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Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2020 9:00 am

Over the last 51 years, the Lake Arrowhead Communities Chamber of Commerce has given the Citizen of the Year award to a person or a couple in the community who has contributed his or her time to the mountain area and various organizations.

“Six years ago, we added the Business of the Year Award and the Non-Profit of the Year Award because we want to recognize not just individuals but also businesses and non-profit entities that make an impact in our community,” added Robin Bull, executive director of the Lake Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce.

“The Citizen of the Year Award goes to Bill and Michelle Johnson of SkyPark at Santa’s Village, the Business of the Year Award goes to the Mountain News, and the Non-Profit of the Year Award goes to Wildhaven Ranch,” announced Robin Bull.

CITIZEN OF THE YEAR AWARD

Bill and Michelle Johnson

“I could not believe Michelle and I were nominated for the Citizen of the Year Award,” said Bill Johnson who is one of the most dedicated Rim High Mountain Bike coaches.

Bill Johnson has been a volunteer coach for almost ten years and is dedicated to coaching the student athletes and training them for races. In fact, Bill Johnson is passionate about mountain bike racing where his team of five won the world renowned 24-Hour Adrenalin Mountain Bike Championship in Canmore, Canada.

Bill and Michelle Johnson have two daughters raised in the Rim of the World School district. Michelle started volunteering at LAE. As her first love is art and design so it was a natural fit when she was introduced to the Meet the Masters Art Program by Lupe McDonald. Michelle and Lupe went on to become the program coordinators.

Michelle coordinated volunteers, trainings, fundraising and also helped other schools in the district implement this program. She committed her time to this for 9 years while both daughters attended LAE and MPH.

Michelle was also a member of PTA at LAE, MPH and Rim High. She has helped beautify many projects in the schools including the LAE staff room, the High school staff lounge, and many others. She has donated her time to murals in the schools including the Military Hallway at Rim, murals at LAE, and the Entry Tile Project at MPH. She has also partnered with the high school Pathways Program for projects at SkyPark that include The Candy Cane Sign Project. She continues to participate in this program.

Bill Johnson has been a member of many community organizations which include a board member and President of the Rim of the World Association of Realtors and a local representative to the California Association of Realtors. Bill has also participated in fundraising for many local organization which include Rebuilding Together, Rim of the World High School, and is currently on the Mountains Community Hospital Foundation Executive Board.

When the Johnsons acquired Santa’s Village in 2014, it was their expertise in construction and design that inspired them to take on the project. Having lived most of their lives in Lake Arrowhead and being very tuned into its resort economy, the Johnsons believed that reopening the park could boost the local economy.

Opening SkyPark would not only create jobs but would bring people to the mountain which in turn would support real estate values and local businesses. 

Michelle and Bill have formed a non-profit organization called “Making Spirits Bright Foundation”. The Foundation is committed to supporting environmental education including outdoor recreation and responsible land management using best management practices.

The foundation will focus on bringing environmental education to local schools as well as inner city school districts. The foundation will also focus on programming about the unique natural environment and the biodiverse lands that are SkyPark.

They are one of the largest employers on the mountain and invest heavily in their people.  

Bill and Michelle will be opening the SkyPark Campground to meet the traveling needs of some families with RVs and trailers. “We plan to open our Campground by May 1,” said Johnson.

“I can’t think of two more deserving people to be honored as Citizen of the Year,” said Scott Craft, former Athlete Director of Rim High and Mountain Bike Coach. “Bill and Michell have worked so hard and have always had our community in mind helping to put us back on the map as a must see destination. I am honored to have helped in the process and blessed to call them friends.”

BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARD

Mountain News

“The Mountain News is not just a publisher or a newspaper or a magazine, but is more like the central hub of everything ‘Lake Arrowhead’!  I can’t imagine having a more committed and dedicated team behind the scenes. Our very own ‘Mountain News’! Congratulations and incredibly well-deserved,” said Barry Lieberman of ReMax.

“I was incredibly pleased to hear that the Mountain News was selected for the Lake Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award,” said Dylan Matteson, director of the UCLA Conference Center, who also a winner of the Chamber Business of the Year Award three years ago. 

“The Mountain News truly cares about our community and it is evident that that is what drives their business.  They are incredibly connected with the community and go above and beyond in promoting the many philanthropic events across the mountain.  I extend my sincere congratulations to the entire team at the Mountain News,” added Matteson.

“Print is very much alive at the Mountain News,” said Harry Bradley, publisher. “We are glad to have thousands of readers and local businesses that support our newspaper and special publications.”

“I’m pleased to learn that the Lake Arrowhead Communities Chamber of Commerce is recognizing the Mountain News for their many contributions to our Rim of the World Communities,” said Kevin Somes, general manager of Snow Valley Mountain Resort and winner of the Business of the Year Award two years ago. “This recognition is especially fitting this year since the Mountain News is celebrating 100 years of serving our Communities.”

NON-PROFIT OF THE YEAR AWARD

Wildhaven Ranch

Director Diane Dragotto Williams says, “I speak on behalf of Wildhaven Ranch and 26 years of hundreds of staff and volunteers who have unselfishly given of their time and talents to preserve our wildlife. We count it a privilege to work for our community with precious wild ones and any recognition of this kind is  unexpected and gratefully accepted.” 

Rita Price, Farmer’s Insurance, a long-time supporter and sponsor for the annual Arrowhead Goes Wild fund raising event was delighted that Wildhaven Ranch is named the Non-Profit Award.

“I have known Diane and Roger for many years, the dedication they have for our injured wildlife is endless.,” said Rita Price. “They have provided help for hundreds of injured and orphaned  animals. Also they have rehabilitated thousands of Gods creatures since 1994.” 

“My office has been fortunate to help them with the Grand Gala, their large fund raiser, every summer for the past 15 years sponsoring the champagne tour. Many of my office staff, friends and grandchildren have enjoyed the educational tours,” added Rita Price. “Wildhaven is such a great asset to our mountain community, it so deserves this award.”

52nd CHAMBER

AWARD DINNER GALA

Friday, April 24, 2020

“Our mountain communities will come out in force to honor this year’s winners at the Lake Arrowhead Ball, which will be held on Friday, April 24 at the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa,” said Robin Bull. “Tickets and Patron Tables are on sale now at www.LakeArrowheadChamber.com.”

“We will continue to have our Cake auction and add a Silent auction, fundraisers for the Chamber’s marketing, welcome center and community activities,” said Bull. “This year’s event will be a fun, Disco-themed gala for our guests to dance the night away.”

For more information, contact the Lake Arrowhead Chamber at (909) 336-1547. The Lake Arrowhead Chamber office is located in Lake Arrowhead Village, above Alexandra’s Emporium.

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