I love celebrations almost as much as I love printing presses. So the opportunity to drink beer at our Ninth Street production facility was too good to pass up.
More than 140 people joined me among the towering rolls of newsprint and two-story printing press (you need so see it to believe it and…if you want…I’ll show it to you) last Wednesday afternoon to honor 30 of our community’s young and brightest stars.
The occasion was our annual “30 Under 35,” a program that began long before I got here in partnership with sponsors of The Business World, our monthly business magazine.
Someone much smarter than me (probably Rufus Woods) thought it would be a good idea to identify and recognize the valley’s future leaders. They used 35 years old as a benchmark, assuming that once you reach 35 you are on the down-slope of life.
That means I’ve been on the down-slope of life since a stamp was 22 cents and gasoline cost less than a dollar a gallon.
You do the math. It’s been a long slope and my knees hurt.
This year’s group of 30 included dancers, lawyers, farmers, accountants, healthcare professionals, soldiers, wine makers and other young professionals. Most of them were raised here, went off to college, explored the world and came home.
And that’s exactly what a quality community needs in order to stay that way. We want our children to come home again. We want them close and…more important…we want to pass the torch from one generation to the next.
We want them to raise their children here and to recognize that they have an obligation to help shape a better tomorrow.
A quality community does not happen accidentally. It takes vision and dedication and perseverence; all attributes of leadership.
The 30 young people gathered Wednesday have those qualities and it’s our job to encourage them to even greater heights.
That’s where the spotlight comes in. Each recipient was nominated by someone who recognized individual greatness and potential. And for some of the nominees it was the first time anyone outside their family noticed.
There is greatness all around us, if we are take the time to listen.
Johnny Urdahl is a security supervisor at Confluence Health. He’s 32 and is a combat veteran who has dedicated his life to the memory of a close friend who didn’t make it home from Afghanistan.
There is Annagrisel Alvarez, a public information officer with the City of Wenatchee. She’s 31 and credits her parents for leaving their own lives behind to come to the U.S. in search of a better life for their children. Annagrisel says her dad inspired her to live her life with passion and commitment and that she strives to do that every day.
Cinthia Piedra’s parents brought her to America when she was 2 years old. “They worked their way up in a country they knew nothing about,” she said. “They left a country, family and friends, all so I would be able to have a better future.” Today, the 23-year-old Cinthia is a legal assistant for Jerry Moberg & Associates.
Luke Tonnemaker is 29 and manages his family’s Tonnemaker Hill Farm. “I have a 16-month-old son and the last thing I’d want is for him to miss out on growing up on the farm and having a chance to add to the family legacy down the road,” Luke said.
While each of the 30 stories is unique, there is a common thread: All 30 of them love this community and want to make it better.
I suppose that was music to the ears of our evening’s emcee Rufus Woods, whose roots were nourished through generations of community stewardship.
The other recipients were:
Jana Fischback — Sustainable Wenatchee
Katie Harmon — Stemlit Growers
Christopher Goehner — Swire — Coca—Cola
Kelsy Bendtsen — Eastmont School District
Errin Bratton — Confluence Health
Brandi Buck — Hagadone Directories
Marissa Collins — Numerica Performing Arts Center
Whitney Acheson — Moody Sisters Skincare
Jon Wilson — Confluence Health
Becca Freimuth — Greater Wenatchee Area Technology Services
Jeremy Wrzesinski — Chateau Faire le Port Winery
Geoff Bailey — Littrell & Bailey P.S.
Baron McGaha — Mid Valley Hospital
Hannah Etengoff — Counsel for Defense of Chelan County
Christal Eshelman — North Central Accountable Community of Health
Meredith Hilger — Wenatchee Downtown Association
Allie Jordan — Happy Crop Shoppe
Amanda Lundy — Logic20/20
Elliott Salmon — KOHO Radio
Ryan Smolinsky — Overcast Law Offices
Nick Sowle — Icicle Village Resort
Kyle Eberth — Young Life
Clayton Graef — Davis Arneil Law Firm
Shannen Itterley — Calvary Crossroads Church
Breanne Hensley — Chelan County Department of Community Development
Sarah Lindell — Cashmere Valley Wealth Management
Congratulations to all of this year’s recipients. We are grateful for your presence and optimistic for our future.
Jeff Ackerman can be reached at 665-1160 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.