The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce has announced the winners of the 2018 Spice of Life Awards and the list includes several well-known Gilroyans in the business community along with those who have devoted their lives to serving their community. Local businesses and non-profit organizations have also been honored for their work in the community.
Man of the Year – Gary Walton
The Chamber has awarded developer Gary Walton with the Man of the Year Award owing not only to his 30 years of community service but also for his forward thinking. Walton, the current president of the Gilroy Downtown Business Association, has spent countless hours researching how to improve Gilroy’s downtown experience.
Walton’s belief in Gilroy’s outdoor beauty, its history and prime location, Walton built his first residential development of Santa Teresa in 1987 and has since continued to build mixed-use buildings downtown to set an example for historic renovation. Walton also is the president of the Miller Red Barn Association Committee and serves on the Gilroy Unreinforced Masonry Committee, the Gilroy Economic Development Corporation’s Board and on the Gilroy Dispatch Editorial Board.
Women of the year – Lupe Lopez
The 2018 Women of the Year is Lupe Lopez, owner of Arteaga’s Food Center. Lopez opened Arteaga’s Food Center in 2001 and soon after that organized the first Community Health Fair. It’s been Lopez’s goal to promote awareness and healthier eating habits through the availability of high-quality food and education.
Lopez is involved in organizations like Avanzando, a non-profit organization she co-founded that promotes the advancement of the Latino community through education. Lopez also serves on the board of Latinos Unidos de Newark Association, an organization dedicated to raising scholarships. She also volunteers for the Hispanic Community Affair Council, Carnaval San Francisco, Dia de Los Muertos in Oakland, Vision Literacy, the Tiburcio Vazquez Clinic and is a parent advocate at Graham School and Newark Memorial High School.
Large Business of the Year – Noah Concrete
Noah Concrete has been named the Large Business of the Year, recognizing the solid foundation the business has laid in Gilroy. Started in 1996 by Don Alvarez Sr. in San Jose, Noah Concrete moved to Gilroy in 2000 where the company has emerged as an industry leader in the Silicon Valley. Since the move to Gilroy, Noah Concrete opened a recycling operation, which has diverted tons of material from landfills.
Don Alvarez Sr is a member of St. Mary’s Church, the Gilroy Elks and is a member of the American Society of Concrete Contractors. Noah Concrete has donated labor concrete material for projects like the FFA barn at Gilroy High School, the K-9 kennels at the Old Gilroy Police Department and the helicopter pad at St. Louise Medical Center along with several projects at the Hispanic Learning Center in San Jose. Recently, Noah Concrete raised over $3,000 to the Gilroy Police Foundation.
Small Business of the Year – Café 152 Bread Company
Café 152 Bread Company won the Small Business of the Year award, not just for the delicious bread, sandwiches and salads served up, but also for the work Bruce and Audrey Haller have done in Gilroy.
In 1999 the Hallers opened a Wienerschnitzel franchise on First Street and in 2005, they opened Café 152 Restaurant, later expanding with Café 152 Burger Company and ultimately opened Café 152 Bread Company on the corner of Eigleberry and Fourth Streets.
The Hallers are contributors to organizations such as the San Jose Conservation Corps, Rebekah Children Service’s Kneaded Bakery, Sobrato High School’s FFA and Education Committee’s Rock-the-Mock as well as being members of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce since they opened their Wienerschnitzel restaurant.
Non-Profit of the Year – Rebekah Children’s Services
For its work in forging paths of hope, happiness and well-being, Rebekah Children’s Services have been named the Non-Profit of the Year. Rebekah’s Children’s Services offers programs to help place children in caring foster care homes where 14 children were adopted to loving homes in 2017. Additionally, nine new foster families have been trained to accept needy children into their homes.
Rebekah Children’s Services also operates Family Resource Center where they teach parenting classes and host literacy programs and the Compadres Program which is designed to keep youth with their families. Rebekah Children’s Services also operates a Culinary School where over 800 disadvantaged youth people aged 15-24 learn job skills and Kneaded Bakery that has seen about 50 apprentices move on to full-time jobs or higher education.
Educator of the Year – Maria Walker
In recognition of her goal to instill the love of learning in her students, Maria Walker, principal of Solorsano Middle School, has been named the 2018 Educator of the Year. Walker began her career as an educator in 1990 when she started as a substitute teacher for the Gilroy Unified School District. From there she was an elementary teacher for 11 years where she coordinated programs such as Science Camp.
While at South Valley Middle School she served as a member of the Middle School Alignment Task Force to look at the curricular structure of the new Ascencion Solorsano Middle School. In 2003 she went on to teach at Ascencion Middle School where she became the assistant principal in 2008, a position she would hold until 2011 when she became principal at Solorsano Middle School.
Firman B. Voorhies Volunteer of the Year – Joyce Duarte
In recognition of her longtime record of community service, Joyce Duarte has been named the 2018 Firman B. Voorhies Volunteer of the Year. For 26 years, Duarte has been a volunteer with the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, where she has served on the Ambassador Committee. She is a staple at the monthly After-Hours Mixer and the Chamber’s breakfasts where she works checking people in as well as selling raffle tickets and everything in between.
Susan Valenta Youth Leadership Award – Michael Kong
Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy senior Michael Kong was named the Susan Valenta Youth Leadership award winner. With the ultimate goal of attending Columbia University to study biochemistry. Kong is deeply involved in his community, with helping other students with their homework and has a passion for music.