SWEET HOME — Newcomers passing by the Jim Riggs Community Center Saturday night might have thought they were dreaming or having a hallucination.
The Boys & Girls Club gymnasium was filled with the sounds of Christmas music during the 73rd annual Chamber of Commerce community awards program.
Santa Claus also visited and he didn’t even have to climb down a chimney.
Since the Sweet Home Ranger District has been selected to provide the Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., it’s now “Christmas All Year Long” in the community of 9,000 residents.
In addition to belting out a joyous rendition of “Jingle Bells,” more than 300 persons helped celebrate the community’s top volunteers during the annual event emceed by chamber board members Tess Yahyazadeh and George Medellin.
Dinner was catered by The Point Restaurant and music was provided by Trevor Tagle, Paul Rowton with the Singing Christmas Tree singers and Master Chordsmen, accompanied by pianist Bill Langdon.
Special guests included commissioners Will Tucker and John Lindsey and State Rep. Sherrie Sprenger.
“It is a blessing to serve you,” Chamber President Bill Matthews said.
He introduced other board members including Yahyazadeh, Medellin, Michele Carter, Brian Adams, Ian Rollins, Karla Hogan, and Dave Jurney.
Awards were presented by the Chamber of Commerce and VIP awards were presented by the Presidents Club.
Chamber award recipients were: Business of the Year: Radiator Supply House; First Citizen: Scott Swanson; Junior First Citizen: Dakotah Keys; Woman of the Year: Susan Coleman; Distinguished Service: Alice Grovum and Dale Jenkins; Organization of the Year: the Sweet Home Boys & Girls Club.
Ryan Garrett accepted the Business of the Year Award.
Garrett and his brother Will have built a thriving business from the ground up in Sweet Home and recently expanded into the former Stock family mill site.
The company was founded in 2003, but the brothers have worked in the industry all of their lives, following in their father’s footsteps.
The company has more than 30 employees and manufactures metal replacement radiators, steel tanks, aluminum radiators and oil coolers, for everything from automobiles and motor homes to giant radiators for stationery industrial generators.
Their products are used in construction, custom fabrication, tractor-trailers, mining, logging, motor coaches, waste and refuse equipment, agriculture, antiques/restoration and the auto and truck markets.
The Garretts are also strong community supporters backing everything from sports activities and the annual Working Loggers Relays during Sportsman’s Holiday, to placing pianos downtown for community enjoyment during the summer.
They also recently helped sponsor the new Medal of Honor Highway signs at the east and west entrances of the community.
Distinguished Citizens Alice Grovum and Dale Jenkins and activities would make people half their ages jealous.
Grovum, 92, has been a fixture of the Sweet Home business community and volunteer since 1951 when she joined the Business and Professional Women’s Club.
She was secretary/treasurer of the Chamber of Commerce for nine years, formed the Presidents Club in 1980, has been a driving force behind the community’s beautification program, turning an ugly blacktop median strip into a colorful, lighted garden. She has been active at the Fir Lawn Lutheran Church for decades and has volunteered with annual Christmas festivities.
“She has stayed involved and learned from everyone she met because she believes you need to continue learning throughout your life,” emcee Tess Yahyazadeh said. “She is beloved by many.”
Dale Jenkins moved to Sweet Home 10 years ago.
Jenkins served as a Boatswain Mate in the U.S. Navy from 1971-75 and dedicates his life to veterans.
He is commander of the AMVETS Post 13; is in line to become the 3rd District Commander of the largest district in the state, is a founding sponsor of the Army Museum in Washington, D.C. and has been instrumental as a volunteer and driving force with the local Christmas programs, the Medal of Honor Highway, March for Child Abuse Awareness and numerous other patriotic events.
First Citizen Scott Swanson, along with his wife, Miriam, have owned The New Era newspaper for the last 13 years.
Swanson has chaired the Linn County Cultural Coalition, SHARE (Sweet Home Active Revitalization Effort), serves on the board of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association; volunteers and participates in the annual Best of the West Triathlon, plays piano at the Elm Street Baptist Church, coordinates an annual Christmas caroling service at the church, volunteers and provide design layout and editing of an annual quarterly worldwide missionary newsletter and cuts wood and does home repair work for an elderly local resident.
Junior First Citizen Dakotah Keys was an outstanding Sweet Home High School and University of Oregon scholar/athlete who is now shining as an Oregon State Policeman.
Keys graduated from SHHS in 2010, was a National All-American Decathlete, SHHS Athlete of the Year qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2012 and 2016.
In addition to his duties with the Oregon State Police, Keys is coaching the Husky track and field program and with his own time and money, converted a shed at the high school into a weight room.
At work, Keys has a passion for getting drunk drivers off the roads and in 2017, made 97 DUII arrests.
He and his wife, Justine, have a 2-year-old daughter Naiya and a baby due in August.
The Sweet Home Boys and & Girls Club serves more than 900 children each year, earning it the Organization of the Year award.
On average, 114 elementary student and 30 junior high and high school students attend daily after school programs.
The club fielded more than 35 athletic teams during the last year and 150 volunteers were coaches, mentors and program supporters.
The club served more than 20,000 meals last year and opened a no-cost preschool, which is helping prepare 25 children for kindergarten.
Woman of the Year Susan Coleman has a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in intercultural studies. She serves on the city council, volunteers at the HOPE Center, is a member of the Toastmasters Club, developed a Life Skills for Littles program for children ages 1-6 that includes cooking, budgeting and character building skills.
Coleman leads Bible Studies with the Mid-Valley Women for Christ, serves on the Hillside Fellowship board and is a liaison to the Chamber of Commerce and SHEM board.
Coleman is also chairing the Sweet Home Capitol Christmas Tree Committee.
Mayor Greg Mahler presented Sweet Home native Bob Dalton with the first Mayor’s Award.
Dalton worked for Willamette Industries/Weyerhaeuser for more than 40 years.
He has been active in numerous community events over the years, most recently helping keep Wiley Creek Assisted Living open and developing an annual community health fair.
Dalton has also been active in helping the community develop a long-term plan for the former Morse Brothers and Willamette Industries properties.
Mahler said he has gotten to know Dalton in recent years due to his work with the Wiley Creek project and the health fair and said he has a strong work ethic and is truly dedicated to his community.