Myron Jones of the Union Gospel Mission was honored with a Distinguished Service Award at the First Citizens Banquet, held by the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce on April 17. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Glamour and celebration were finally back as hundreds of Salem citizens gathered for the annual First Citizens Banquet, held April 16.

The Salem Area Chamber of Chamber honored one young professional, three leaders for distinguished service, and two first citizens in the event held at the Salem Convention Center. The banquet acknowledges citizens who, through their investment in the community, volunteering, and hearts for service, improve the lives of those in Salem.

Salem Chamber Board President Laura Dorn and CEO Tom Hoffert welcomed the attendees. The crowd then stood for the National Anthem, sung by Julie Hoy.

Dick Withnell shared a legacy reflection of Gerry Frank.  A philanthropist and former first citizen, Frank passed away in March at 98.

The following is a summary of the introductions of each award recipient.

Young Professional: Rich Shultz

Rich Schultz of Cherry City Metals is a popular young leader, active in various charities, especially Family Building Blocks.  His fans include Patrice Altenhofen, director of Family Building Blocks.  Colleague A.J. Klausen wrote on Facebook, “Rich is one of those guys you look at and say, ‘I want to be like him when I grow up.’ He gives everything he's got to make the community around him stronger, healthier, and better than the way he found it.”

Distinguished Service Award:  Jerry Moore, Mary Jean Sandall, Myron Jones.

Former Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore spent 43 years in law enforcement.  His father, Larry Moore, served as Salem Chamber president and also earned the Distinguished Service Award. Moore said he surrounded himself with good people, and there are so many reasons to love this community.

Myron Jones, director of the Men’s Union Gospel Mission, shared his personal story of addiction and how, after surrendering his life to Jesus, he was called to serve the least, last, and lost. He wants to encourage, equip and empower those who struggle to return back to the community.  He said we can change the face of homelessness one person at a time.

Mary Jean Sandall, retired Salem-Keizer School District teacher and nonprofit board leader, used her podium time to lead a sing-a-long to “This Little Light of Mine,” making up her own Salem version, “Shine all over Salem.”  Her contributions to education, teachers, and the charitable community are legendary.

Salem’s First Citizen: Gary Epping and Shawn Epping Engelberg, his sister.  

Often flying under the radar, the leaders of the Epping Family Foundation have helped multiple nonprofits thrive in Salem.  Gary Epping reminded guests that life is busy, messy, and overwhelming, and there should be “no excuses,” just hard work.  Their generosity has stretched to many organizations, such as Family Building Blocks, where Jeanette’s Place was named in honor of the Eppings’ mother.  The honorees were also informed that Gerry Frank told the Chamber he wanted them to receive the recognition.

These leaders do remarkable things to make our community a better place and exemplify what happens when ordinary people act. It is a night that is both humbling and inspiring. You can nominate a person for next year’s First Citizen by visiting www.SalemChamber.org.

Gary Epping and Shawn Epping Engelberg, his sister accept recognition as Salem's First Citizens at the annual awards banquet of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce on April 17. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Julie Hoy and Fay De Meyer-Aunspaugh attend the annual awards banquet of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerceon April 17. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Naomi Tillery and Laura Dorn prepare for the First Citizens Banquet, held by the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce on April 17. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Paula Mosley and her daughter Sofia Boru attend the First Citizens Banquet, held by the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce on April 17. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

The Manny Martinez Jazz Quartet plays at the the annual awards banquet of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce on April 17. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Mary Louise VanNatta is CEO of VanNatta Public Relations and regularly writes for Salem Reporter.