Every year, the Gilroy Chamber celebrates the wonderful businesses and people in our community. We look forward to celebrating each of our 2022 winners on Saturday, March 26, 2022. This year’s Awards Ceremony will be held at Cinelux Gilroy Cafe & Lounge. For tickets, click here.
CordeValle – Large Business of the Year
CordeValle is a hidden gem that combines the extraordinary beauty of an awe-inspiring natural landscape with the convenience and hospitality of a luxury resort. Sprawling over almost 1,700 acres in the San Martin countryside, the resort is a sanctuary of gently undulating meadows, tree-dotted hills, seasonal creeks and waterfalls. Employing a workforce of more than 200 employees, they see themselves as ambassadors committed to create an authentic and exclusive experience for their members and guests by offering the finest golf, recreation, culinary and luxury accommodations. They also consider themselves stewards of the 1,700 acres of open space protecting the endangered species that habitat in their surroundings.
CordeValle has been consistently recognized as one of the top resorts in California by the world’s leading publications, travel magazines and consumer organizations.
- Wine Spectator’s 2020 Restaurant Awards — Best of Award of Excellence
- Golf Digest Editors’ Choice 2020 — Best Golf Resorts in California
- Conde Nast Traveler’s 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards — #9 Top Resort in Northern California
- Wine Spectator’s 2019 Restaurant Award — Best of Award of Excellence
- Golf Digest Editors’ Choice 2019 — Best Golf Resorts in California
- Forbes Travel Guide — Four-Star Award
- Conde Nast Traveler’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards — #1 Top Resort in Northern California
- Conde Nast Traveler’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards — #5 Top Resort in the United States
- Wine Spectator’s 2018 Restaurant Award — Best of Award of Excellence
- Golf Digest Editors’ Choice 2018 — Best Golf Resorts in California
- U.S. News & World Report — #6 in the Best Resorts in California
- U.S. News & World Report — #12 in the Best Hotels in California
- Forbes Travel Guide — Four-Star Award
- Forbes Travel Guide — Four-Star Award, The Spa at CordeValle
CordeValle’s leadership is committed to the surrounding communities and support local charities, such as Rebekah’s Children’s Services, Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, Gilroy Garlic Festival, Veterans, Police and Fire, as well as others, often times hosting golf tournaments for fundraising purposes. They also have the CordeValle Youth Golf Foundation which supports all local high school golf teams.
When reflecting on why it’s so important to give back to the community, General Manager, Luca Rutigliano said, “We are only as strong as the community is and we can only be successful if the community succeeds.”
The Neon Exchange – Small Business of the Year
Toni Bowles said that her inspiration to create The Neon Exchange came from a personal need to achieve a more balanced work life. She said, “This environment blends my need for community engagement as well as physical and mental well-being.” Once known as the Louis Hotel, Toni purchased the old, abandoned building at the end of 2018 to create one of the brightest more active spots in downtown Gilroy.
Toni’s goals for the Neon Exchange include delivering a solid, high-quality list of annual community events setting the stage for Downtown Gilroy as a destination spot for creative activities & community/cultural events. She also sees The Neon Exchange acting as a catalyst for larger citywide events bringing together other nonprofits, business, and government entities.
Some of Toni’s major accomplishments include:
- Producing a local YouTube cooking show with Chef Segovia hosting local community members
- Helping to launch PitStop Outreach out of The Neon Exchange’s kitchen during the pandemic which feeds the homeless
- Fully leased out the 2nd floor private offices during the pandemic
- Completed a 900 sq. ft. community healing mural with over 40 community artists of all skill levels
- Hosted an outdoor free community yoga series
- Produced what will be annual events (Bridal Show & Holiday Bazaar) attracting 300+ guests including locals and out-of-towners
- Writing a successfully funded Lowe’s grant for the Gilroy Center for the Arts/Gilroy Arts Alliance
- Bridging strong relationships between the private and public sector for the greater good of the community
- Co-Hosting the House of Toys Gilroy toy drive with the Mt. Madonna YMCA providing toys, jackets and books to hundreds of families
When asked about why it’s important to give back to the community, Toni said, “Community is at the core of local commerce. If our community is healthy, happy, and engaged it will be reflected in the individual prosperity of our neighbors.” She went on to say, “By taking care of our community at all levels, we are in effect sending the message that they are important. They become a pro-social, contributing member of society that feels included and accepted. This makes for an ideal place to live and work when we can all come together for a common good which is why it is important for me to find ways to give back.”
Leo Khooshabeh – Young Professional of the Year
When asked what inspires Leo, he said, “For me it all starts with helping others. I have a passion for helping people” Leo loves being a resource for people in their pursuit of their goals. He gets a lot of satisfaction out of motivating and inspiring people in the area of problem solving, Leo went on to say, “While I enjoy finding and solving my own problems, it is even more gratifying to me to help others solve their problems.
Leo’s passion is to lead a good life, find the best in himself and become the best version of himself that he can possibly be. Leo is family-oriented and finds one of his greatest accomplishments the fact that his parents are proud of the person he has become today.
In giving advice to other emerging leaders, Leo said, “Learn how to value people as individuals! Leadership is a business of people, not money or things. Begin to serve others and treat them fairly and equally.”
Leo believes spending time enriching your community is a great way to broaden your perceptions of the area you live in. He went on to say, “By immersing yourself in a community and surrounding yourself with people who are dedicated to bettering themselves and community, you can learn so much about how the world works. You gain a unique sense of purpose by serving those around you, one which often manifests in other areas of your life.”
Andrew Briggs – Young Professional of the Year
Andrew is inspired to lead because of the opportunities he has been given in his life. He believes that every person should have the ability to pursue their dreams with the same resources and opportunities that he had growing up. His goal as a leader is to help those in the community overcome challenges so they can continue to move forward. Equity, compassion, and respect are some of the core ideals that motivate Andrew’s leadership style. He likes to lead by example with a focus on honesty, transparency, and empathy.
Andrew’s passion in life is education. He feels that education allows people to open doors for themselves and helps create equity for all. He supports this view by helping to teach others Job Skills, Culinary Skills, and Life skills, continuing his education by pursuing a business degree at Gavilan College, and participating in a volunteer education work in his free time. He has also tutored and mentored high school students, and supported club activities at Gilroy High, GECA, and Christopher High School. Andrew also serves on the Leadership Gilroy Board of Directors, helping to provide the best leadership education possible for the Gilroy Community. He oversees the Leadership Gilroy Youth program that matches his love for education and leadership and allows him to have an impact on the lives of young people.
Andrew gives back to the community because the community has given so much to him. He believes that giving back to the community is a social responsibility which contributes to the greater good. He believes that wanting to support those around you is a universal goal. Andrew was also raised to believe in the happiness that come from giving to others, and that it has a positive impact on your own wellbeing. He has personally seen the impact that funds, resources, or time can have in changing lives for so many vulnerable people in the community.
Andrew would like to tell emerging leaders, and especially young leaders, that it takes time to build your leadership style and to gain the community’s trust. Always move forward with caution and confidence, focusing on the goal before you. Being a leader is about being able to adapt when needed, while also following through on your goals. A good leader gets results without compromising integrity or quality. Andrew believes that there is always a need for good leadership and that if you hold true to your values, there will always be another opportunity to lead.
One of the most satisfying experiences Andrew has had as a young leader and mentor is watching students go on to advocate for themselves and improve their own lives. He strives to continue giving back so that he can see more students pursue their dreams.
Alyssa E. Gonzalez – Susan Valenta Youth Leadership Award
Alyssa’s school, GECA, hosts a “Week of Kindness” every semester, where students write and share kind notes to each other to uplift student morale. Typically used to receiving some notes from her friends at school, she was caught by surprise when a student she briefly interacted with left her a note thanking her for always showing up to class with a positive mindset and speaking out about social justice issues on social media; promoting her to talk to her family about those same issues. Alyssa was unaware of the impact she had on a fellow peer, but the idea that she could positively influence others’ lives through mediums she is passionate about is what prompts her to wake up in the mornings and continue serving her community.
Some of Alyssa’s greatest accomplishments entail being the Area 9 Director for Rotary’s Interact District 5170, which has given her the opportunity to serve her community across the Bay Area, working alongside like-minded individuals with a common goal of proving how community service can change an individual’s life, both physically and emotionally. She is also an active member of GECA’s Honors Tribunal, which has allowed her to strengthen her empathetic skills and genuinely connect with students on campus. Knowing that she’s someone others can rely on or come to for advice fuels her ambition to continue embracing people with kindness and understanding.
One of Alyssa’s greatest struggles throughout her educational career was her battle against imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is common among many high school scholars like Alyssa, who often find themselves drowned out amidst groups of other qualified and confident individuals. She stayed focused and sought to discover methods to help deal with this mindset, sharing techniques she found useful with others. Her advice is to others is to find their passion and use that to elevate their own voices within their community.
Alyssa firmly believes student voices and youth representation matters in every sector of life. She believes that students being the representation they want to see in the world will inspire others, enticing a chain reaction that results in everyone having their voices heard. She also advises students to take every opportunity as a learning experience and go out of their comfort zone. Take a class someone normally wouldn’t, indulge in a new hobby, and challenge one’s own perspectives to make sure that when students speak their truth, they are doing so equitably.
Alyssa’s parents always emphasized the importance of sharing. With five older siblings, they were constantly sharing food, toys, and even life wisdom to keep each other connected both physically and emotionally. She believes the same morals should be applied to our community. There’s so much pain in the world that lending a helping hand to others is the least that she believes she and others can do to help form a sense of unity and uplift human morale.
After graduating from GECA in May, Alyssa plans to attend a university with an interest in pursuing a double major in ethnic studies/sociology and biology; two of her strongest passions. Her belief that both subjects should co-exist and inspire one another to create new and innovative ideas drives Alyssa to choose this educational path. Staying true to her roots in activism, she also hopes to continue participating in culturally enriching programs that advocate for human rights, focus on decreasing mental health stigmatization, and possibly partake in a little Folkloric dance!
Andrea Nicolette – Volunteer of the Year
The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce has benefitted Andrea in her efforts by it being a great networking source for all business small and new, including the YMCA. It has helped with marketing, supporting various YMCA initiatives such as the House of Toys. And as an ambassador to the Chamber, Andrea has appreciated the way that it has been a great way to make friends, share ideas, and help other businesses and community organizations. Andrea has been an active volunteer in the Chamber for years helping with various projects and severing on various committees.
Andrea has been working at the YMCA for almost 20 years. She first started as a volunteer and eventually became the Executive Director serving South County, an area that she grew up in. Within those 20 years, more of her accomplishments reflect in the many partnerships that Andrea has contributed to. This has allowed the communities she’s been a part of to thrive, some of those include being at the beginning stages of PowerSchool, an after school program that supports children in the Gilroy Unified School District. In 2006, she was also a part of the leadership team that opened the Centennial Recreation Center with the city of Morgan Hill.
In the last six years as the Executive Director, Andrea has increased the annual giving campaign for financial assistance for families in South County and secured the meal delivery program to home bound seniors. Andrea has also been an active ally to the LGBTQ+ community in both Morgan Hill and Gilroy.
Andrea believes that her motivation stems from the idea that at the end of the day, making a difference in someone’s life, is worth all the hard work that is put in is supporting human beings.
What drives Andrea is seeing the benefit and hearing the testimonials firsthand from the families that have been helped through the YMCA’s annual giving campaign.
From delivering meals to seniors to having a safe place for kids to go after school and throughout summer, serving the people of her community has been and always will be her motivation.
What Andrea loves most about Gilroy is the small town feel with people looking out for their neighbors and supporting the small businesses. It’s a place where anybody from any background can become active in the city as long as they have an open mind and open heart.
Andrea thinks it’s important to give back to the community because it is made up of people in need of service whether they need support, direction, financial assistance, or inspiration. Andrea’s philosophy is that anyone can be on the receiving end at any time, so it is imperative to give back while on the serving side. Andrea said, “A family member, a friend, or even oneself may need help at one or many points in their lives.” Andrea added, “Serving the community and giving back ensures that good things will come one’s way when they put their efforts into helping people in the community.”
Nicky Austin – Educator of the Year
Nicky became a teacher by accident. Once graduating from UCSC with a degree in Biological Sciences, she was working for an engineering firm in Watsonville, CA, writing Environmental Site Assessments for land development. During this time, a friend of hers was teaching summer school at a nearby high school and asked her to come in one day to be a guest speaker and bring in her vast collection of skulls, bones, skins, and teeth to showcase local wildlife to those students. From then on, at her friend’s recommendation and encouragement, she switched careers and pursued a teaching credential and a career in life science education – and 30 years later she is still doing what she loves!
She began her teaching career as a student teacher at Watsonville High School in 1990 learning from a master teacher there, Kirby Reed, in a Freshman Biology class. From there she student taught with the famous John Licursi at Brownell Middle School in Gilroy. Her first job was a long-term subbing position at Martin Murphy Middle School in San Jose. She took over a 7th grade Life Science class where she was lucky enough to have Jackie Horsch’s daughter in the class. Not long after, she was contacted by Ms. Horsch, the former DO Assistant Superintendent, and asked Nicky to apply to teach science at Gilroy High School where she was hired in the fall of 1992.
When asked what she enjoys most about her involvement in Gilroy, Nicky said, “That’s easy. The students and their families!” She went on to say, “Over the years, I have been fortunate to have had so many awesome students, and their cousins, neighbors and siblings, and even now… their children.”
She considers it a blessing to have been part of so many students’ journeys through high school.
As for what she finds most rewarding as a teacher, Nicky said, “To see students grasp an idea or discover the beauty and wonder in the natural world.” She also said, It’s been so rewarding working with amazing staff members that she has learned so much from over the years.”
When she first began teaching Biology at Gilroy High School in the fall of 1992, she was schooled by master teachers there – Steve Jackson, Dale Morejon, Ron Kinoshita, and Eric Kuwada. They always told her that she was not a teacher, but a “Salesman of Science.” The main objective was to sell science to clients (students) and if they could do that, students would love the class they were in and eat up all kinds of science for life. After 30 years, she is most proud of her continued love of science and her daily opportunity and joy of “selling science.”
When giving advice to other up and coming educators, Nicky provided the following tidbits:
- Remember that students don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
- Rigor in the classroom is showing respect for your subject and respect for students by maintaining high standards for students. And then provide the coaching necessary to help them succeed. Always push for excellence – from yourself, from your students and from the staff you work with.
- Flexibility – through pandemics, quarantines, sicknesses, power outages, flooding, etc… We are all doing the best we can and a little flexibility can go a long way to encouraging students to hang in there.
- Have a Sense of Humor – we all can use some levity in life and laughing is good for the soul.
- Patience – with yourself, with your students, with work orders, with other staff… we are all working hard.
- Teamwork – alone we can accomplish some. Together we can accomplish a lot.
One Giving Tree – Non-Profit of the Year
In the winter of 2014 One Giving Tree started with ten trees, ornaments and tree stands – or “tree kits.” In 2016 they delivered over 100. In 2018 One Giving Tree surpassed the 500 tree kits delivered-to-date benchmark. In 2020 with no fundraising due to the economic shut down, they delivered 332 tree kits, and included gift cards to Old City Hall Restaurant for the families. This past year, 2021, One Giving Tree delivered 377 tree kits and gift cards and surpassed 1,500 tree kits delivered-to-date.
One Giving Tree has a simple mission – “Making the holidays brighter” Debbi remembers the early days as a family when money was tight, and things weren’t always easy. Some years there weren’t many gifts, but there was always a tree to serve as a reminder to be grateful for what they had, and that things would get better. For her, One Giving Tree is a way to share that message with other families who are facing tough times. Mike sees One Giving Tree as a way to keep young children in conversations with peers. Something as seemingly insignificant as a tree, the latest gadget, or the lack there of, will start the process of separation between the “haves” and “have nots,” leading to real and imagined class systems and pecking orders. When everyone is talking about their awesome trees and decked out houses, and the gifts they want for Christmas, Mike wants every kid to be in that conversation if they choose to be. In that way, Mike sees One Giving Tree as a bridge builder, providing hope, confidence, and a sense of normalcy for kids and families who already have enough pressure to deal with. To Mike and Debbi, “Making the holidays brighter” is about more than just a tree. It’s providing hope and positive lasting memories in a tangible way.
Born and raised in Gilroy, Mike and Debbi have a deep love for the community and the south county. Among the things they love most is the small-town feel, the strength and resolve of the community, and the people. Anywhere they go, they are greeted by people they know, someone they are related to, or at the very least, a friendly, smiling face. Avid hikers, they love the surrounding hillsides, parks and public lands that provide recreation and outdoor adventures. As a place to call home, Gilroy offers everything a person needs to have a good life; location, weather, attractions, proximity, resources, and opportunity to serve and lead if a person chooses.
Mike and Debbi believe that caring for others and helping wherever you are able is the definition of community. Giving back is not an option – it’s a responsibility. Since their teenage years, the two have volunteered side by side on numerous local fundraisers, events, and causes. It is a core fundamental in their character as individuals and as a couple. They consider themselves blessed to have grown up in a community where so many people from different walks of life modeled volunteerism – giving their time, talents, and treasures to help others and build community. Knowing so many who’ve given so much over the years, and knowing those who currently do the same, is an honor and a privilege. It is what makes a community. And what makes Gilroy great.
One Giving Tree hopes to continue to expand their tree kits to include more gift card donations to help families during the holidays. As a 501c3 nonprofit organization, they will continue to find creative ways to fill gaps in services for local kids and their families and incorporate those solutions into their mission. Currently serving families in San Benito County, Gilroy, Morgan Hill and South San Jose, One Giving Tree hopes to expand their reach by sharing their story and success with other communities and the agencies that serve them. Refining logistics and operations is a top priority as One Giving Tree looks to grow in the future. Those plans include the possibility of establishing their own local tree farm to provide a dependable, renewable source for trees.
Dr. Kathleen Rose - Woman of the Year
Dr. Rose applied to Gavilan College in 2008 for the position of Vice President of Instruction, due to a career progression in higher education that spanned 25 years and included positions in administration and as a faculty member. During her years at Gavilan, she appreciated the leadership opportunities available to serve students throughout the district and support the growth of new academic programs. The thought of becoming the Superintendent/President was not at the forefront until the opportunity to apply presented itself. Dr. Rose was proud to become the 7th Superintendent/President and the second woman to serve the district.
Dr. Rose loves the community spirit that is a natural element of Gilroy. She has observed that Gilroy is a community that commits to important initiatives, prioritizes support services for those in need, and demonstrates an ethos of care that impacts all who work and live in the community.
There have been numerous accomplishments during Dr. Rose’s tenure. She was instrumental in supporting many instructional programs and several state and federal grants to support major initiatives. She supported several facility projects, including the solar canopies and the modernization of the athletic complex. Business and industry partnerships were strengthened throughout the district during Dr. Rose’s presidency. Most notably, Dr. Rose led the process that resulted in the latest bond of 248M that will result in the new San Benito County Campus and several projects on the Gilroy Campus. Gavilan College celebrated its centennial under Dr. Rose’s leadership, that included a historic gala and other events throughout the district. Finally, Dr. Rose has led the college through the many challenges of the pandemic, providing basic needs to students with the help of dedicated staff and faculty.
Dr. Rose is very optimistic about the future of Gavilan College. New facilities In Hollister and Gilroy will welcome students to the post-pandemic world with innovative technology, internships, and cutting-edge instructional programs. The communities Gavilan serves will continue to benefit from a more educated and diverse workforce, and many industry partnerships will deepen, The Gavilan Promise will provide opportunities for all students to succeed and reach educational goals. Dr. Rose will be retiring in June 2022 but looks forward to witnessing these changes as the district moves forward in the next 10-20 years.
Community Service is a core value of community colleges across the state, and Gavilan College is no exception. Dr. Rose is proud of the tradition of service learning, volunteerism and giving which has an impressive history at the college. Dr. Rose feels strongly that the students, professional support staff, administration and faculty will continue to seek ways to give back to the communities within the district, knowing the benefits of public service is the practice of a lifetime.
Tom Cline - Man of the Year
Tom Cline, immediate past president (2020-2021) of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, was named 2021 Spice of Life Man of the Year by the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce. The Man of the Year award goes to an individual who has a history of unselfish service to the community, contributing to Gilroy’s welfare and betterment.
When told of this honor, Cline responded in his usual self-deprecating manner.
“I was surprised because I like doing things under the radar and I don’t need the recognition,” he said. “I don’t do it to be recognized, I do it because I want to help and to be part of the solution.”
Cline, who has volunteered for the festival for the past eight years, four of those on the Board of Directors, was named president in 2019 and was to serve his one-year term in 2020 until the pandemic hit. He actually worked with other board members on planning and organizing elements of the festival in 2020 and served his “official” term in 2021, so he likes to think of it as a two-year term.
Cline, owner of Cline Glass Contractors since 2011, said the award actually reflects not so much on him, but the work of the festival board and volunteers as a whole.
“This award is an affirmation, a recognition that says a lot about our work as an association,” he says, especially for a trying past two years. “I’m proud of the work everyone has done over the past two years, it’s a total team effort, that’s what it’s all about.”
With a lost 2020 and a scaled-back 2021, Cline says the festival has a lot of work to do and challenging times ahead for 2022, a task that nobody in the association is going to shy away from.
“We started something and we really want to see it through,” he says about the festival’s sense of resolve to continue. “We’re seeking to be relevant again and to meet the needs of all of our volunteers and charities. It’s a process, a step forward to get where we once were.”
Born in San Jose, Cline was raised in Morgan Hill but moved to Gilroy 32 years ago to raise his two children with his wife Cindy. His son and wife have also volunteered for the festival.
The Spice of Life awards dinner, which will include Man of the Year, Woman of the Year, and Business of the Year, as well as other awards, has been set for March 26.
"Joining the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce is one of the best business decisions I have made."
Anita Bedoya, Owner, Lapels Dry Cleaning
"While facing some delays opening our taphouse the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce intervened. Their creative approach to problem solving saved the day. The Chamber’s connections made a difference for us."
Ryan and Larissa Dickerson, Owners of Bitter Taphouse
"The Chamber has done a great job keeping me informed."
James Gargiulo, Spectrum Small Business Advisor
"We have been able to rely on the Chamber whenever we needed to be connected to people, resources and information."
Jaime Rosso, CEO, Rosso’s Furniture
"We have been actively involved in the Chamber for 20 years. We continue to stay involved because of the critical information they provide."
Bruce & Audrey Haller, Cafe 152 Bread Co.
"As a Gilroy Chamber of Commerce member, I’ve met more people, been able to give back to the community and be involved in decisions that affect our local economy."
Maria Cid, Farmers Insurance