For 18 years, the Sky Valley Community Awards Celebration has served to honor and inspire, recognizing local volunteers for their dedication to the betterment of their communities.
Sponsored by the Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce, the annual event includes a potluck dinner, social hour and awards ceremony. Service organizations from all over the Sky Valley participate, each taking the time to recognize somebody they feel has made a difference. This year's event was held Saturday, Feb. 6, and featured presenters from Sultan all the way to Skykomish. Index was new to the forum this year.
The celebration serves as a shining example of the very thing it strives to promote, as it is planned, organized and carried out by many of the same kinds of volunteers recognizes and honors.
The award certificates and trophies are distributed by Gold Dust Pageant Royalty, which adds a bit of glitz and glam to the presentation.
"It's a celebration of the spirit of the Sky Valley, and I just think it's one of the best evenings of the whole entire year,GÇ¥ said Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce Director Debbie Copple.-á -á
There are many honors given during the celebration, but perhaps the most prestigious is the Sky Valley Citizen of the Year award. The Sky Valley Citizen of the Year is chosen through a highly competitive process facilitated by Copple, in which Sultan and Gold Bar city councilmembers and mayors select the individual from the list of those scheduled to be honored.
Until the day of the ceremony, only Copple knows the identity of the recipient. The unveiling occurs at the event, during a presentation given by Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick and Gold Bar Mayor Linda Loen.-á
This year's Sky Valley Citizen of the Year was Volunteers of America Western Washington Sky Valley Services Center Director Calei Vaughn. Vaughn was first presented with the Charles "OleGÇ¥ Carlson Masonic Citizenship Award from the Sultan-Monroe Masonic Lodge No. 160, which made her eligible for the top honor.
Vaughn moved to the Sky Valley in 1979, and over the years has lived in Gold Bar, Startup and Sultan.
She started working at the VOA as an unpaid intern in 2010, was hired full-time in 2011 and took over the directorship in 2014. Since that time, she has reintroduced the Safe Stop program for teens, organized the Sultan National Night Out event, coordinated Sultan's Trunk or Treat and helped organize and plan several community dinner events and pancake breakfasts.
She heads up the Sultan Community Alliance, a volunteer task force dedicated to the betterment of Sultan. The alliance cleans parks and public places, mentors at-risk youth and is moving forward with plans to apply for a Drug Free Communities grant in 2017. -á -á
"I just can't quit,GÇ¥ Vaughn said. "I care about the future of our community. I care about the future of our youth, and I care about our people as they're aging.GÇ¥
Vaughn will be given a place of honor in the Sultan Summer Shindig Parade, and a commemorative plaque will be positioned inside Sultan City Hall.
Other awards given at the celebration included Volunteer of the Year, which were presented by cities and organizations up and down the Sky Valley.-á
Eslick talked briefly about Sultan's volunteer program, which she implemented after becoming mayor in 2007. The city honors its volunteers during Volunteer Spotlight presentations held every month during Sultan City Council meetings, and this year they decided to select the Volunteer of the Year from that pool of 12 candidates.
The honor went to Dave and Jen Moon and the Sultan High School Tech Club, who were chosen for their high level of community support, including technical support at nearly every community event. From election forums to theater productions to sporting events, the Moons and tech club students are always there to support the city, the school district and the chamber, Eslick said.
"They do photography, they do portraits, they do all kinds of wonderful things, and it just made sense that they were chosen this year,GÇ¥ Eslick said.
Other honorees included Fonda Ells and Jay Prueher, recognized by the city of Gold Bar; Rebecca Turner, honored by the Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce; Rick Cross, honored by the Sky Valley Arts Council for his work to help restore the historic Startup Gym; Mary Ritzman, recognized by the Index Community Action Group and Dr. Doris Blanton, recognized by the Sky Valley Historical Society.
Skykomish Town Councilmember Henry Sladek honored Ted and Nancy Cleveland for their years of service in the Skykomish Mountain Lions Club. The Clevelands were among the first members of the town's Lions Club, founded in 1988.-á
"They soon became the backbone of the club. Ted has held the office of president and vice president several times throughout the 25 years there,GÇ¥ Sladek said. "Nancy filled the role of secretary for nine years, as well as the "right hand and adviser' to several presidents, who say they would have been lost without her.GÇ¥
The couple has been instrumental in helping organize the town's U.S. 2 cleanup event, the annual Christmas tree search, retrieval, decorating and lighting event and the town's own volunteer appreciation efforts. Ted is a former Skykomish mayor, and Nancy is the author of two historical books about the town.
Friends of the Sultan Library President Angela Olson honored and recognized longtime member and former president Jean Roberts for her commitment to the library and the community. Friends of the Sultan Library supports the library by working to bridge the gap between desired programming and funding shortfalls. The group hosts three book sales each year, which generate funds to help support library activities.
They also hand out books during community events, Olson said. The group strongly believes all of Sultan's youth should have access to books, so they give them away as prizes at events like Sultan's Trunk or Treat, the Return of the Salmon Festival and Winterfest.
The decision to honor Roberts was unanimous, Olson said.
"She is not just a friend of the library, but she's a friend to the whole Sky Valley,GÇ¥ she said.
The Sky Valley Community Awards Celebration was emceed by Copple and Sultan-Monroe Masonic Lodge member Larry Foley. In addition to the awards that were presented, Copple thanked Elizabeth Emmons for her production skills in creating the official awards celebration slide show, and the Winters Lake Ladies Club for its long-running support of the community.
Flowers this year were donated by Karen McIntosh of Flowers by Karen. -á -áPhoto by Chris Hendrickson Every year during the Sky Valley Community Awards Celebration, Gold Dust Royalty Pageant winners volunteer at the event to pass out awards and escort honorees back and forth from the podium to the event photographer. Gold Dust Royalty from left to right, back row: Kiana Kendall, Chyanne Jones, Alexis Perdomo and Amber Wheeler. Front row: Shiloh Bassetti, Brooklyn Perdomo and Ryder Perdomo.Ted and Nancy Cleveland