Tuesday, August 14 , 2018, 1:14 pm | Fair 75º



Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce Names Winners of Annual Business Star Awards

For the first time ever, awards also will be presented to youths and youth-serving organizations

The Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has announced the winners of its annual Business Star Awards.

The businesses and individuals were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the quality of life for Santa Barbara. Michael Holliday, who will present the awards, will be inducted as the chamber’s 125th chairman.

For the first time in the chamber’s 136-year history, annual awards also will be presented to local youth and youth-serving organizations.

The awards will be presented at the chamber’s annual meeting and luncheon on Friday at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. The event is sold out.

Business Woman: Vanessa Patterson, founder, Monarch Wealth Strategies (Betty Hatch Award)

This award is made to a chamber businesswoman who through her actions is a role model for the community.

Patterson has recently aligned her passion with her profession and has joined the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College as the director of finance and administration. She is proud to be a founder of Monarch Wealth Strategies, and serves as chairwoman of the board.

Patterson is a graduate of UCSB and the International Institute for the Sociology of Law, and holds numerous certifications in financial management. She volunteers both time and money in support of myriad community causes. She is a trustee for the Santa Barbara County Retirement Board and treasurer for the State Association of County Retirement Systems. She is a classically trained violinist and performs at many local nonprofit events.

Innovator: Amir Abo-Shaeer, founder and teacher, Dos Pueblos High School Engineering Academy

This award is traditionally presented to an individual who has made a significant innovative contribution to positively impacting the world.

Abo-Shaeer began his career as a mechanical engineer working on research and development in academia, aerospace and telecommunications before deciding to move into the field of education in 2001.

He graduated from Dos Pueblos High School and attended UCSB, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s of education degree in secondary education.

He teaches physics and engineering, and he develops courses focused on project-based learning, including a robotics class that participates as Team 1717 in the international FIRST Robotics Competition every year. He is also dedicated to outreach efforts, which have yielded 50 percent female student enrollment in his program.

In 2007, he garnered a $3 million California matching grant to create a new facility on campus. He worked with several volunteers to establish the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Foundation, which manages the $3 million capital campaign to match the grant and works to secure funds to sustain the educational goals of the program.

Construction began on the 12,000-square-foot Elings Center for Engineering Education in July. Its July 2011 completion will enable the academy to triple its enrollment and significantly broaden the educational opportunities available to students. The DPEAF is still raising funds to purchase industry-standard machinery and equipment for the building through their Gearing Up! Campaign.

New York Times bestselling author Neal Bascomb wrote a book chronicling Abo-Shaeer’s visionary teaching, his quest to transform education and his 2009 FIRST robotics team’s competition season. The New Cool will be released March 1.

Community Collaboration: Barbara Tellefson and Tom Reed, Unity Shoppe

This award is made to a chamber business member making a significant contribution to the quality of life and economic vitality of the region.

The Unity Shoppe is a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation that encourages self-sufficiency and independence by providing education and the necessities of life to families, children, seniors and people with disabilities during periodic times of crisis. These necessities are provided in a dignified manner without regard to political affiliation, religious belief or ethnic identity.

More than 75,000 visits are made to the “free store” throughout the year. The Unity Shoppe believes in preventing serious problems for the families it serves and the community. By helping people before their problems escalate, they can retain their jobs and their homes. By supplementing their income with needed food and clothing, they can use their limited dollars to pay their rent. With proper support, they can avoid welfare dependency and homelessness while they work toward self-sufficiency.

Businessman: Earl Armstrong, founder and chairman, Armstrong Associates

This award is made to a chamber businessman who through his actions is a role model for the community.

Armstrong, a native of Santa Barbara, founded Armstrong Associates Inc., a general contracting company specializing in commercial, health care and custom residential construction. He serves as chairman of the board and president. In 1991, Armstrong founded Armstrong Marble Inc., a stone fabrication company, specializing in marble and granite for high-end residential homes. He also serves as president and chairman of Armstrong Marble Inc.

Other business involvement includes serving as president and currently as chairman of the board (1991 to present) of Cary Products Inc., a plastic injection molding manufacturing company in Dallas, Texas.

Armstrong’s community involvement includes serving as chairman of the board of Hillside House (1999 to 2010), a nonprofit housing facility for cerebral palsy residents, and is now a board member. He also has been on the board of the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital Foundation (1996 to present). Armstrong served on the board as vice chairman of the Unity Shoppe and termed out in 2007.

Armstrong has been serving on the board of the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce since 2002, as the chairman of the board in 2007, and remains on the board.

Youth Serving Organization: Santa Barbara Zoo

This is the first year this award is being presented. The award recognizes excellence and dedication in serving area youths.

The Santa Barbara Zoo is dedicated to the preservation, conservation and enhancement of the natural world and its living treasures through education, research and recreation. The institution is an essential player in the Santa Barbara community, and believes that youth programs are a key component of its continuing success. It believes in providing youth with opportunities, not only to learn about its mission and core values, but also in providing them opportunities for personal growth and to prepare them to be an active contributor to the community and businesses.

For the purpose of this nomination, the primary focus is on its Guest Experience Summer Program. The zoo invites young teens starting at age 14 to apply for an entry-level customer service position that involves rotating within three departments (retail, restaurant and guest services/admissions) throughout the summer, attending classes and presentations, and recognizing and celebrating their achievements.

The success of GES is demonstrated by the parents who call the zoo to share how much they value this program for their children. Many summer GES participants continue working for the zoo way beyond their initial summer days.

Youth Businessman Award: Gonzalo Rios, Youth CineMedia

Osiris Castenada, founder of Youth CineMedia, said this about Rios: “He is completing SBCC and preparing to transfer to film school in Los Angeles. He has turned his life around dramatically. When I met him six years ago, he was addicted to meth and an active gang member. Now he is an outstanding community member, on the board of directors of two organizations, has a 3.6 GPA, no longer uses drugs and has removed himself from the gang life. He did all of this because of his commitment to excellence, both as a person and as an artist. He used his creativity as fuel to open his mind to new ways of looking at himself and his community. I’m proud that we were able to support his growth and witness the transformative power of film and what is possible when a person makes a commitment to learning a discipline in the arts.”

Youth Businesswoman Award: Ana Aguilar, president, Dons Net Café of Santa Barbara High School

The Dons Net Café is a student-run social entrepreneurial business located on the historic campus of Santa Barbara High School. Every year the organization donates 5,500 community service hours by participating in their free tax site, VITA, and other Ethonomical (Ethical Economics) activities. The organization supports Do Ubuntu, a nonprofit organization that helps children and their mothers who are infected with the HIV virus. They support more than 500 children in South Africa by selling the bracelets.

The Dons Net Café is proud to be involved with Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program, which they have been a part of for five years. They love to fly their Peace Dove whenever they get a chance and their coordinator, Ms. B, was named “Roots and Shoots” Leader of the Year 2010.

The Dons Net Café offers a free tax service called VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance). They are beginning their 18th year. They were the first high school in the nation to be awarded an EFIN, which allows them to e-file directly to Ogden, Utah. They have been named the “best site to be emulated for quality and utility” by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Dons Net Café is committed to green practices, keeping the environment clean and helping the planet heal. They regularly participate in e-waste cleanup on campus and have a huge MarBorg Industries-donated bin to collect school and student e-waste throughout the year. They also collect old cell phones to keep the Congo safe and help endangered elephants and gorillas.

Youth Collaborator Award: Ellen Gleason, student CEO, Kids Helping Kids Program of San Marcos High School

For the past seven years, three senior AP economics classes at San Marcos High School have put on fundraising events to care for less fortunate kids. Hence the name “Kids Helping Kids,” led by teacher Jamie DeVries.

DeVries has inspired his students to accomplish great things while incorporating what they learn in the classroom. KHK Team members, by partnering with the Unity Shoppe, learn about nonprofits; giving back to the communities they live in; how to give professional-level proposals for corporate sponsorships; and how to organize and manage multiple fundraising events.

There is a waiting list for the classes that have the Kids Helping Kids program. This year, Gleason was the student CEO of the organization, and under her leadership the group raised $165,000 for the Unity Shoppe.

Youth Innovator Award: Spencer Dusebout, president, H4O (Hands 4 Others)

The mission of H40 began with a simple challenge: to look beyond the comforts of their teenage lives and do something for others in need. Each member, having traveled outside the United States, could not shake the images of children and families forced to spend most of their time gathering insufficient amounts of dirty water — water we would not bathe in, let alone drink. Their response to what they saw was to form Hands 4 Others (H4O), a movement of young people (who together with their families) have been called to change the world one person, one family, one village at a time by providing sustainable access to safe, drinkable water for those in need.

The goal is to help more than 2 million people in 500 villages around the world by 2015. Children and families in seven countries around the world are being helped by its efforts and the contributions of its supporters.

— Marcia Reed is vice president of the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce.

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