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The venue was held live at the Crook County Fairgrounds during the Crook County Fair

JENNIFFER GRANT - Casey Kaiser (middle) and Chamber Director Kim Daniels give George McCart (left) the Lifetime Achievement award.

After last year's virtual Prineville-Crook County Chamber Awards for 2019, the venue moved to the Crook County Fairgrounds for the 2020 awards, where the winners were presented with the cherished awards under the big tent during the Crook County Fair.

The event went tremendously, with a large turnout to support the award recipients. Kim Daniels, chamber director, reported that it went very well, but they probably won't hold it at that venue again, because there are so many other things happening simultaneously at the fairgrounds.

The categories include: 2020 Large Business of the Year; 2020 Small Business of the Year; 2020 Visual Enhancement Award; 2020 Community Enrichment Award; 2020 Citizen of the Year Award; 2020 Volunteer off the Year Award; 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award; 2020 Superior Customer Service; 2020 Ranching and Farming Award; 2020 Best New Business Award; and the Cecil Sly Award.

Award results for 2020 Prineville-Crook County Chamber Awards

Small Business of the Year:

This business was selected based on a demonstrated excellence in providing products and services within the community and support of specific projects that have led to civic improvement and the overall development of the economy within the current year.

The owners of Meandering Maker, Jodi and Jeff Kerr, relocated their business last year to a once vacant building on Seventh Street. By expanding the size of their building, they were also able to expand offerings and classes in 2020. Meandering Maker is a fun, eclectic inviting, and safe space with classes that bring people together - and allows all ages to explore their own creativity. During the height of the pandemic, small classes were offered, and take-home kits were available for purchase. Jodi is always ready to make you a custom sign, help decorate for holidays, or throw some paint around, not caring if it gets in her hair. Those that know her agree, she has a great sense of humor and a very artistic eye.

Large Business of the Year

This business demonstrated excellence in providing products and services within the community, and support of specific projects that have led to civic improvement and the overall development of the economy within the current year.

If you want awesome coffee and snacks served by friendly and high-energy workers, then the Prineville Coffee Company is the place to be.

"There's good parking, free Wi-Fi, and the coffee shop is owned by a local, so you're investing in the community, emphasized Daniels. "The employees that work there always go above and beyond. You walk in the doors, and they are laughing, smiling, dancing, having a great time, and creating an environment that customers are drawn to. If they mess it up, they fix it with a smile."

She added that they often hear others waiting in the lobby talking about the exact same thing. The owner sets the bar high and hires well. They are also active in our community, always helping where they can. Although this started as a small coffee shop, it is now part of a three-store chain that has grown in its service to the community and staff. 

Citizen of the Year

Any citizen of Crook County may be nominated as Citizen of the Year. The recipient must have demonstrated leadership and cooperation in the achievement of community and civic enterprises benefiting individual citizens and the communities of Prineville and/or Crook County.

Shawn Benson has a sense of community and is an example of those who rally around causes and support each other. Although not native to Prineville, this person has become a regular part of the local activism and events, and he supports it in every way.

In 2020, Eastside Church was put in a crunch when the chef in charge of preparing a meal for the homeless community became ill. Benson immediately stepped in and gave up his holiday in order to cook the entire Thanksgiving meal that was passed out at the Crook County Courthouse.

"He is a selfless person and always is the first to volunteer with his kids. Shawn also volunteers his business for community events like Candy Crawl, Holiday Parades, etc. He is an active Kiwanian that can flip a fabulous pancake and is seen at almost all of their pancake feeds behind the grill, to help raise funds for local projects and scholarships in our community. He served on the Crook County Foundation Board for several years and is currently on the Chamber Board and willing to lend a hand at any given moment," said Daniels.

Volunteer of the year

The importance of volunteers in our community cannot be underestimated. They bring many skills, advice, experience and wisdom to organizations. But most importantly, volunteers give TIME. And without them generously giving their time, events ... like this, could not happen.

Regardless of what organization he is a part of, Marv Sumner is always there to lend a hand or help raise funds. Born and raised in Prineville, he moved away a few times only to find his way back to Crook County.

"He brings a smile and a positive attitude to any task," said Daniels empathically. "As treasurer on the Crooked River Roundup Board (a completely volunteer position), Marv is known as the 'money man' during the races, keeping track of all the funds that come in at the betting windows during Roundup."

Sumner also took on the project of figuring out how to raise funds for the resurfacing of the crumbling basketball courts in Ochoco Creek Park. An area he hated to see fall into disarray since his own sons all played basketball, Sumner spent the last year and helped secure over $75,000 to bring this project to completion. And he did this all on his own accord, without holding a role on the Parks and Rec Board or Parks and Rec Foundation. When he is not raising money or counting money – Sumner can be seen riding his bike around town with his wife, Vicky, or his grandchildren, always with a smile on his face.

Visual Enhancement

This award recognizes those who have taken the time and energy to improve or visually enhance their business and or property through new construction or major remodel. The nominated entity must be a member of the Chamber of Commerce and physically located in Crook County.

Creekside Beer Garden was Prineville's first outdoor food truck area and brought life to an empty lot by providing food offerings that were vital during the pandemic. They have grown from having one food truck to four. What started with Toni's Tacos, now also hosts B's Teriyaki, Wrap it Up Food Truck, Renegade BBQ, and beer on tap. The growing popularity and fun environment often come with a full parking lot, and during the summer months a stage with live music, cornhole and a great family environment that is a welcome addition to Prineville.

Best New Business

This award goes to a young and growing business that has demonstrated commercial promise as well as a commitment to the community. Nominated businesses should exhibit a growth in success and customer base and have shown sustainable growth and staying power.

Sora Sushi began the work of renovating a long-time vacant spot in downtown Prineville during the height of the pandemic in the spot next to the Pine Theatre. Amidst the chaos, when Sora did open their doors, they immediately offered something new to the Prineville dining community – sushi! Friendly and helpful customer service was just one of their strengths, but they also offered an easy-to-use online ordering platform with the option of delivery as well.

Community Enrichment

Any group, club or service organization may be nominated for this award. It reflects their year-long efforts that have enhanced the quality of our community.

Year after year, Tony and Dannielle Ramos and their team work hard to organize an event that many see as a source of fun and April Fool's shenanigans in our community. The mission behind it is that it benefits the children and families of Crook County. They enriched our community and held a virtual event to keep things going amidst the pandemic of 2020 and didn't let COVID stop them from their nonprofit goal, which is to provide a state-of-the-art dental office on wheels called the Tooth Taxi.

Dr. Ramos and his staff visit schools throughout Prineville to provide free dental care and oral health education to uninsured and underserved children.

Congratulations Ochoco Dental and the Prineville Paddy Pint!

Customer Service Award

The Superior Customer Service Award recognizes one business each year for providing outstanding service to their patrons. Large or small businesses may qualify for this award. Nominated businesses should exhibit consistent, superior customer service over the one-year award period. The level of service may be evidenced by feedback from customers and/or personal experience with the business. Consideration may also be given to the businesses focus on serving visitors to our area.

"It is always a pleasure to walk into Prineville Men's Wear and be greeted by the familiar and friendly faces that are the platinum standard and model of ultimate customer service that has been ingrained in the family business," said Daniels of Prineville Men's Wear.

She went on to say, "They are eager to help you find the perfect item, quick to tailor it to fit (and have gone as far to do it while you wait), and even ship for free to wherever you would like. This shop, in the heart of downtown, is the epitome of hometown hospitality."

Crook County Farming and Ranching Award

The Crook County Farming/Ranching Award is awarded to farmers and/or ranchers who have excelled in their farming or ranching operations and exhibited superior leadership abilities. This award is to recognize those that stand out for their commitment to innovation, giving back to their communities, committing to good land stewardship and being a great example for future generations.

Wilkinson Custom Haying is a family-owned and operated farm in Prineville. Gerald has been farming since 2001 and owns 220 acres. They currently lease about 800 acres that they grow, harvest and sell to retail and wholesale customers. They offer a wide range of custom farming from disking, planting, harvesting and hauling. Each year they complete about 3,000 acres of custom haying for clients.

The Business Resiliency Award

The Business Resiliency Award is awarded to a business who has demonstrated their ability to quickly adapt and respond to business disruptions in the face of the global pandemic and has done so by being a model for professionalism, innovation and resiliency.

Throughout COVID, the Crook County School District from K-12 has flexed, shifted, adjusted and continued in their pursuit of excellence, setting standards for school districts across the nation and always maintaining the students as a priority. The administration, board, teachers, classified staff and volunteers all worked together to get Crook County as one of the first districts in the state to open up again, and students back in the classroom. In a year where most districts have seen a loss of numbers, Crook County continues to grow. Part of this due to an online option, constantly growing programs, and a strong emerging CTE program at the high school. They are regularly adapting and building in new technology and making sure students and staff have cutting-edge resources. When sports were being restricted, they found a way to get kids back on the court/field or wrestling mats. Most hear the words summer school and shudder, but with the programs offered this year, Crook County had record enrollment for their summer sessions. We are very proud of their efforts for the benefit of our students.

Lifetime Achievement Award

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have contributed significantly over a period of years to the betterment of Prineville and Crook County. The nomination is for contribution to the community over a number of years. Other possible qualifications: civic activity which can extend beyond local confines, civic participation on boards, service clubs, nonprofits, and the impact on the community. Initiation of programs or ideas for community betterment and mentoring activities.

George McCart is a veteran of the United States Navy and the Vietnam War. Injured in the Vietnam War in 1968, McCart returned to the states and while in the Portland VA Medical Center, an anonymous person gave him a Disabled American Veterans lifetime membership.

He's been awarded a Purple Heart and Navy Commendation Medal.

McCart started attending meetings for Disabled American Veterans Chapter in Bend over 10 years ago. He kept attending meetings and was eventually elected to the State Executive Committee. He attended conventions and conferences all over Oregon. This led to an assignment for an office at the state level for disabled Americans.

His involvement in these state offices and committees spanned the governorships of Barbara Roberts and John Kitzhaber. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 from Kitzhaber.

Most recently, McCart has served as the Disabled American Veterans State Department judge advocate. His service in this role includes reading the constitution and bylaws, signing off and forwarding them to the national headquarters for the approval of the national judge advocate.

"McCart hasn't hesitated to serve his fellow veterans and those who live with disabilities and is active in improving access in our community," Daniels said. "He was instrumental in advocating for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was enacted in 1990."

Among his other achievements are a long career in architecture and building design. McCart has designed more than 3,000 homes in Crook County and Central Oregon. They stand as a testament to his craft and his outstanding skill. He can be found three days per week working out at the Prineville Athletic Club. He loves to hunt when he gets the opportunity, and he still sings in his church. McCart is also a big fan of classic cars.

Cecil Sly Award – which is given and presented by Kiwanis, was Carol Benkosky


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