Award recipients and business representatives from throughout the Santa Clarita Valley attended the SCV Chamber of Commerce 2024 Awards and Installation dinner at the Hyatt Regency Valencia, marking the chamber’s 101st anniversary.
Ivan Volschenk, chamber president and CEO, and John Musella, chief advocacy officer of the chamber, welcomed the attendees, including dignitaries and local business owners, with warm sentiments.
“In the past year, our chamber experienced remarkable growth … The increased number of businesses joining our ranks is a testament to the vibrant and supportive business environment we have here in Santa Clarita,” Musella said. “As we continue to expand, we’re not just rolling the numbers, but collective strength that comes from a diverse and dynamic membership. Beyond numerical growth, it is essential to highlight the meaningful impact our business advocacy work has had on shaping policies and initiatives that directly benefit our local businesses.”
The honorees for the year included: Cheri Fleming Heart of the Community award recipient, Marlee Lauffer; Public Service recipient, Capt. Justin Diez; Non-Profit of the Year recipient, Assistance League of Santa Clarita; Rising Star recipient, The SCV Hub Virtual Food Hall; Entrepreneurial Spirit recipient, Terrell Edwards Top Entertainment; and Business of the Year recipient, Logix Federal Credit Union.
While Lauffer had her award accepted by Holly Schroeder, vice president of External Affairs for DrinkPAK, Schroeder read an acceptance written by Lauffer, who is the president of the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation.
“Over 30 years ago, I moved to Valencia to take a job. Little did I know that that job would lead to an amazing career. The Santa Clarita Valley will become my beloved home and the community would give me far more than I could ever give to it,” Schroeder read on behalf of Lauffer. “This has become a special place to raise my daughter, I found friends who became my family and I discovered so many meaningful professional and personal relationships and opportunities.”
Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, introduced Diez, but not without pulling out an important prop: a Fix-a-Flat.
“Captain Diez truly has such a big heart. I was at an event where I ended up with a flat tire and [he] whips out some Fix-a-Flat,” Schiavo said. “I was towering over him while he’s down there with the cell phone, giving him some light so that he can fix my tire. I just appreciate that he really is always there for folks in our community, always doing the right thing and always making sure that our community is safe and protected. I’m very happy to present this honor to him and also replace the Fix-a-Flat.”
Diez thanked Schiavo for her generous gift, while expressing his gratitude for being a part of a community like Santa Clarita.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized in a room full of SCV leaders … we’re all very fortunate to be a part of Santa Clarita — a place we call home,” Diez said. “When you think of public safety and quality of life for the city of Santa Clarita, you think, ‘God, what a concept. Why don’t other cities do that?’… So I certainly don’t take that for granted.”
After a dinner break, state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, kept the audience in an uproar, while ensuring the concept of equity by leading the audience to clap just once for each board member announced.
In addition, Wilk swore in the following new members onto the board: Jeffrey Gregor, Denise Lite, Orlando Moreno, Holly Schroeder, Tom Swire and Bryan Touchstone.
Durinda Evanoff, president of the Assistance League of Santa Clarita, accepted the award for Non-Profit of the Year, emphasizing that 100% of the nonprofit is comprised of volunteers.
“The Assistance League of Santa Clarita has been in this valley for over 30 years, and was always the best-kept secret in town. Not anymore,” Evanoff said. “Our nonprofit runs eight different philanthropic programs and has put back into our community well over $4 million. We believe a big component to our success and growth is due to our partnerships that have been made within this great community.”
The SCV Hub was recognized as the Rising Star recipient, and the award was accepted by owners Scott Wesselhoff and Chris Collins, who take pride in local food to bring together the community.
“With a grand opening in November of 2023, just a few months ago, we took a 10,000-square-foot laser tech warehouse and we made it into 18 commercial kitchens … It takes multiple investors, long-standing friends and key supporters,” Wesselhoff said. “As restaurant operators and owners know, there is a heart in the house in every restaurant. We have a heart of the hall, which are the tenants that lease kitchens from us. They’re independently owned … and work together in making sure that good food goes out to local people.”
While Terrell Edwards, a Navy veteran and entrepreneur, could not attend in person to give thanks for winning the Entrepreneurial Spirit award for Terrell Edwards Top Entertainment, he virtually expressed appreciation for the award, as well as appreciation for Jay Leno, a key figure who propelled Edwards’ career.
“Let me take this opportunity to thank a man who saw the need to challenge me to be more, do more and give more, that man in none other than Jay Leno. And because of his encouragement, I took a risk and moved to Los Angeles, and found a home right here in Santa Clarita,” Edwards said. “I think what elevates Top Entertainment from other sound and lighting companies is the ability to see our customers’ vision with the entertainer’s eye. For many years, I’ve seen the struggle customers had to help technicians imagine their vision. Well, as an entertainer, this is an ability that I have had the pleasure of acquiring through my unique position for over 30 years on stage.”
Ana Fonseca, president and CEO of Logix Federal Credit Union, which has been in business for 87 years, accepted the final award for the evening: Business of the Year.
“Tonight I’m here representing 860 rockstar employees … this award would not be possible without our amazing employees on our team,” Fonseca said. “This award is a testament to the selective efforts of every single individual who contributes to the success of our institution. I’m privileged to lead a team of talented and dedicated professionals who work to uphold values of our organization: integrity, humility and service to the community.”