San Ramon chamber presents annual awards

'Night of the Stars' honors business, community leaders

The San Ramon Chamber of Commerce recently recognized some of the community's top business, employee and volunteer leaders during its 31st annual "Night of the Stars" award ceremony.

"The Business and Community Awards event is an opportunity to thank and show appreciation to individuals who have made a significant difference in our community," said Elaine Betts, chair of the Chamber of Commerce and owner of Go Far Consulting, Danville.

The chamber presented awards for Citizen of the Year, Business of the Year, Employee of the Year (Public Sector), Employee of the Year (Private Sector), Educator of the Year, Green Business of the Year, Ambassador of the Year and the Superior Service Award.

About 125 people gathered at The Bridges Golf Club on Dec. 3 to honor the recipients during the award dinner and presentation.

Citizen of the Year

Roxanne Wiedemann Lindsay was honored for decades of public service and volunteering across the San Ramon Valley.

She served more than 15 years as a director on the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District board, held leadership roles in various local organizations and worked as a representative for state and federal officials among other public service positions.

Lindsay also served as board member and/or president for the 100 Club of Contra Costa County, Museum of the San Ramon Valley, San Ramon Valley Republican Women, Danville Lioness Club and Danville Toastmasters.

Her other positions include deacon at San Ramon Valley Presbyterian Church, 4-H leadership, classroom volunteer at St. Isidore School, Forest Home Farms garden volunteer and two-time grand marshal at the Danville Fourth of July parade.

Her professional career also includes Tri-Valley Community Outreach representative and working as a notary public.

Business of the Year

Buffalo Wild Wings San Ramon was recognized for its effort to "help make our community the best place to live, work, play and dine," chamber officials said.

The restaurant sponsors local youth sports teams such as Cal Grizzlies baseball, Canyon Creek Little League, Team Breezy Collegiate Cup and DVHS Athletic Boosters, and its "Eat Wings, Raise Funds" program has raised $2,000 for sports teams, school groups and local nonprofits.

Its other fundraising and donation efforts include contributing items and restaurant space to nonprofit auctions and events, shipping items to local military members serving overseas, donating up to $1 from every retail bottle of its wing sauce sales to the Boys and Girls Club of America and being among five restaurants to raise $6,000-plus this year in its Tip a Cop night benefiting Special Olympics.

Employee of the Year (Public Sector)

Karen McHenry-Smith has worked with the city of San Ramon since 2007. She began as a telecommunications office specialist and was appointed to her current position, executive assistant to the city manager, in 2009.

During her city tenure, McHenry-Smith graduated from the Leadership San Ramon Valley, San Ramon Citizens Police Academy, Community Emergency Response Team training and San Ramon Government 101 programs.

She served on the city's social media team, web development team, employee events committee and the safety committee. She was named city Employee of the Month in October 2011.

Employee of the Year (Private Sector)

The chamber honored Melissa Yago, operations manager and paralegal for Whipple, Mercado & Associates, LLP.

A San Ramon native, Yago began working in the legal field in 2001 as a legal secretary. Her primary focus is family law, and she has some civil litigation and personal injury law experience.

She is a member of the San Francisco Paralegal Association and the Dublin/San Ramon Women's Club, and she serves as an ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce.

Educator of the Year

Julie Walters, a math teacher at Diablo Valley College San Ramon Campus, joined DVC in 2001 after working at Colorado State University.

When she started at DVC, the San Ramon Campus was at the rented facility on Crow Canyon Place and offered mostly basic skills courses. She taught one of the first sections of calculus offered at the San Ramon Campus and helped the program grow to now offering a complete transfer degree in mathematics.

Walters served as co-adviser for the honors club on campus for nine years and is now an adviser for the diversity club. She also spends many hours every week working with students in the math tutoring center.

Green Business of the Year

The chamber said it honored Whole Foods Market as a green company role model for selling mostly natural and organic products, providing recycling and composting bins with detailed labeling for customers, using compostable boxes, cups, napkins and utensils for its dining and take-out food and encouraging the use of reusable grocery bags years before other supermarkets offered them.

Whole Foods Market supports local businesses by stocking their products and produce, supports the San Ramon farmers market, contributes to community groups, charities and the school district, holds quarterly Community Giving Days and donates food to Contra Costa County's food bank and St. Vincent de Paul Society, chamber officials noted.

Ambassador of the Year

Raised in San Ramon and a California High graduate, Natalie Cohan is now one of the most active chamber members, having attended chamber events since 2008.

Her early professional career included stints as a retail store manager at Champs in Newark, a CPA compliance auditor for Thomas Havey LLC, an employee at Pacific Shingling Roofing Co. and time as a bartender.

Cohan then shifted to insurance, beginning her career in 2008 at New York Life before moving to State Farm for two years and then to her current employer, Giammona Insurance Agency, for the past year and a half.

Superior Service Award

The award went to AlphaGraphics Tri-Valley, owned and led by Dick W. Gonzales and Maureen L. Haber, which specializes in print and marketing services with personalized and professional service to support highly successful organizations within the Tri-Valley and beyond, chamber officials said.

Before AlphaGraphics, Gonzales worked as a corporate executive and senior vice president at Safeway, Inc., and Haber worked for the National Football League with a background in player representation and public relations.

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