All eyes were fixed on the spirit of giving Saturday night as the community honored a man who always says "yes" to more volunteer work, a small business that keeps the public moving and nonprofits running, and a large business that helps members and the greater public thrive.
The honors came at the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce Installation & Recognition Gala held at Stallion Springs Community Center.
The chamber and Tehachapi News jointly presented the honors to Citizen of the Year Carl Gehricke, Small Business of the Year Ashmore Motors and Large Business of the Year Kaiser Permanente.
Citizen of the Year Carl Gehricke
The evening's master of ceremonies, Pete Sturn, said that "when asked to provide service, his answer is always, 'yes, what do you need?'"
Gehricke fulfills a lot of needs. He serves with Civil Air Patrol, Tehachapi Search and Rescue, Tehachapi Police Foundation, as a chamber ambassador, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Amateur Radio Club, Tehachapi Ham Radio Club and more. He's been the chairperson of Tehachapi Mountain Festival for more than 25 years. And he served as a chamber director for nine years, among many other instances of community service.
Award presenters agreed the community is a better place through Gehricke's service. But they humorously had different takes on whether he is a man of few words.
"Carl, do you want to say a few words?" asked an encouraging chamber President Ida Perkins.
"No," Gehricke said, with a warm smile as he took his seat.
Small Business of the Year Ashmore Motors
"They're the engine that drives Tehachapi," Aaron Falk, representing Rep. Kevin McCarthy, said of Ashmore Motors, which opened in 2014.
Marlon and Brandon Ashmore were recognized not only for providing value to customers and using the services of other local businesses to prepare their vehicles for sale, but also supporting 24 local organizations and efforts as listed in their nomination — although Sturn said there were undoubtedly many more.
By giving to others, "you engender the love and support of the community," said Kern County Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivner, one of many award presenters.
Marlon Ashmore said of himself and Brandon: "We both agreed that if God blessed us, we would bless others."
Marlon said years ago he worked for the late Mike Stier, of Stier's RV, and from him learned how to take care of customers. Marlon said the honor he received Saturday night was for Stier.
Large Business of the Year Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente grew from offering a mobile health vehicle in Tehachapi in 2012 to establishing an office in 2016 to serve about 7,000 members in the area.
It offers three primary care physicians — Dr. Bradley Davis and Dr. James Sproul in family medicine and Dr. Mariana Revelo in internal medicine — plus rotating specialty services. Plus, there is a nurse clinic with a wide variety of services.
Mayor Susan Wiggins, noting she is a Kaiser member, said it was so nice and convenient when Kaiser established in Tehachapi. She and others noted Kaiser is persistent about ensuring its members are seen for tests and screenings they need.
Melissa Costelloe, MSA-HCM, ambulatory care supervisor, said Kaiser in Tehachapi is a "story of growth and expansion. Our goal is to allow more members to be cared for in Tehachapi."
Costelloe thanked the doctors, nurses and staff members who make that happen.
Kaiser Permanente has been the presenting sponsor of GranFondo for six years, has donated to more than 20 nonprofit and public safety groups, and provides grants to wellness initiatives, according to its nomination letter.
Assemblyman Vince Fong swore in the 2020 chamber board. They are chairperson Stephanie Garcia, chairperson-elect Liz Trejo, treasurer Carolyn Wiles, and directors Susan Abrego, Jessica Davidson, Kellie Dudevoir and Jim Miller.
"We all feel like we are part of the same effort and community. You all make us feel like one family," Scrivner said of the chamber, noting it brings together both the city of Tehachapi and its surrounding communities in the county.
Perkins thanked the Board of Directors, and Garcia for her willingness to serve a third year as chairperson, calling her "an amazing leader, volunteer and friend."
Perkins also recognized Tina Larson as Ambassador of the Year, calling her a "cheerleader for the chamber." Perkins noted that Larson is the longest-standing ambassador, having joined the program in 2012.
Garcia highlighted the chamber's accomplishments during 2019. She said: The chamber grew by 43 members, held 18 ribbon-cuttings and four anniversary celebrations, and grew its Chairman's Circle membership by five. The chamber office answered 6,813 phone calls, assisted 7,765 office visitors, distributed 1,575 information packets consisting of tourist and relocation information and referred its members more than 30,000 times through calls and office visitors. Its website, tehachapi.com, brought more than 440,000 referrals to its members.
A software update in late December now allows the chamber to email members monthly a report of their referrals from the website, Garcia said.
Not standing on its laurels, already in 2020 the chamber has gained four new members and plans to add a quarterly morning Coffee & Conversation event and business workshops.
Sponsors of the evening were Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley, AltaOne Federal Credit Union, AMA Homes Inc., Big Papa's Steakhouse, City of Tehachapi, iHeart Media, P-Dubs Brew Pub, P-Dubs on Hubs, Race Communications, Southern California Edison, Tehachapi News, The Heat Source and Terra-Gen Operating Company LLC.