By Mike Long
Mission Viejo / Saddleback Valley Elks conducted its 20th annual Appreciation Dinner for the brave Firefighters and Law Enforcement Officers of South County on Saturday with 150 in attendance. Awards were presented to 22 Firefighters and Law Enforcement Officers selected by their departments for their outstanding 2019 achievements. This event was sponsored by Mission Viejo Elks Charity Bingo Committee, its volunteers and its Chairman Harvey Boelts PDDGER.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Boelts thanked those in attendance for the opportunity to recognize the award winners for their outstanding achievements and offered thanks to the many first responders that serve and protect our community. Next, he introduced the Laguna Beach Honor Guard which conducted the presentation of colors ceremony, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. MV Elks Asst Chaplain Jennifer Buford followed with an inspirational prayer then Mr. Boelts introduced the Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Past Lodge President Dennis Keffer.
Mr. Keffer greeted the audience and stated, “I have been Master of Ceremonies for this special event for 20 years now, yet I’m always amazed when I hear the inspirational stories of valor and bravery of these incredible people as they go about protecting our way of life on a daily basis. Our Lodge is very proud to be able to honor these fine people.” Mr. Keffer recognized the Elks dignitaries in the audience: Past District Deputy and District Leader Tom Lemm and wife Valarie, District Deputy Scott Stephens, Assn. Vice President JackieLynn DeFries, and Assn. Vice President-Elect David McLeod. Mr. Keffer thanked and recognized the following local officials in attendance: Mission Viejo Councilman Ed Sachs, Aliso Viejo Mayor Mike Munzing, Laguna Niguel Mayor Laurie Davis, and Lake Forest Mayor Pro Tem Mike James.
Before the awards ceremony began, everyone dined on a wonderful filet mignon dinner then dessert, served by our local Girl Scout troop and prepared by lodge chef Kevin Lindley and the Boelts family members Michael, Laura, and Stuart.
The following 2019 Meritorious Services Awards were awarded:
Officer of the Year, California Highway Patrol, Officer Randy Rush, introduced by Lt. Ball; Officer of the Year, OCSD City of San Juan Capistrano, Deputy Daniel Solis, introduced by Lt. Carl Bulanek; Firefighter of the Year, OCFA Battalion 7, Firefighter Brent Smith and Reserve Firefighter Michael King, presented by Bat. Chief Todd Downing; Officer of the Year, OCSD City of Aliso Viejo, Deputy David James Yannizzi, introduced by Lt. Chad Kajfasz; Officer of the Year, OCSD City of Laguna Hills, Deputy Gregory Surrell, introduced by Lt. Matthew Stiverson;
Firefighter of the Year, OCFA Battalion 4, Capt. Ray McQueen and Reserve Firefighter Jim Waddell, introduced by Div. Chief Mike Contreras; Officer of the Year, OCSD City of Dana Point, Deputy Patrick Medeiros, introduced by Lt. Kristen Monteleone; Officer of the Year, OCSD City of Lake Forest, Deputy Ernesto Escobar, introduced by Sgt. Tony Aiello; Officer of the Year, OCSD City of Laguna Niguel, Deputy Mark Dent, introduced by Lt. Matt McDaniel;
Officer of the Year, OCSD City of Rancho Santa Margarita, Deputy Paul Cmiron, introduced by Lt. John McColluh; Firefighter of the Year, OCFA Battalion 6, Fire Apparatus Engineer Michael Varker and Reserve Firefighter Ryan Steele introduced by Div. Chief Rob Capobianco; Officer of the Year, OCSD City of Mission Viejo, Deputy Nathan Rivas, introduced by Sgt. Josh Brass; Officer of the Year, OCSD Southwest Operations, Deputy Kyle Ishii, introduced by Sgt. Brent Jasper;
Officer of the Year, OCSD City of San Clemente, Deputy Juan Lara, introduced by Sgt. Paul Ketchum; Officer of the Year, Laguna Beach Police Department, Corporal Darin Germaine, and Jailer Aureliano Becerra, introduced by Lt. Tim Kleiser; Firefighter of the Year, Laguna Beach Fire Department, Engineer/Paramedic Danny Kalscheuer, introduced by Div. Chief Api Weinert; Officer of the Year, OCSD Southeast Operations, Deputy Joe Shapiro, introduced by Lt. Benson.
At the conclusion of the evening, Mr. Boelts thanked all in attendance for honoring these brave men and women that protect and serve our community. He also thanked volunteers that helped with the event: MV Lodge President Jamie Camunas, Basia Bills, Gwen Williams, Vicky Long, Laura Lumley, Sandie McClure, Sheryn Howlett, and Sandy & Jack Jacobs.
The Mission Viejo / Saddleback Valley Lodge is celebrating 50 years of service to the Saddleback Valley Communities. It is one of 8 lodges in the Orange Coast District of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) whose headquarters is in Chicago, Illinois. The BPOE is a charitable organization with a 151-year history of giving. “Elks Care Elks Share”. For information regarding Elks programs or membership, call 949 830-3557.
Photos by Dave Safely