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Yucaipa’s Citizen of the Year and more honored at chamber banquet

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The businesses of Yucaipa along with community leaders, chamber of commerce members, community service organizations and guests gathered on Jan. 10, to celebrate the service of the Yucaipa Chamber outgoing board of directors and officers, the installation of new officers and directors, and recognize an exceptional business, a chamber ambassador, a firefighter, a reserve firefighter, a peace officer, a citizen on patrol, and a citizen of the year. The evening dinner was catered by Jake’s Bistro. Guests were welcomed by David Fricke, Chairperson of the Yucaipa Chamber Board of Directors. Master of ceremonies for the evening was Scott Ward and the keynote speaker was Senator Mike Morrell. 

Ward, previously known as The Frog Man - KFROG in the morning, currently known as third District Field Representative for Supervisor Dawn Rowe, has graciously emceed this event for many years in the past and always makes this a relaxing and fun event for all who attend.

Senator Morrell, being the key speaker, was introduced as representing California’s 23rd State Senate District.

“Here is one thing that I have noticed, of all the senators,” said Morrell. “… the ones who seem to really work for the people, and they want businesses and families to thrive and people to keep more of their hard-earned money, seems to be people who own a business or were in business before, and that’s why I want to encourage you tonight that we have the answers but we need more people to be involved in the civic responsibility and run for office or support someone running for office.”

Ward recognized the out-going board of directors and introduced the upcoming 2020 board of directors and officers for the Yucaipa Chamber of Commerce: David Fricke, Pamela Vengarick, George Macias, Vanessa Gilmore, Brandy Gomez, Angelina Chasman, Melissa Chagolla, Lisa Jeffers, and Cesar Marrufo.

Hickory Ranch - Business of the Year

Fricke introduced the 2019 Business member of the year, Helen and Mark Haro, owners of Hickory Ranch Steakhouse, are no strangers to the restaurant industry. Helen was born into the business. Her parents owned Bit of Country from 1988 to 1998. “Hickory Ranch Steakhouse opened in September of 1998 and is a place where everyone knows your name and they are always glad you came. All the employees are treated as family. Not only are they a high-quality steakhouse around, they have a genuine love for what they do and that extends to employees and guests. This business also gives back to the community. They donate numerous gift certificates, space and so much more to assist in annual fundraisers throughout the community,” said Fricke.

“Thank you for honoring us this evening,” said Helen Haro. “We are sincerely grateful for this nomination and we are pleased to accept the small business award. This is truly an honor. We are blessed to have been able to do business in this great community since 1973. This is a family business started by our parents Fred and Matoula Dallas, who continue to mentor us. We want to thank our awesome crew, without them this would not be possible. Also we would like to thank our bar manager Rudy Gonzales for all the community events and fundraisers he does to help us give back to our community. We would also like to thank our customers for their continued support all these years. We definitely would not be here without them. Thank you again.”

Ambassador of the Year- Melissa Chagolla

Fricke also introduced the 2019 Ambassador of the Year, Melissa Chagolla, who has spent the past 15 years helping people purchase and refinance residential real estate in Yucaipa and surrounding cities. Fricke said her passion is to help and counsel others. She is very active in the community promoting business and has dedicated a lot of her time as an Ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce.

“It is an honor to be acknowledged and nominated as Ambassador of the Year as all of our ambassadors are awesome people. It is just really special and I feel honored to be selected. Volunteering in the community and getting to know the businesses better through the ribbon cuttings and chamber events is awesome. I love Yucaipa and being a volunteer,” said Chagolla.

Firefighter of the Year - Caleb Pohren

Fire Chief Grant Malinowski with the Yucaipa Fire Department introduced the Firefighter of the Year, Firefighter/Paramedic Caleb Pohren.

“In early 2019 while being the first on scene of a structure fire, it was reported a victim was trapped,” said Malinowski. “Caleb was able to provide enough firefighting efforts to locate the victim, rescue and switch to his paramedic training and resuscitate the victim. Caleb had two separate medical calls for help where in each case he arrived to find a teenager in respiratory and cardiac arrest and was able to lead advanced life support resuscitation efforts and both teenagers are alive and well in Yucaipa today. I couldn’t be more proud of the efforts that he applies every single day for this city, for our citizens, for our community and for the fire department.”

Pohren responded.

“I would like to thank the Yucaipa Chamber of Commerce for putting on this incredible event for us, the Yucaipa Fire Department along with my Fire Chief, my boss, Chief Malinowski and the city of Yucaipa for selecting me for this prestigious award” said Pohren. “I am blessed. I can’t describe the feeling other than I am humbled and honored to be selected by my peers and my leaders, as well as the community that I grew up in, for this prestigious award. It’s really neat and so I really appreciate that. Thank you.”

Reserve Firefighter of the Year Carlos Ortiz

Malinowski introduced the Reserve Firefighter of the Year, Carlos Ortiz, by saying, “Being the Reserve Firefighter of the Year is a recognition long overdue. We have a reserve program in the city of Yucaipa which is a volunteer position and operates as a fully functioning firefighter on the fire engine in addition to the three full time employees. The reserve company is comprised of mostly younger individuals who are working towards a permanent career in the fire service. The reserve company also runs a 501-c3 nonprofit called the Yucaipa Valley Fire and Rescue Association, which helps keep that ball rolling for their program.”

“Despite being an unpaid volunteer, he selflessly gives much of his time to serving this city and the Yucaipa fire Department and is known as ‘Mr. Dependable.’ When additional staffing for an engine is needed he is there. When we need volunteers for the Rodeo, AutumnFest, WinterFest, Fire Department open house, toys for the Yucaipa Christmas gift program, Carlos is there. As the fire association president, Carlos has successfully led the annual pancake breakfast for the last two years.”

“I am really grateful, honored and humbled for this experience and to receive this award,” said Ortiz. “I am proud to serve the community in Yucaipa. I would like to thank the chamber of commerce. I would like to thank my family, my wife and kids. I’m happy where I am. I enjoy what I do and I am completely honored to receive this recognition, thank you. I am really grateful, honored and humbled for this experience and to receive this award. I am proud to serve the community in Yucaipa.”

Deputy of the Year- Alisha Rosa

Yucaipa Sheriff’s Department Captain James Williams introduced Deputy Alisha Rosa.

“Our department  recognized some of her special skills and she was selected to be the city’s Quality of Life deputy in 2017. She has many accomplishments since taking on this challenge.” said Williams. “Rosa is very involved in the community on and off duty. She is a runner in the Baker to Vegas run, plays soccer in the Police and Fire Games and is a member of the Spartan’s Football Team, playing charity football in support of the families of fallen officers. She also participates in the Challenged Children’s Rodeo assisting disabled children as they participate in simulated rodeo events at the annual Sheriff’s Rodeo. She is the station’s representative at quarterly community group meetings including the Uptown Business Association and the Yucaipa Homeless Coalition. She is trained in the investigation of human trafficking crimes and works the bike patrol at community events. Alicia is a peer leader and motivator who leads by example.”

Rosa stated, “It is super easy to excel at this job especially when you have such awesome community support from the business owners, city manager, and the wonderful citizens. It is not normal for citizens to love their police department as much as this city loves us. It is awesome and a great feeling. In addition to that, with our firefighters that we have in our city, I think it is awesome that we have such a great relationship.”

Citizen on Patrol of the Year - George Siddle

The Citizen on Patrol of the Year, George Siddle was not able to attend. Williams stated, “The citizens on patrol are volunteers that drive around in our vehicles, direct traffic, do business checks, vacation checks on homes around town and also work the front counter at our station. Most afternoons if you come to the police station you could meet George at the front counter. So he does a fantastic job and we couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers. We really appreciate him but unfortunately he wasn’t able to be here tonight.”

Citizen of the Year - Kristine Mohler

Mayor David Avila presented Citizen of the Year for 2019. “I would like to introduce Kristine Mohler who is energetic, enthusiastic and radiates positive energy,” said Avila. “She is an active equestrian, hiker, has served on a multitude of committees and commissions including being the current chair of the city’s Trails and Open Space Committee, a member of the Parks and Recreation, Uptown Garden Club and the Equestrian Center, Make-A-Difference Day Committee, Yucaipa Freeway Corridor, General Planning Advisory Committee and has helped support the local high school mountain bike team and the American Viticulture Area Planning Committee. In addition to all that amazing volunteer work, Kristine and her husband own the Mohler Group where she actively sells real estate in the community. It is no wonder Kristine Mohler received an unprecedented 16 nomination papers for tonight’s honor. It is my pleasure and honor to introduce the Yucaipa Valley Chamber of Commerce 2019 Citizen of the year, Kristine, Mohler.”

Mohler was greeted with thunderous applause.

“I would like to start by thanking my family, friends, committee members and community,” said Mohler. “I would also like to thank city council. It is amazing that I live in a city with over 50,000 and I can call anyone in the city council and speak to them. It is amazing how one person’s voice can be heard. I would also like to thank the city staff and it is amazing to have the support from the city that I love so much. I started doing volunteer work when a former city council member said to me ‘hey, you like to ride horses don’t you, why don’t you get on the Trails and Open Space Committee as I need to appoint somebody’ and that is how I got started. From that came a lot of other things and some of my wonderful, most precious friends have come from my interactions with these committee members and for that I will treasure always.”

A special thank you was given to Ellen Benefiel, Executive Director of the Yucaipa Valley Chamber of Commerce for organizing the Installation of Officers and Community Awards Banquet.


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