.

The awards were handed out at Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa in Kelseyville Sunday evening.

Awards in 24 categories were given this year. Organizers had the challenging task of taking 127 nominations and narrowing them to those final two dozen awards.

Once again this year, Congressman Mike Thompson was on hand to assist with handing out the awards.

Here are this year's winners.

Marla Ruzicka Humanitarian Award: Faith Hornby, Lakeport

Hornby, 12, is a caring seventh grader who began her efforts to help others when she was only about 7 years old, saving her change to donate to local animal rescue efforts.

She was then introduced to a group of cancer survivors, and she began helping them as well, holding a raffle for Cancer Awareness Month, raising money to assist cancer patients, creating artwork to cheer patients up and helping Operation Tango Mike by packing care packages for troops overseas.

Senior of the Year: Treva Ryan, Nice

She's cooked for Meals on Wheels and been one of the most devoted volunteers at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center.

Treva Ryan has more energy and determination than a lot of people a third of her age. Ryan has been a volunteer at the center for 12 years. She's also a volunteer at the First Lutheran Church.

Ryan was credited with her efforts to feed the community's hungry.

Volunteer of the Year: Bill and Carolyn Tobin, Middletown

The Tobins have worked tirelessly to relieve the hunger issue for local residents.

They have been dedicated supporters of the Catholic Charities' rural food project. In 2002, the project was helping 23 families; by this year, that number had grown nearly tenfold, to more than 200.

The Tobins are also involved in the “Spirit of the Season” Christmas food drive in Middletown.

Student of the Year, female: Alma Martinez, Clearlake

Most teens probably can't imagine the challenges that Alma Martinez has faced in her young life. She was raised by a single mother who was injured on the job, which forced the young woman to have to take on the role of breadwinner for her family.

She has worked two jobs after school for three years to support her family, all the while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average and applying for college.

Martinez helps encourage her peers to make the right decisions and also has volunteered to assemble food baskets for those in need.

Student of the Year, Special Recognition Award: Upper Lake High School Academic Decathlon Team

The awards committee created a special award this year to honor the team, which has won the local Academic Decathlon competition 10 out of the last 11 years and gone on to state competition. Last week, the team placed sixth at the state competition, held in Sacramento.

“The learning curve is very steep and the terrain unfamiliar,” Lake County Superintendent of Schools Dave Geck said in describing the brain-bending competition.

Team members include Kyle Coleman, Courtney Havrilla, Belarmino Garcia Jr., Sarah Barnes, Marisa Feliciano-Garcia, Stephanie Tregea, Thonyoon Chao, Hannah Johnson, Chae Carter, Ben Mullin, Megan Morgan and Brenda Mendoza. Head coach is Anna Sabalone; assistant coach is Steve Harness.

Student of the Year, male: Anthony Tavares, Lower Lake

Anthony Tavares is pursuing a career in automotive repair, and he's getting there under his own steam. He was described as a “self-supporting” student who works long hours at a local grocery story.

A model citizen, Tavares maintains a 3.0 grade point average in addition to those long hours to support himself. He's won scholarships and is planning to pursue his education at an out-of-state technical school.

Youth Advocate, Volunteer: Shel Bush, Clearlake

Bush was lauded for her efforts on behalf of children, all of whom she treats as if they were her own.

She fought to get the Clearlake skate park renamed for Andy Johnson and urges youngsters to choose activities like music or BMX bike riding over drugs.

One student wrote to the committee noting how that her willingness to listen and offer compassion helped him choose a better path than drinking away his troubles.

Youth Advocate, Professional: Anna Santana, Clearlake

Raised in Lake County and a mom herself, Santana has been a tireless advocate for the community's children.

She's a soccer coach at Upper Lake High School, works with students at Pomo Elementary and also has worked to make a dental van available to care for the dental health needs of needy children.

Agriculture Award: Lake County Community Co-Op, Clearlake

The Lake County Community Co-Op began in December 2007 when JoAnn Saccato asked the community a question: Is there a need for a local food cooperative?

The answer was a resounding yes, and since then the group has built its number to more than 300, making fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally available on a weekly basis.

The group will open its community garden this summer.

Organization, Nonprofit: People Services Inc., Lakeport

Now in its 35th year, People Services was created by a group of parents who wanted to help local adults who have disabilities.

Since then, the group has created job opportunities for the disabled – particularly those with developmental disabilities – in order to help them enjoy the greatest independence possible.

Organization, Volunteer: Operation Tango Mike, Kelseyville

Ginny Craven started Operation Tango Mike in March of 2003 after a local group of National Guard members were deployed overseas.

But since then the effort has grown much larger, extending to dozens of troops. The group also has grown from Craven and a handful of volunteers to people from all over Lake County, who donate money, materials and their time during packing parties.

Each month Operation Tango Mike – which stands for “Thanks much” in military lingo – send between 80 and 100 care packages to troops overseas.

“What the care packages do and what they mean is incredible,” said Jennifer Strong, who introduced the award.

Support from home is crucial to morale for troops overseas, Strong said. One soldier wrote to the group, “Because of you, I had a better day.”

Environmental Award: Leona Butts, Clearlake Oaks

Leona Butts and her husband, D.A., moved to Lake County in 1995. Since then, she's been active in local groups such as the Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Association – she even put together the group's manual – as well as the local Redbud Audubon Society. An avid bird watcher, she's generously shared her knowledge of wildlife with community members.

Then, in January of 2008, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed closing dozens of state parks, including Clear Lake State Park and Anderson Marsh.

Schwarzenegger didn't bargain for people like Butts, who helped lead the local fight to keep the parks open. She offered both the driving force behind the push to keep the parks open as well as possessing the organizational skill to carry out a campaign that included collecting more than 5,000 signatures locally, which were sent to Schwarzenegger's office.

Today, Lake County's state parks remain open.

New Business of the Year: Harbor Village Artists, Lucerne

The little artists colony next door to Harbor Park in Lucerne got its start last year with the help of the county's redevelopment agency.

Four little alpine-style cottages house four art-based businesses – The Gourd Gallery, Konocti Art Gallery/Studio, Lakeside Art and Pomo Fine Arts Gallery.

The shops have given a much-needed boost to the lakeside community, besides showcasing the unique talents of local artists, including the traditional Pomo basketmaking of Luwana Quitiquit.

Small Business of the Year: Solo Flight School, Lakeport

The business, located at Lampson Field, is credited with helping to rejuvenate the local airport by attracting flying students from around the country and the world.

They've also done several “dream days” in an effort to make wishes come true for local seniors.

The school has made aviation accessible to all, as as such they've become far-reaching ambassadors for Lake County.

Large Business of the Year: Umpqua Bank, Lakeport and Kelseyville

Umpqua Bank's local branches are heavily involved in the community. Over the last year they've donated more than $20,000 to local causes, in addition to the hundreds of hours employees donate to helping groups including Operation Tango Mike.

The bank takes a whimsical approach to community involvement, offering umbrella giveaways on rainy days and the occasional dessert surprise.

Fortune magazine recently named the company the 13th best in the country to work for, and it's been in the United State's top 100 companies to work for during the past three years.

Best Idea of the Year: Ageless Dream Day-Orchard Park Assisted Living, Clearlake

Orchard Park Assisted Living in Clearlake began asking its residents about their long-held dreams, and the result was a series of “dream days.”

Over the past year residents have done everything from spending a day with Clearlake Police to taking a flying lesson to going skydiving.

Local Hero: Walt Foster, Clearlake

Lifelong Lake County resident Walt Foster, who works for Sears, was delivering an appliance to a man's home in Clearlake, but the man wouldn't let him into the house. Foster convinced the man to let him in to deliver the appliance, but found the man was not in good health.

The man hadn't had a drink of water in a few days, so Foster got him some water to drink, but the man wouldn't let him call for help.

“I didn't think anyone should live like that,” Foster is reported to have said afterward.

Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain was reported to have said of Foster that if he hadn't acted the man might not have lived.

Arts Award, Amateur: Patsy Mitchell, Kelseyville

Mitchell devotes four days a week to running the gift shop and tasting room at Tulip Hill Winery in Nice.

She also tirelessly promotes the arts and local events.

Mitchell is credited with assisting with functions at the Soper-Reese Community Theatre in Lakeport as well as other community happenings.

Arts Award, Profession: Gail Salituri, Kelseyville

Gail Salituri is a talented artist who, over the past year, has devoted countless hours to promoting the Barbara LaForge Memorial Fund, which Salituri founded to remember her friend, who was murdered in October 2002.

Salituri is raising money for the fund, which in turn benefits Lake Family Resource Center's domestic violence shelter fundraising effort.

Since she began the fund, Salituri has raised thousands of dollars through raffles and silent auctions of art pieces including her own original oils.

She is the owner of Inspirations Gallery on S. Main Street in Lakeport.

Spirit of Lake County Award: Dwayne Furman, Lakeport

Dwayne Furman has been serving the community in various ways for 40 years.

Every Sunday he ministers to inmates at the Lake County Jail. Furman also offers ministry to Lake County Juvenile Hall and Konocti Conservation Camp inmates.

In addition, he's run the Livestock Pavilion at the Lake County Fair and been a longtime member of the local chapter of the California Cattlemen's Association.

Woman of the Year: Georgina Lehne, Middletown

Lehne is executive director of the Lake County Community Action Agency, where she has increased programs offered to the community from six to 19.

She oversees the Hot Spot youth center in Clearlake as well as food cupboards and New Beginnings, a drug rehabilitation program.

She's also working on fundraising and grants to build a safe house for the county's homeless children.

Man of the Year: Willie Sapeta, Clearlake

Sapeta, a battalion chief/paramedic for Lake County Fire Protection District, has been with the agency for 28 years.

He's one of the good guys – a man who is on the scene during critical moments in the community.

Besides his duties at Lake County Fire, Sapeta also works with the Lake County Sheriff's Office Office of Emergency Services office on emergency preparedness issues.

In addition, Sapeta also is a force behind the infant and child safety seat program.

Lifetime Achievement Award, Woman: Eva Johnson, Kelseyville

Alzheimer's disease touched Eva Johnson's life when it struck her husband.

She would go on to found local Alzheimer's respite and day care programs, which helped give many families a little space for themselves amidst the commitment to care for family members with the devastating disease.

Johnson also is credited for being a tireless advocate for caregivers.

Lifetime Achievement Award, Man: Father Phillip Ryan

Father Phillip Ryan helped found the Lake County Passion Play, which will mark its 29th year this May.

The play, which depicts the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has a cast of hundreds of people and attracts thousands of people each year.

Ryan himself tends to the Passion Play grounds and stages, and cares for the animals that live on the grounds. He also built a costume house and a new barn.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Upcoming Calendar

05.25.2024 7:00 am - 11:00 am
Kiwanis Club pancake breakfast 
05.25.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
05.26.2024 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Lower Lake Daze
Memorial Day
05.28.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
06.01.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
06.04.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
06.08.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
06.11.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

Mini Calendar



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