Toasting the best of the best

The Winters Chamber of Commerce honored outstanding citizens at the annual Toast to Winters celebration, held on Saturday, Jan. 27, at Park Winters. From left are Reid Tileston, Gwen Pisani, Pam Scheeline, Emarie VanGalio, Moyra Barsotti, Wade Cowan and Kathy Cowan. (Photo by Debra DeAngelo)

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Winters celebrated the people that go above and beyond to make this community special at the annual Winters Chamber of Commerce’s Toast to Winters event, held at Park Winters on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Former Chamber Executive Director Mike Sebastian served as Master of Ceremonies for the event, which sold out in one day as soon as tickets went on sale, and introduced each speaker, beginning with current Chamber Executive Director Carrie Green.

“This is a celebration of our community, our city and the amazing people who are a part of it,” said Green in her introductory statement, taking time to introduce local dignitaries and Chamber Board of Directors members in attendance.

As for the honorees for the evening, Green said, “It is an honor to be in your midst.”

Theodore Winters Award

Chamber Board Member Lisa Brown and former Theodore Winters Award recipient introduced the recipients of this year’s honor, Moyra Barsotti and Emarie VanGalio, the women who spearheaded the highly successful Project Playground effort in 2017, or as Brown put it rather slyly, “these two moms who one day decided to build a park.”

With more than 1,700 volunteers helping to build the new wooden structure at City Park, Brown said, “They didn’t just build a park — they united a community,” and noted that the finished playground at City park will bring “laughter and enjoyment for the generations.”

VanGalio spoke first, likening herself and Barsotti to “two persistent mosquitoes” who just wouldn’t give up or take “no” for an answer. She likened the experience of coordinating all those volunteers, as well as raising funds and collecting supplies to ”our fourth child that we birthed together.” She emphasized that she and Barsotti share this award with all the volunteers who helped, and expressed appreciation not only to them, but to the park volunteers who built the original playground more than 30 years ago, many of whom were in attendance and also returned to help again in 2017.

She also emphasized that many people working together can create huge results.

“All of us can make a difference and do great things when we join forces.”

Noting that volunteering has positive physical and psychological benefits, she added, “Volunteering in all shapes and forms strengthens our community and brings people together who might not have crossed paths.”

Barsotti praised the city for its cooperation and support, as well as local organizations that got behind the project, including the Winters Friends of the Library, the Rotary Club of Winters, Yolo Federal Credit Union, Pacific Ace Hardware, the Winters Express and particularly the Yocha Dehe Tribe, which closed the project’s funding gap with a $150,000 donation. She also thanked “both of our husbands” as well as their children for putting up with their time and energy consuming project for a year.

“We are humbled and appreciative of the support and recognition,” summarized Van Galio.

Business of the Year

Former Chamber President and Express Editor Debra DeAngelo introduced Anytime Fitness, the 2017 Business of the Year.

“The Business of the Year Award doesn’t simply mean the business that made the most money or attracted the most customers,” said DeAngelo. “This award honors those businesses that have gone above and beyond the regular call of duty to serve the community; those businesses that strive to make the business community and community in general a better place.”

Listing the many activities that Anytime Fitness has supported since it opened in 2010, including 3R Rescue, Relay For Life, Empower Yolo, Toys for Tots, the Community Thanksgiving Dinner, Winters High School Capstone projects and Little League, DeAngelo added, “You may be surprised to learn just how much Anytime Fitness does for our community, because they don’t do it for the glory, they do it out of love and commitment to our town. But now it’s out in the open, and this is our opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to Anytime Fitness.”

To thunderous applause of appreciation,  Anytime Fitness owner Reid Tileston came to the microphone to heap appreciation on the gym’s manager, Gwen Pisani, who he noted poured all sorts of extra effort as well as her own money into the gym — even after he’d asked her to stop spending that money.

“I’ve been blessed with somebody extremely special,” said Tileston.

Pisani was next, and noted that Anytime Fitness is dedicated to “making the community of Winters a better place for those who call Winters ‘home.’” Despite Tileston’s glowing praise, she turned to him and said, “This award is for you.”

Recalling how she approached Tileston in search of a job at the new gym, she added, “He let me spread my wings and seven years later, this is what we’ve accomplished together.”

Noting that Anytime Fitness has really hit its stride, Pisani added, “Here’s to an amazing 2018, and thank you Reid, for bringing Anytime Fitness to Winters.”

Senior Citizen of the Year

Winters Elementary School Principal Greg Moffitt nearly bubbled with enthusiasm and praise for the hardest (and longest) working woman in the Winters School District and the 2017 Senior Citizen of the Year, Pam Scheeline. Although technically eligible for the title, Moffitt joked that he worried that she’d “throw a high heel at me for calling her a senior citizen.”

Moffitt noted that literally generations of Winters students “have been touched by the legacy of Pam Scheeline.”

“She has a lifetime of making a difference, “ he said, and mentioned her love of using “sticky notes” to communicate with other staff and took the liberty of creating his own sticky notes to honor Scheeline:

~  “Service to others is important work.” Moffitt noted that Scheeline worked for the Winters School District for 40 years.

~  “You’re never really retired.” Moffit said the superintendent of schools convinced Scheeline to return to work after she retired, serving as an administrator at Winters Middle School.

~  “Be relentlessly energetic.” Noting that Scheeline had assisted him at two campuses, Moffitt said, “Pam doesn’t stop. She doesn’t even quit — even in retirement. She continues to coordinate the “Reach Out and Read” program.

“Students, staff, parents — we are indebted to you,” concluded Moffitt.

Scheeline came to the podium in her usual effervescent style, and started by saying, “The best decision we ever made was to move to Winters.” Thanking her friends and colleagues, she chose to turn the spotlight to the senior citizens “who volunteer in our community and enrich our community, and make it a wonderful place to live.” She noted that senior volunteers are active in youth sports, reading and literacy programs, suicide hotlines, and food and clothing drives.

Citizens of the Year

Acknowledging all the former Citizens of the Year in attendance, Sebastian (a former Citizen of the year himself) welcomed City Manager John Donlevy, a former Theodore Winters Award winner and Citizen of the Year along with his wife, Kathy, to introduce the 2017 Citizens of the Year, Wade and Kathy Cowan.

“We’re in the house that Wade built,” Donlevy said as he began, highlighting the fact that Wade Cowan constructed the elegant barn-style dining room in which the event was being held that evening. His list of all the activities in which Wade and Kathy have participated was long and varied and declared them “an absolute gift to our community,” and that “they make Winters Number One.”

Donlevy said the Cowans “don’t just give some of themselves, but all of themselves” to the community.

Wade spoke first, building upon one of his favorite sayings, noting that it is “great to live, work and play in the center of the universe.”

With wry good humor, he went on to note “the list of people to blame” for all the activities they’ve supported either financially or with volunteer effort, singling out former Mayors Tom Stone and Cecilia Aguiar-Curry. He additionally thanked the community for “making it so easy for us to get involved” and noted that his experience as an Eagle Scout prepared him for making a commitment to the community and working hard to support it.

Kathy additionally thanked the many people who have helped them help the community, and single out Project Playground in particular.

Former Winters Mayor and current State Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry also came to the podium with praise for the Cowans, as well as all the other honorees, and had plaques for each.

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