Forks’ best presented with awards

Honors highlight community


By Christi Baron

Forks Forum Editor

“If you are unsure of your path … change it,” said Dean Decker after receiving the Business of the Year award at the Forks Chamber of Commerce’s 22nd annual Best of Awards.

The awards, presented Wednesday at Blakeslee’s Bar and Grill in Forks, also included Citizen of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, the Cornerstone Award and the Halvie Award.

Shelley Castellano was honored as the 2022 Citizen of the Year. Deborah Scannell was selected to receive the Volunteer of the Year award. Nedra Reed and Jerry Leppell were presented with the Cornerstone Award, which is given to individuals or entities that have made such a large impact on the West End that they are cornerstones of the community.

“The Halvie Award is presented to a local nonprofit that goes above and beyond every year and is named in honor of Inez Halverson,” said Lissy Andros, executive director of the Forks Chamber of Commerce.

“This year’s award goes to the Quillayute Valley Scholarship Auction for their dedication and hard work to provide scholarships for Forks High School and Quileute Tribal School graduates, making our community and the world a better place,” Andros said.

Decker, a former log truck owner/driver, and now the owner of Decker City Hardware, formerly Forks True Value, in downtown Forks, was also celebrating his fifth year in business this week as he took time away from the store to accept his award.

Chamber president Trent Thurman said Decker and the other nominees shared qualities such as resilience and dedication; they take financial risks, support local events and causes, and have innovative ideas.

“This award is given to a Forks Chamber of Commerce member business deemed most deserving of recognition for community service and involvement,” Thurman said.

“Business practices include evidence of good business ethics and employee support,” he added.

Decker’s nomination cited his willingness to always lend a helping hand, giving back with donations, as well as stocking his store with community-focused products and having very helpful, caring employees.

Other business nominees included Forks Outfitters, Olympic Adventure Camp, Sasquatch The Legend, The Beaver Grocery Store and Westend Taproom Tip & Sip.

Andros read the nominees for the Volunteer of the Year. In addition to Scannell, Bob Kratzer, Eugene Fraker, Jessica Sorensen and Wesley Romberg were nominated.

“This award is given to the volunteer most deserving of recognition for community service to a specific agency, and involvement in the West End of Clallam and Jefferson County,” Andros said. “They share the qualities of passion, dedication, giving of their time, selflessness and are open to ideas.”

Scannell was unable to attend to receive the Volunteer of the Year award. She is a former Forks chamber board member and more recently retired from Peninsula College Forks branch.

She was nominated for her volunteer work at the Forks Library.

“Deborah embodies selflessness, integrity and promotes the good of the community through her volunteer activities,” her nominator said.

“Deborah is kind, observant, and present with children when she assists in bringing storytime to preschool classrooms and Forks Elementary ECEAP, helping to build a love of books, reading, and the library.”

The Citizen of the Year “embodies selflessness, and integrity and promotes the good of the community through their profession and/or volunteer activities and activities or services should have been performed over and above the normal duties of an employed position.”

Castellano is the culinary teacher at Forks High School, “which has a positive impact on the children and young people of our community,” Andros said.

“She shares her knowledge and pioneering skills to make sure they continue in our community, which is important to our culture,” she added.

Castellano also owns Catering with the Castellanos and offers catering services to the scholarship auction every year, contributing thousands of dollars to the Quillayute Valley Scholarship Auction (QVSA).

Castellano, an FHS graduate and a former recipient of a QVSA scholarship, said, “I am so surprised. What an honor.”

Others nominated for Citizen of the Year were Joe Wright, Susie Brandelius and Tara Huggins.

The two winners of the Cornerstone Award were both nominated for Volunteer of the Year.

Former Mayor Reed is the current Quillayute Valley Park and Recreation District (QVPRD) board chair and was nominated for her guidance and knowledge with regard to reopening the Forks Pool and keeping it viable. Leppell, a Forks business owner, is a longtime Quillayute Valley Scholarship auction coordinator.

Said Reed: “I would like to thank the Forks Chamber of Commerce for the honor of being awarded the Cornerstone Award. It means so very much to me. Having called Forks home for a very long time, I just want to say that it has been wonderful to serve this amazing community. I feel I can speak for the QVPRD board of commissioners as well — we all thank you for your support.”

Leppell was unable to attend and will be awarded his plaque at a later date.

The Halvie Award went to the Quillayute Valley Scholarship Auction organizers “for their dedication and hard work to provide scholarships for Forks High School and Quileute Tribal School graduates, making our community and the world a better place,” Andros said.

JoMarie Miller, Wes Romberg and Bill Brager accepted the award on behalf of the QVSA and then joked about perhaps auctioning it off at next year’s event.

In addition to honoring the award recipients on Wednesday, Andros also thanked her staff and volunteers and acknowledged the chamber board members in attendance.

She shared some Visitor Information Center (VIC) stats, saying, “In 2022, our staff members welcomed 56,237 (the most people since I’ve been with the chamber) people at the VIC, and 16,779 people at the FTF (Forever Twilight Festival) Collection downtown, short-staffed all summer, but with a good attitude. We celebrated the FTF Collection’s five-year anniversary in 2022, and have welcomed almost 60,000 people to downtown Forks year to date.”

Andros also thanked the chamber’s Logging and Mill Tour guides Randy Mesenbrink and Richard Halverson who saw 111 people go on the tour in 2022. “We will begin the 2023 tours on May 31 and they run until Aug. 30. Thank you to all our sponsors who help make the tour a success.”

Andros also thanked her FTF Planning Committee members, Forks mayor and city staff for their support and acknowledged the late Audrey Grafstrom,

“Audrey Grafstrom, one of my dearest friends, and the City Clerk-Treasurer was a quiet force to be reckoned with, and always in our corner. We will dearly miss her.”