Bob and Jane Thompson are Tonasket Chamber 'Citizens of the Year'

Jane and Bob Thompson, shown receiving an award at the Armed Forces Legacy Project in November, were named Citizens of the Year by the Tonasket Chamber of Commerce at the 2012 annual fundraising banquet. Photos by Brent Baker

Jane and Bob Thompson, shown receiving an award at the Armed Forces Legacy Project in November, were named Citizens of the Year by the Tonasket Chamber of Commerce at the 2012 annual fundraising banquet. Photos by Brent Baker

TONASKET – The Tonasket Chamber of Commerce installed its new officers and bestowed its annual slate of honors Thursday, Jan. 19, at its yearly banquet at the Tonasket Community Cultural Center.

The most anticipated portion of the evening was the naming of the annual award-winners, presented as chamber members and guests feasted on Lola Orr’s buffet.

Selected by the chamber to serve as Grand Marshals of the Tonasket Founders Day Parade were George and Patti Hill.

“This is very humbling,” said the soft-spoken George Hill. “I see all you people out there that deserve this too. Thank you.”

Mayor and outgoing chamber vice president Patrick Plumb, not nearly so soft-spoken, told how the selection committee reached its unanimous verdict.

“After I nominated George for the planning commission, someone on the city council asked me, ‘Why George?’ I said, anyone who can be involved in both FFA and Green Okanogan at the same time and bringing our community together like that, and Patti allowing him to do so with all that time commitment … what a tribute to folks. And Patti puts a lot of ours in at the hospital making sure we stay out of trouble, too.”

Bob and Jane Thompson were named Citizens of the Year. The award was presented by past winner Dave Kester.

“They could probably be the Citizens of the Decade or two,” Kester said. “I could speak over an hour about their contributions.

“We thank this couple who have worked so hard and so well together that we could not award this to just one person.”

The Thompsons were out of town, but had spoken to Terry Mills shortly before the award was announced.

“They were flabbergasted,” Mills said, adding that they hadn’t believed they’d won the award when first told. “They’ve been just outstanding community members with all the involvements they have. They thank you very much.”

Kester also took the stage as the recipient, accepting the Organization of the Year award on behalf of the Tonasket Visitor and Business Resource Center.

“They’ve been doing a great job,” he said. “There’s been a lot of activity there all year. Linda Black has headed this up, but has brought in a lot of volunteers. They’re so driven.”

North Valley Hospital, which had about 20 employees and board members in attendance, was named Business of the Year.

“They’ve done a lot of hard work on paying down their warrants,” said incoming board VP Julie Alley. “Their customer service has been great, and bringing in the VA clinic has been a great service to our community as well.

“On a personal basis we have worked with the crew there (as part of her business at Tonasket Interiors) and they’ve been great to work with. My daughter was in the hospital in the last year or two, and, well, she wants to go back again.”

NVH District Board of Commissioners chair Helen Casey accepted the award.

“This is really, really special,” Casey said. “It takes a team. We changed our culture, and we have a new leader with (administrator) Linda Michel. But the greatest thing is that we have a community that supports us. And we have a staff where it doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, a nurse, or the person cleaning up the floor. It takes everyone to make it happen and we are truly, truly blessed to have this hospital here in our community.”

President Dale Crandall, Vice President Julie Alley, Secretary Aaron Kester and Treasurer Bill Nelson were installed as the 2012 officers, with Crandall and Nelson continuing in their posts from last year. Serving on the 2012 Board of Directors are Kay Behymer, Terri Orford, Patrick Plumb and Rob Nau.

Jerry Asmussen, as he has in the past, served as auctioneer for the fundraising portion of the evening. Bertha Wandler’s homemade afghan fetched $250 as the single largest sale item. With the auction and ticket sales to the banquet, the event netted the chamber $2210 for the night.

Plumb noted that the good health of the Tonasket Chamber of Commerce is unusual in rural America.

“What a tribute to the Tonasket area businesses,” he said. “Each one is continuing to work hard every day and risk their own personal capital to stay here. We all benefit from the reward of great customer service … that you won’t get at a ‘big box’ (store).”

“This is a wonderful, self-contained, all-American small town,” Crandall said during his speech. “It’s getting better, and we’re the envy of the valley. It’s all because of you and these wonderful businesses we have here. As a business person in town, businesses want to be here and people want to live here… Our opportunities to grow are ahead of us.”