Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Hundreds attend the annual Chamber of Commerce 2017 Lifetime Achievement Awards honoring Dr. Mohammad Ashraf, Steve Copland, Dale Evans, Kay Rhoads and memorial honoree Sal Perlongo at Hatfield Hall at the fairgrounds on Thursday.
More than 300 people gathered Thursday at Hatfield Hall on the Madera District Fairgrounds to confer the Madera Chamber of Commerce’s annual Lifetime Achievement Awards on five hometown heroes.
The all-star gala celebrated the lives of the 2017 honorees: Dr. Mohammad Ashraf, Steve Copland, Dale Evans, Kay Rhodes and the late Sal Perlongo.
Ashraf, who was introduced by chamber president Debi Bray, is a board certified cardiologist who came to Madera in the fall of 1980. Not known for boasting, he questioned the reason for his selection for the award. He jokingly asked if it was because he and Bray are neighbors.
During his acceptance speech, Ashraf told a touching story of when his brother died in a car accident overseas. A total stranger went to great lengths to assist Ashraf in his hour of need. This man helped with arrangements to return the brother’s remains and offered other support, including arranging for an insurance payment. The stranger’s kindness helped at a most difficult time in Ashraf’s life.
“We are all equal, we need to work together to make the planet a better place,” Ashraf said.
Introduced by chamber board member Belva Bare, honoree Steve Copland is partner in Seabury, Copland and Anderson Insurance. The agency, founded in 1939 has served the community for more than 78 years. Through the years many youth athletes have played on baseball and football teams sponsored by the agency. In his spare time, Copland retrieves errant shopping carts and picks up litter to improve his hometown on a very basic level.
Dale Evans, also introduced by Bare, owns Evans Feed and Livestock Supply with his family. The 4-H Club, FFA and other youth agriculture projects have found support from Evans Feed and Livestock Supply through the years. Founded in 1978, the store — which has expanded to three locations — carries feed, medication and equipment for animals that range from newly hatched baby chicks to cattle, horses and everything in between.
Dale has served as a deacon of the First Baptist Church, enjoys singing and loves Johnny Cash, said Bare.
“I had offers of other jobs but I didn’t want to leave the fine people of Madera,” Evans said.
Kay Rhoads, owner of Peck’s Printery, is an active member of the Madera Rotary Club. She was introduced by chamber awards chair Melisa DaSilva. Rhoads works diligently for the Friends of Madera Animal Shelter, serving as its treasurer. The group helps provide low-cost spay and neuter services to animals adopted from the Madera County Animal Shelter. Exercising her passion for lesser creatures, she provides foster care for animals until permanent homes can be found. When those homes are not forthcoming, she adopts the animals herself.
Family is an important part of all this year’s honorees lives. Every one of them share the family business with their children. Ashraf works with his daughter, Rabeeza; Copeland works with his son, John; Evans with his son, Roger, and granddaughter, Amy; and Rhodes with her daughter, Velvet.
The late Sal Perlongo was this year’s memorial honoree. Eulogized by Bobby Kahn, executive director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission, Perlongo was represented by his widow, Josie; and daughters Diana Curtis, Mary Perlongo and Vivian Young. The whole family, including son Tony, worked to make Perlongo’s Bakery a success.
In addition to the presentation of awards, the chamber board of directors was installed for the coming year by installing officer, Madera County Clerk Rebecca Martinez.
The 2017-2018 board of directors includes Dennis Smith, chair; Dr. Jason Keledjian, vice chair; Annette Kwock; Dr. Jim Chin, immediate past president; Nadeem Ahmad; Belva Bare; Charles Doud; Tommy Greci; Emlen Miles-Mattingly; Liz Salas; Tom Mitchell; and Martin Vale.