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Santa Barbara Chamber Presents Business Star Awards

Nikki Katz, Bob and Lynn Koegel, Paul Didier and Earl Armstrong are this quarter's honorees

The Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce board of directors has announced the winners of its quarterly Business Star Awards. The businesses and individuals were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the quality of life for Santa Barbara.

Businesswoman (Betty Hatch Award) — Nikki Katz, founder and program director of the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation

Katz brings 17 years of social work experience to the organization. She began her career by studying criminology and sociology, and then worked as a residential counselor in a group home facility for
juveniles on probation. She has worked with a full range of people in need, from young kids to disabled teenagers and elderly cancer patients, whom she trained as a volunteer at the Santa Barbara Athletic Club.

In addition to her volunteer work and five-year stint as executive director of the foundation, Katz has served on the committee for the Children’s Miracle Network and has worked closely with Hugs for Cubs and the Santa Barbara Foresters baseball team. She established the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation in 2002.

Innovator — Bob and Lynn Koegel of the Koegel Autism Center at UCSB

The Koegel Autism Center has been recognized by the National Academy of Sciences as one of the best in the country.

The Koegels’ work started at UCSB in the 1970s. Lynn Koegel is director of the center, and Bob Koegel is the co-director and a professor of clinical psychology. Their research has led to national legislation in public schools and has been the subject of extensive news coverage and documentaries. They lead the nation in developing effective treatments for individuals with autism. Their new research center was made possible by a gift from local residents Brian and Patricia Kelly.

Community Collaboration — Paul Didier, 36-year CEO of United Way

Didier was named Fundraiser of the Year for Santa Barbara County in 2009. As president and CEP, he has applied for-profit, market-driven innovations to United Way and other nonprofit organizations by creating a collaborative working environment among local charities. He has raised tens of millions of dollars on behalf of United Way and nonprofits. Santa Barbara United Way campaigns have significantly outdistanced the results of other United Ways in California and the United States.

Didier’s local innovations include the Day of Caring, Fun in the Sun youth summer program, establishment of permanent United Way Santa Barbara headquarters, the Power of Partnership Innovative and collaborative relief responses to the recent Tea and Jesusita fires.

Businessman — Earl Armstrong of Armstrong Associates

Business leader. Eight-year chamber board member. Event sponsor. Armstrong has served on the Hillside House board of directors for 13 years, including eight years as president, during which time the organization turned around its financial performance and developed a dynamic plan for its future. Armstrong has been president of the board of the Chamber of Commerce and serves on the board of Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital. Armstrong is a recent winner of the “Man of Purpose” Award.

— Steve Cushman is president of the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce.


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