PORT ANGELES — Dr. Gerald Stephanz received the Citizen of the Year Award on Saturday night at the fifth annual Port Angeles Community Awards Gala at Vern Burton Community Center.
“This is really not about me. It doesn’t belong to me,” Stephanz said after receiving the award from Sound Publishing Vice President Terry Ward. “I work with an incredible group of people.”
Stephanz serves as vice president and medical director of the Olympic Peninsula Community Clinic, which provides free medical, behavioral and dental care to low-income and homeless patients in Clallam and Jefferson counties, and he works at the shelter clinic he founded.
Stephanz has also served on the Clallam County Board of Health since 2017.
“Please support the folks in our community who need our help the most,” Stephanz said.
He encouraged the audience to donate to REdisCOVERY, OPCC’s outreach program that offers support and services to those experiencing homelessness.
Citizen of the Year was one of six awards at the gala, which returned as in-person event after the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce produced it virtually for the past two years due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The event honored the winners and three finalists in each category: Citizen of the Year; Organization of the Year; Young Leader of the Year; Business of the Year; Emerging Business of the Year; and Educator of the Year.
Joe DeScala, who spent Saturday morning helping haul 4,780 pounds of bagged garbage up the steep hill above Tumwater Creek, accepted the Organization of the Year Award for 4PA, the nonprofit he founded 14 months ago to clean up homeless encampments and illegal dumpsites and to find solutions for the rising number of unsheltered individuals in the community.
4PA and its volunteers have collected a total of more than 90,000 pounds of garbage around Port Angeles, removed graffiti and established regular routes for monitoring and maintaining areas they have cleared.
“Our main focus now is housing,” DeScala said. “We’re going with the tiny house model and are actively pursuing properties.”
Young Leader of the Year winner Tommy Farris grew up in Port Angeles and in 2016 combined his goal of being a business owner with his passion for the outdoors to found the Olympic Hiking Co.
“I wanted to come back to start a business and share our beautiful backyard,” Farris said. “We have about 12 employees and have taken more than 3,000 hikes into the Olympic National Park. What a great place to live, and I’m proud to be a business owner here.”
Hayley Sharpe invited five of her MOSS employees to accompany her to the stage to collect her Business of the Year Award.
“Who would have thought that, 10 years ago, our little shop would be here,” Sharpe said.
In 2022, the clothing and lifestyle store she founded moved from its original 1,600-square-foot store into a 4,700-square-foot space.
Welly’s Ice Cream owners Lillie and Jacob Phillips were vacationing in South Africa, so assistant manager Andrea Dean picked up their Emerging Business of the Year Award for them.
The Phillipses started serving their New Zealand-style ice cream using local ingredients out of a trailer in 2021 and expanded to a storefront at the Port Angeles Wharf the following year.
Port Angeles High School science teacher John Gallagher was not at the event, but he did appear via cell phone to say thank you for his Educator of the Year award, which had more nominations than any other category.
A record 140 nominations were received this year.
A panel of seven judges — none of whom were chamber staff or board members — met twice, once to select the finalists and once to pick the winners.
Judges for this years awards were: Fran Howell, 2021 Citizen of the Year finalist; Steve Methner, State Farm Insurance, 2021 Citizen of the Year; Todd Ortloff, KONP radio host; Jonathan Pasternack, director, Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra; Carla Sue, Olympic Kiwanis Club; Danny Steiger, Lumber Traders, Inc., 2020 Business of the Year winner; and Norma Turner, 2019 Citizen of the Year.
Sound Publishing, which publishes the Peninsula Daily News, the Sequim Gazette and the Forks Forum, sponsored the awards. The Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce produced the event. Joshua Jones performed master of ceremony duties and 48 Degrees North restaurant provided catering services.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.