BRAWLEY — Three outstanding individuals received prestigious lifetime achievement awards at the Brawley Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Branding Iron Gala Friday, June 21, at the Stockmen’s Club Imperial Valley.
Family members, business owners, colleagues, and friends arrived and were ushered by chamber members — in costume — to their table assignments. More than 250 guests from Brawley’s “who’s who” were present.
Eleven individuals were selected by a committee composed of past Branding Iron Awards honorees for this year’s Branding Iron awards, said Katie Luna, chief executive officer of the Brawley Chamber of Commerce. “There wasn’t a reason to wait to honor the three of them.”
“This is a testament to volunteerism — it has no age limit nor boundaries. You can go out and volunteer and be a good community citizen. These are lifetime achievement awards and they’ve given [a] lifetime’s work for their community,” said Luna about the honorees.
The first recipient of the Branding Iron Awards was Joel Gonzalez. He was introduced by his sister and brother who enumerated a list of volunteer activities at various organizations in Brawley.
“It was kind of shocking. I wasn’t expecting it,” said Gonzalez. “My family kept a real good secret. A lot of my close friends and business partners were here. It caught me off guard but it’s an honor to be given the Branding Iron Award.”
According to Gonzalez, he is going to display the plaque in his office at Desert RV and smiled at the thought. “It’s gonna sit there really very proud and I get to stare at it and take selfies as much as I can.”
Gonzalez acknowledged his family, his parents, and especially his wife, “because without them, I wouldn’t be the man who I am right now.”
The next honorees were husband and wife Paul and Debbie Cameron.
“It is really a privilege,” said Paul Cameron. “We love Brawley and we love helping this town. It is a great town to raise your kids. All my kids, except for one, live here. Now, my grandkids live here. Both my wife and I were raised here.”
As accolades were given to him, he tried to deflect them and instead routed the honors to his wife, Debbie.
Debbie was introduced by a family member who read from a prepared speech. He enumerated a list of volunteerism that seemed endless. Loved ones at the family’s table were likewise busy taking photos and videos of the presentation including that of Paul and Debbie reacting as the list was read.
“I was pretty freaked out. I thought this was a Denise Smith Award. I have five girlfriends who traveled from out of town for the Denise Smith Award — Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego and Arizona,” said Debbie Cameron.
As Paul and Debbie were presented to the audience, Paul kissed Debbie. It was a simple acknowledgment of love for the past 38 years as husband and wife, together contributing to the betterment of the Brawley community through volunteerism and philanthropy.
“I love him. We are so blessed,” said Debbie. “He takes care of me and our family.”
Lisa Sanders, vice president and Brawley Chamber of Commerce Board of Director 2109–2020, said the purpose of the Branding Iron Awards is to recognize outstanding members of our community who gave time, money, products and any donations as an expression of giving back to the community. “They are setting an example.”
There were other individuals who were likewise honored and recognized.
Maria Flores was Ambassador of the Year. Las Chabelas Restaurant was Business of the Year and was represented by owners Carlos and Erika Weir. Ralph Fernandez was outgoing board president. Joel Gonzalez and Theresa Robertson were outgoing board members, and Kristine Perez was presented with the Denise J. Smith Board Member of The Year award.
As the evening concluded, Luna reminded the audience to take a copy of the “Business Directory & Visitors Guide” as they exited the Stockmen’s Club building. The issue also featured the Branding Iron Award winners Joel Gonzalez, and Paul and Debbie Cameron.