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Pajaro Chamber announces award winners

Modified: Wednesday, Oct 30th, 2013

World class surfer Chris Bertish, who is the Maverick's 2009-2010 big wave winner, lends a hand teaching youths about the sport in 2012 at the second annual Monterey Bay Youth Outdoor Day. (Photos by Elyse Destout Photography and Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — The Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture on Wednesday announced its award winners for man, woman, event, organization, business of the year, in addition to its lifetime achievement award.

Nevanka Radich and Ed Banks were named woman and man of the year, while Monterey Bay Youth Outdoor Day picked up a nod for event of the year. Pajaro Valley Shelter Services is organization of the year, and RV’s Computers was named business of the year.

Strawberry farmers Clint and Karen Miller, known were given the organization’s lifetime achievement award.

The winners are nominated by a community ballot process and chosen by a committee of winners from the past five years.


Man of the year: Ed Banks

When he was informed of the award, Banks said he was pleasantly surprised and honored, but also admitted being a bit “humbled.”

“I try to stay under the radar,” he said. “A person should be known for what they do in the community. Accolades are nice but I’d like to see other people get the recognition.”

In his involvement with the community, Banks has served as president of the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture and of the Watsonville Rotary.

He graduated from Watsonville High School in 1966 and from Cabrillo College two years later.

A proud alum of the community college, Banks serves on the Cabrillo College Foundation Board and on the Board of Trustees.

He was also a reserve fire lieutenant with the Watsonville Fire Department until the program was terminated in 1996, and currently works with the Watsonville Firefighters Association museum group, which meets monthly to find ways to keep the museum running.

In addition, he volunteers with the Rotary Club of Watsonville program reading buddy program at E. A. Hall Middle School every Wednesday, as a Community Emergency Response Team instructor for the City of Watsonville CERT program, and teaches fire safety classes to young people.

Banks has been in the insurance profession since 1972, beginning with opportunities at the Hartford in San Francisco and Fireman’s Fund in San Jose. He returned home to Watsonville in 1977 to join the firm of Martin & Friend Insurance Agency. In 1996, he merged the agency with Kane-Hall-Palmtag Insurance to form KBK Insurance Agency.

“You’re only as successful as the community makes you,” he said of his community involvement. “It’s a good thing to be an active part in what goes on.

“It may not necessarily be glamorous, but if you do your small part you’ll be better off for it later in life.”


Woman of the year: Nevanka Radich

“First of all, I couldn’t believe it,” Nevenka Radich said Wednesday. “I thought there were many more people that deserve this more then me. I was speechless. I just cannot believe it, even now, hours later. I never did anything to impress anyone; I just work from my heart.

Radich said she taught the R.O.P class for 13 years and would stage two student driven fashion events at the Mello Center each year.

“It was always a lot of work but it was a great learning experience for my students,” she said. “Nobody pushed the students. They rose to the occasion on their own.”

Radich retired in 2010.

She came to Watsonville in 1968 from Serbia.


Event of the year: Monterey Bay Youth Outdoor Day.

“My initial reaction was complete shock,” said Elyse Destout, one of the chief organizers of the event. “It has been several years of hard work. We work year-round to make this happen. I did not know that something like these awards even existed. Right now, there are no words to explain how I feel.”

“Next year’s event is going to be even bigger and better.”

The event, a huge free offering of dozens of sporting activities, from fishing and archery to surfing and horseback riding, is heading into its fourth year. The one-day event takes place at the fairgrounds.

“We’re planning right now for this year’s event, which looks like it might happen on June 21,” Destout said.

From the beginning, Destout said the event was meant to be free.

“We wanted everybody to able to enjoy, participate and share the joy of outdoors,” she said.

About 1,000 young people attend each year.

“We just want to spread the word that this is really is a labor of love and that somebody out there recognizes this,” she said.


Organization of the year: Pajaro Valley Shelter Services

Executive Director Kimberly Ferm said the award falling on the organization’s 30th anniversary made receiving it all the more sweet.

“We are truly honored to be recognized for this award,” she said.

The organization runs an emergency shelter where families can stay for up to 90 days, and transitional housing where they can stay for up to two years.

The organization serves 260 individuals every year, and has since its inception served more than 5,000 people.

The main focus, she said, is working directly with families by encouraging them to work and save 90 percent of what they earn to be able to afford an apartment of their own. They must provide only a small amount of food for themselves and are charged a minimum rent.

“They must save money,” Ferm said.

The program boasts an 85 percent success rate, as evidenced by the collective savings recorded last year of $47,000 by residents of the emergency housing program and more than $117,000 by transitional housing residents, Ferm said.

“We have an amazing opportunity to help families out of homelessness,” she said.

Pajaro Valley Shelter Services relies largely on donations. For information, call www.pvshelter.org or call 728-5649. The organization is also on Facebook.


Business of the year: RV’s Computers

In its 15th year, RV computers is owned by Ricardo Rocha, a Michoacán, Mexico, native who studied computers as a boy with the dream of running his own computer business.

Rocha came to the Watsonville area in 1991 when he was 19 and worked agriculture, landscaping and construction jobs as he attended night classes, perfecting his English skills.

He then attended Cabrillo College, where he enrolled in a 3-year computer technology program, earning an Associate Degree in microcomputer management and networking in 1996.

The business — named in honor of his parents’ last names—Rocha and Valdez — got its start through the Plaza Vigil Business Incubator, a program sponsored by the El Pájaro Community Development Corp. that allows entrepreneurs to rent space in a visible area and learn about the financial and marketing aspects of running a business.

Rocha is active in the business community, and has served on the board of the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

He has also been involved with the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce, Second Harvest Food Bank, Saint Francis Central Coast Catholic High School, and the Rotary Club of Watsonville.


Calls to Nevanka Radich and Clint and Karen Miller were not returned as of press time.

The Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture will honor the Man, Woman, Event, Organization and Business of the Year and the Lifetime Achievement awards at its 52nd Annual Awards Black & White Gala on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets are $75 per person, and reservations are required.

For information, call 724-3900 or email Dianne@pajarovalleychamber.com.

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