ONTARIO – Several years ago Ken Hart, the president of Saint Alphonsus Medical Center, invited a new doctor to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet.

Hart, who also serves on the chamber of commerce board, wanted doctor Josh Leavitt to get a feel for the community.

“He was new to the area. If you drive in and you work and see patients and then go home, how do you really see what is going on?” said Hart.

Hart said Leavitt was impressed.

“He was like ‘Wow, you don’t understand the longevity of some of the people in this community,’” said Hart.

The chamber banquet is set for 6 p.m. Friday at Four Rivers Cultural Center. Cost for the steak and shrimp dinner is $35.

Hart said the event is one of the best ways to see the type of people who work to make Ontario a great place to live and work, said Hart.

“It gives folks who don’t know the area a real understanding of how involved people are here,” said Hart.

The event is also a way to showcase people who made a difference in town, said John Breidenbach, president and chief executive officer of the chamber.

“It’s to celebrate people, to recognize people who do outstanding work,” said Breidenbach.

Friday the chamber will bestow five awards for service to Ontario. 

Eduardo Melendrez is the Man of the Year. Melendrez, who works at Community in Action, created the Treasure Valley Boxing Club in 2015 and he works with local runaway and homeless youth as a mentor.

Amber Campbell was selected Woman of the Year. Campbell, who works at Snake River Correctional Institution, is a longtime county resident and active in a variety of fundraising events each year. 

Bert’s Growler Garage is the Business of the Year. Owned by Lonnie and Michelle Bertalotto, it offers more than 100 craft beers and supports several fundraisers for the local community. 

Joy Dean Williams is the Agriculturist of the Year. Now retired, Williams has been active in local 4-H and was inducted into the Oregon State 4-H Hall of Fame in 2017.

Sandra Porter is the Educator of the Year. Porter works at Treasure Valley Community College and is the faculty professional development lead for certain grants and also professional development for faculty. 

Breidenbach said the dinner is a lot of fun.

“Seems like every year you find out something new. And you get to see all the business people in town,” said Breidenbach. 

For more information, contact the Ontario Chamber of Commerce at 541-889-8012.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: pat@malheurenterprise.com or 541-473-3377.