The Montesano Chamber of Commerce honored the best of the city Saturday night with retired teacher Bruce Hooper taking Citizen of the Year honors, along with Our Community Credit Union winning Best Business honors and volunteer Laurie Andrews winning Volunteer of the Year honors from the senior center.
Hooper’s honors was announced the previous week, but the other two were kept as surprises.
It was the 51st time the community has honored a citizen of the year and the 23rd time the community has honored a business of the year.
Our Community Credit Union has been donating to local community activities for years, with a focus on the two elementary schools and the high school.
“We have been partnering with the Chamber for the past two years,” said Branch Supervisor Kristi Beeson. “We’ve been in the Thriftway for, like, five years now and we’ve definitely grown a lot since I first started working there so it’s really exciting. It’s an honor getting this award and I’d just like to thank everybody for that.”
The four finalists for Business of the Year included Pat’s Hair Fashions, Broadway Dental, Marni’s Petal Pushers and Our Community Credit Union.
Montesano Mayor Ken Estes honored Hooper, who had much of his family present.
Hooper, the vice president of the board behind the Chehalis Valley Historical Museum, is also involved with the Montesano Food Bank and is on the Montesano Hall of Fame Committee. He taught for 31 years, of which 20 was at Montesano High School. He also coached cross country and track at the high school for 12 years. A member of St. John’s Catholic Church, he volunteered and painted inside of a renovated rectory and the garage exterior.
He’s also been handy and ran his own part-time painting business for 40 years. At the museum, he painted inside the museum and supervised the foundation work, as well as the installation of new siding and new windows.
“He’s probably painted every place in town,” Estes said.”If you wanted to help a group that really does something cool, go over to the museum and it doesn’t take much. Just stop by a couple times a year to help them keep going.”
Estes said the city recently awarded a couple thousand dollars to the museum out of its tourism tax funds.
Hooper said he was humbled to accept the award.
“This is really a great honor for me, especially and it’s great to live in Montesano because this area has a reputation of being a little bit snobby but it’s because we know we do a good job and we have all of these volunteers for everything,” Hooper said. “You look around the community and there are volunteers in the schools, churches, sports, the city, the fire department, the food bank, the senior center, the library and all of our festivals. I could go on and on. There are so many that volunteer and businesses are consistently helping out. And that is what makes Montesano so good.”
Senior Center coordinator Virginia Nelson said that she brought Andrews to the banquet under false pretenses. She’s one of the excellent cooks, who has helped serve more than 10,000 meals — and Nelson told her she was needed in the kitchen at the banquet.
“In a town of 3,000 serving 10,000 meals is a big deal,” Nelson said. “We couldn’t survive without volunteers.”
Nelson said that Andrews “steps in all the time.” She takes money, wraps candy and helps set up for lunches.
“She just shows up and works all day long and just does it,” Nelson said. “Laurie steps in whenever we need help. For instance, when we have 68 people for lunch, the next day we have no silverware because it’s all used. Laurie is there the next morning wrapping silverware. It sounds silly, but if the silverware is not wrapped, no one is eating lunch.”
Andrews says she was “completely surprised and honored” by the recognition.