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Volunteers, Business and Citizen of the Year honored

By Jim Shilander

San Clemente’s business community honored the city’s most active community businesses, volunteers and citizens Thursday at the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Installation Dinner at Bella Collina Towne & Golf Club.

John and Margaret Ezell, who have worked tirelessly in a variety of philanthropic causes across San Clemente, including the Boys & Girls Club of the South Coast Area, San Clemente Rotary and Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, since moving to the city in the 1970s, were honored for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement.

“I was absolutely shocked,” John Ezell said, about receiving the award.

What made it special, he said, was that neither he nor his wife knew the award would be presented to them both, as a couple. John said he thought the award was going to the Donchaks (Lori and Andrew)—who had actually nominated the Ezell’s for the award. Margaret Ezell thought the award was going to John alone, and was visibly shocked when Michael Kaupp, the previous recipient of the honor, announced her name along with her husband’s.

The couple has been active volunteers since they began dating one another in high school in Long Beach, when Margaret asked John if he would join her as a “candystriper” at a local hospital.

“San Clemente has a unique sense of community you don’t find in a lot of places,” John Ezell said.

Denise Sutherland, the recipient of the 2012 Citizen of the Year award, was honored for her contributions in helping to provide brighter days for children, as part of the Special Spaces program, which decorates the bedrooms of children facing life-threatening illnesses.

Sutherland said she first learned about the program in 2011, while watching the ABC television program Secret Millionaire, which included a profile on the organization. She said she was inspired by the organization’s efforts, which reminded her of her own family. Her brother suffered from a severe illness growing up, leading her to want to help others facing a similar situation.

“It really rang a bell,” Sutherland said. “I know what those families go through.”

So far, Sutherland said, the organization, which covers all of Orange County and Camp Pendleton, has done two bedroom makeovers, one in San Juan Capistrano and the other for the child of a Marine family based at Pendleton. However, more are being planned however, including one Friday in Newport Beach, with the help of Sutherland’s volunteers, which include a number of family members.

Dr. Darin Reagan of San Clemente Dental Group and Orthodontics credited his staff with helping to earn the title “Business of the Year.” The office was recognized for a number of major efforts to provide dental services to less fortunate children on a pro-bono basis, as well as raising funds for disaster relief.

“We just go about our day to day business and try to reach out to the underprivileged,” Regan said. “It’s our way of giving back.” He credited office manager Barbara Vartanian with helping to establish many of the relationships with charitable organizations in the city.

Other honorees included Educator of the Year Patrick Harris, the counselor at San Clemente High School, Chamber Volunteer or the Year Ben Medina and Chamber Ambassador of the Year Burton Brown.

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