The Cutler-Orosi Lions Club will be honoring nine individuals at their 70th Annual Community Awards Night tomorrow night, including the Man and Woman of the Year.
This year’s Man of the Year is Jack Mohamed, owner of Cutler Food Mart and Jack’s Gas & Deli. Mohamed is being recognized for his willingness to give back to his community. For the past two years, he has given a total of $20,000 to Orosi High School to be used for scholarships.
“I strongly believe in the importance of giving back to the community that supports my business,” said Mohamed. “And I could find no better way than that of helping young adults realize their dream of attending college so that they can one day give back when they become successful.”
This year’s Woman of the Year is Marianela Fraga, a Senior Program Specialist with CSET (Community Service Employment and Training). Over the past ten years, Fraga has worked hand in hand with Orosi High School, where she serves on the advisory board.
“I enjoy my job and enjoy being involved in the community,” said Fraga. “I enjoy working in this area because of the people and the passion they have for the youth”
In addition to Man and Woman of the Year, tomorrow night’s awards ceremony will also recognize the Cutler-Orosi Business of the Year, Senior Citizen of the Year, Educator of the Year, Community/Public Service organization, Health Professional and Junior Achievers.
This year’s Business of the Year is Family Dollar. The Orosi store had a Re-Grand Opening on Saturday, offering expanded products and pricing after recently being acquired by Dollar Tree.
Longtime Orosi resident Mary Zwetzig has been named this year’s Senior Citizen of the Year. Her family owned a mom-and-pop store across the street from Orosi High School, a popular hangout for students over the years.
She graduated from Orosi High School in 1965 and worked at various businesses in the area, including Bank of America, First Western Bank in Orosi and George Brothers in Sultana, where she worked for 38 years.
“I am blessed to have been part of the George family,” said Zwetzig of her time with the company.
She also counts it as a blessing to have been able to volunteer throughout her community, having been active with the Cutler-Orosi Blood Drive, Vietnam Veterans of America, Food Link Food Distribution, Open Gate Ministries, Scicon and the Cutler-Orosi Diabetes Walk.
“Volunteering is in our blood,” said Zwetzig.
She added, “There are always people willing to step up and continue to make Cutler and Orosi a great place to live and to make it even better for the future.”
This year’s Educator of the Year is Irma Valdez. The third grade teacher from Golden Valley Elementary School in Orosi has deep roots in the community she now serves.
She began her career with Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District in 1981 as a migrant aid. The daughter of migrant farm workers, Valdez said she was deeply inspired by the teachers she worked with to pursue a career in education.
After obtaining her Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from California State University, Fresno she returned to receive her Multiple Subject BCLAC Spanish Credential after seeing the need in her community.
Michael Alvarez, who will be receiving the award for Community/Public Service organization also has deep roots in the area. He graduated from Orosi High School in 1980 and went on to have a long career with the California Department of Corrections. That’s when the need for establishing a way to keep at-risk youth out of the prison system.
In 2012, after retiring from corrections, Alvarez founded Changing Minds One at a Time Foundation. The organization is dedicated to providing services and activities to at-risk youth within the Cutler-Orosi and surrounding areas. The organization does community cleanups, Easter basket giveaways, holiday food distribution and furniture donations.
The organization’s signature program ‘Mending Fences and Changing Minds’ is a youth and horse ranch in Cutler. There youth learn the daily operations of managing a horse ranch.
Said Alvarez of the program, “It is there that our youth learn the meaning of self-discipline, work ethic and gain the self-confidence and self esteem to move forward and become a productive citizen within our community.”
This year’s Health Professional of the Year is Dr. Carlos F. Bayardo and the Junior Achievers of the year are Marissa Quezada and Brian Garcia, both students at Orosi High School.