Honor roll: North Santiam Chamber of Commerce celebrates award winners

May, 2018 Posted in Community

By Mary Owen

North Santiam Chamber of Commerce recognized the winners of the 2018 Santiam Awards on April 25 at a celebration at Santiam High School in Mill City.


Anita Leach was named Citizen of the Year. Dubbed one of the area’s superstars, she received multiple nominations.

“Leach is appreciated by many local non-profit groups for her cheerful willingness to always lend a hand to a good cause,” said Michelle Gates, speaking for NSCC.

“She is an active volunteer with the Save Our Bridge efforts, the Youth Benefit Golf Tournament, the Santiam Canyon School District, and has even been seen getting down and dirty while cleaning and doing gardening work around town with the Canyon Catalysts.

“Her can-do attitude gets many projects done. She volunteers her time to share presentations of important causes and has served as a liaison between several groups.”


Taking the President’s Choice Award for her community involvement was Sherri Gust-Cardwell.

“Since moving to our community a few years ago, Sherri has run her own business in her home, plus engaged in many community activities as a volunteer,” a nominator wrote. “She joined the Eagles and immediately began cooking, soliciting donations for auctions, and organizing fundraisers, such as Hot August Nights for four years, getting school supplies for Mill City students and Heart2Arts/KYAC, and most recently for SKATE.
She is the vice-president of the Eagles and SKATE.”

Gust-Cardwell also joined the Santiam Canyon Community Chorus, for which she is a council member, and was on the committee and in charge of entertainment for the River City Jamboree Festival held last August.


Business of the Year went to Rex Images and Promotional Products and its owners, Rex and Angie Mittelstaedt. The couple earned the award for their contributions to the area through their development of tourism-related products and for promoting team spirit at local high school programs. Rex Mittelstaedt also serves on the chamber’s board of directors.


The Save Our Bridge Committee took top honors as Nonprofit of the Year for its work with the city of Mill City to preserve the Historic Railroad Bridge by its Centennial Celebration next year. The committee was formed in 2014 by chairperson, Lynda Harrington. Other members are: Denny Chamberlain, Dave Forward, John Gottfried, Dorothy Keasey, Anita Leach, Dave Leach, Roel Lundquist, and Frances Thomas. The goal was to have the bridge renovated in time for its Centennial Celebration in 2019.

“The nine members of the Save Our Bridge Committee recognized that the bridge provides a connection to our community’s history and must be preserved for future generations,” said Gates. “The scope of the project was overwhelming at first and it was a challenge just getting started, but the SOB’s kept at it.”

Most recently, Save Our Bridge received a prestigious TIGER grant, with solidifies the ability to complete projects that had been on their wish list for years, including updating and preserving the Railroad Bridge, improving and reinforcing the Green Bridge, and improving SW Broadway Street along with the pedestrian trail.


Elaina Turpin was honored as the Young Adult Citizen of the Year. She received accolades for her community involvement on projects such as the Neighborhood Watch and Parent-Teacher Organization.

“If there is a project going on around town, Elaina is usually involved, either as a pioneer in getting it off the ground or as a member of the planning group behind it,” nominators agreed. “She is on the Reid House committee, was one of the early people who helped gather local leaders to meet on a monthly basis, and has volunteered to keep the high school’s robotics team up and running.

“Elaina was also one of the three young professionals who helped GROW launch its Young Professionals group a few years ago, and has been an important part of the leadership teams for our Economic Vitality Summit in spring 2015 and our Rural Tourism Studio Accelerator training with Travel Oregon in spring 2016, and is a key member on our regional tourism marketing strategy team right now. She played an important role in River Fusion 22 last summer.”


Poppa Al’s Famous Hamburgers and its owners, Kevin Muniz and Ellen Murphy, received the most nominations for the Canyon Beautification and Improvement Award that the Chamber has ever received during the awards application process, Gates said.

“It’s obvious to see why,” she said. “They have dedicated a huge amount of time and resources to increasing the visitor experience by improving foot paths, creating beautiful landscaping, adding picnic tables and more.”

One nominator said, “It is a pleasure to both eat outside, as well as look up and over from Wall Street and see the improvement.”


Education Awards recognized the many educators and students that contribute to the community. Recipients were chosen by school administration for dedication to teaching, learning and being outstanding representatives:

• Santiam Elementary School Educator of the Year, Stephanie Grenbemer; Student of the Year, Obree Noggle.

• Santiam JR/SR High School Educator of the Year, Danley Phillips; Students/Youths of the Year awards, Joshua Fawcett and Colin Thurston.

• Oregon Connections Academy Educator of the Year, Brittany Zahlet; Student of the Year, Garrett Kincaid.

• Mari-Linn Elementary School Educator of the Year, Clastine Ritchie; Student of the Year, Kody Martinmaas.

The Santiam Canyon Youth Benefit Golf Tournament contributed $22,150 to youth causes and student scholarships this year. These funds were raised at the 2017 tournament held in August. Grants went to: Santiam Elementary Outdoor School, Eagles Community Halloween Party, Mill City-Gates Recreation Association, Diamondback Clovers 4-H, First Book, Santiam 7th-8th Softball, Santiam CTE Shop Program, Santiam Vicariate Youth Ministry, Lyons Public Library, Santiam Baseball, Santiam High School Leadership, Santiam Boys Basketball, Santiam High Football, Santiam Wrestling, Santiam Music Program, Santiam Elementary Science Night, and Santiam Humanities – Shakespeare,
Missoula Theater.

Students receiving scholarships were: Theresa Chrestenson, Cheyenne Cox, Emily Adams and Rachel Dolby, Regis High School; Jacobe Croff, Aidan Hill and Kaitlyn Hofmann, Stayton High School; and Olivia Horning and Paige Hanna, Santiam High School.

The city of Mill City’s Marion White Volunteerism Award was the “surprise” presentation of the evening, however, it was announced after press time. The winner will be featured in the next edition of Our Town.

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