Every few years the Chamber Community Awards has a group of award winners made up of a collaborative group that worked together in a joint cause, and this year’s recipients are among those who are being recognized for what they did during the 2017 fires that changed lives in the region.
In lieu of the Citizen of the Year award, multiple people and organizations such as the Calistoga Fire, Calistoga Police, and Public Works departments were among those thanked for what they did during the October fires and were given the Spirit of Calistoga Award. Fire and police departments were the front lines of defense, the ones who protected and saved the communities. But the Chamber awards wanted to acknowledge those behind the scenes, such as the Public Works department and Kathy Flamson, city clerk, who stayed in town while everyone else evacuated to make sure things moved smoothly.
“The nomination committee has opted to honor several volunteers, organizations and businesses that were integral to the protection and service of Calistoga during the fire,” said Laura Swanton, incoming president of the Chamber.
Andy Wild and Josh Mitchell, two acclaimed local chefs who also received Spirit of Calistoga Awards, risked themselves to make sure first responders were nourished and well fed. The joke in town echoed that of the 2014 Valley Fire that this area is so blessed with talented chefs that people don’t want to leave even in emergencies because the food produced from the likes of Wild and Mitchell is too good and nobody wants to leave because of it.
Mary Ellen Hester was given the Volunteer of the Year award for her longtime volunteer work and devotion to Calistoga. She is on the boards of directors for Calistoga Affordable Housing and the Calistoga Farmers Market.
Every Sunday she does set-up work before services at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church. Hester is an active volunteer for the Napa County Fair Association and served as the first administrative volunteer there.
The Non-Profit Organization of the Year went to the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Helena and Calistoga, which undertook a $13 million fundraising campaign to build Calistoga’s new clubhouse that opened the weekend of the Tubbs Fire. After the evacuation order was lifted club staff quickly put together programs for Calistoga children until the schools could reopen.
In non-emergency times the Boys & Girls Club provides a variety of programs including homework help, athletics, health and wellness, mentoring and recreational activities.
“Five years ago we set out to do what we asked the kids to do … dream out loud,” said Trent Yaconelli, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Helena and Calistoga. “And you all, I recognize so many faces, dreamed with us. We got quarters, and we got dimes and nickels and we got $25,000 checks and $100,000 checks and because of that we have provided something truly remarkable for the children of this town.”
Paul Coates Construction was recognized as the Business of the Year for being “always ready and willing to lend a hand when their services are needed,” the Chamber program read. Among the recent projects they have helped with include the new restrooms at both the Community Center and the new bathrooms at the Little League Field and bike path on lower Washington Street.
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“Paul keeps costs down when necessary without compromising quality and often does the work himself to be sure it is done to his expectations,” according to the winner description.
“This company has also provided construction services to the Presbyterian and Catholic churches, as well as helped to rebuild the Napa Valley Heritage Catering building when it caught fire last summer,” said Steve Patel, Chamber president. “(They) are always eager to help and offer their services whenever needed.”
“This business also helps influence orderly and appropriate development in particular in (Paul Coates) role on the planning construction,” he said.
Coates shared a story about the couple’s reaction when they learned they were getting the award.
“Our office closes at 4 o’clock, and we were notified about 4:30 that we received this award … and thank you so much, I am so honored and privileged, and my wife feels the same,” Coates said.
“The first response from my wife, she said ‘This is a scam. Nobody honors a construction company in Calistoga.’ What does she do? She gets on the phone and she calls around to everybody she knows because she’s proving this is not a scam,” Coates said.
The Gary Barrett Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given to a local who has given of their time, energy, and talents over a period of time to benefit Calistoga, went to Karan Schlegel. She is a member of the Calistoga Boosters, Soroptimist International of Calistoga, and chairs the Napa County Fair Association. She spent many hours volunteering at the schools when her daughters were students, and works the Boosters concession stand during Speedway races. She is also a former Speedway Queen, who was responsible for handing out trophies to race winners at the Speedway.
“Karan works diligently to bring her passion for her community partnerships and collaboration to each of the organizations she is involved with, and was instrumental in the planning of the Firefighters Bingo which raised over $300,000,” he said.
Schlegel thanked those who nominated her for the honor.
“I know there’s a lot of other volunteers who I work alongside who deserve this as well,” she said.