On May 6, 2022, the Tulare Kings Hispanic Chamber of Commerce held the 2021 Annual Business Awards Gala at the Visalia Convention Center. Following the vision to be a venue involved in the greater community, their previous President Carlos Mendoza and current President Vincent Salinas shared the stage as master of ceremonies and proudly announced these phenomenal winners of the awards.
Non-Profit of the Year – Kaweah Health
When Kaweah Health began treating patients more than half a century ago, the health system recognized it would transform care for our region. Over the years, Kaweah Health has served our communities through education, research, and patient care—and over time, has expanded to become one of Central California’s best integrated healthcare systems, leading others by enhancing what is and passionately pursuing what can be.
As Kaweah Health continues on its journey to becoming a world-class healthcare provider, it has placed a more targeted focus on health, not just healthcare. This commitment to care has brought national recognition to the healthcare provider, including the medical center being named by Healthgrades as one of the nation’s 250 best hospitals for four years in a row.
Expert care at Kaweah Health is provided by more than 700 medical staff and 5,100 employees, all specially trained and experienced to care for the diverse needs of Central California patients. The health system operates 10 campuses and 613 licensed inpatient beds throughout Tulare and Kings Counties, offering comprehensive services, including cancer treatment; a renowned NICU; mental health services; cardiac, neuro, and orthopedic surgery; family medicine; physical therapy; emergency services; and much more.
Excellent care has the power to heal, but the Kaweah Health story has always been about more than just healthcare. Its story is also about the shared passion of its healthcare team—a passion for people that inspires wellness and changes lives for the better. Living through the pandemic has been unimaginably difficult for us all, but like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Kaweah Health is soaring toward the future with a reignited passion for health and the people it serves.
Health is rising in our community, and Kaweah Health is faithfully leading the way.
Small Business of the Year – Nate Wingert State Farm Agency
The Nate Wingert State Farm Agency is located in Visalia and just celebrated 9 years of helping our community! It has been their goal from the beginning to help as many families and businesses as they can to be fully protected and realize their dreams. They offer the nation’s #1 Auto and Home Insurance, the highest-rated life insurance by J.D. Powers, supplemental health insurance, and personalized Business insurance named “Best Overall Small Business Insurance” brand. They also offer home financing, pet insurance, and retirement planning services. Nate is happily married to his beautiful wife Erin, who teaches 2nd grade, and they have 5 children ranging in age from 2 to 16. His love for his family and for his Savior Jesus Christ is what drives everything he does. They are involved with Neighborhood Church and always seeking ways to give back to the community. The Nate Wingert State Farm Team is what makes them a great place to do business! Diane DeMelo, Berenice Gonzalez, Ana Sample, and Carlos Mendoza have each been members of the team for years, and between the 4 of them they have 29 years of experience not just with State Farm but with Nate’s local agency. They, along with Nate, are passionate about providing an excellent customer experience and genuinely caring about the needs of this community. Nate’s office has aimed from the start to give back in many ways to our community. Recently, they orchestrated a book drive to re-stock the Porterville library after the fire, filling an entire U-Haul. They orchestrated food donations during the pandemic for healthcare workers, educators, firefighters, and law enforcement. They also partnered with Habitat for Humanity, FoodLink, the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center, and Salt + Light Works to give donations partnered with the community and matched by State Farm
Medium Business of the Year – Griswold, LaSalle, Cobb, Dowd & Gin, LLP
Griswold, LaSalle, Cobb, Dowd & Gin, LLP is the largest law firm located in either Tulare or Kings County with its office in the heart of downtown Hanford, CA. We have been an integral part of Tulare and Kings Counties for over 75 years and handle nearly any legal issue you might face personally, professionally, or in government.
At Griswold LaSalle, our core values are known as the three C’s: careers, clients, and community.
Creating great careers is what we do. Our staff consists of 12 attorneys and 17 paraprofessionals nearly all of whom are homegrown from our local communities and understand the issues our clients face. Three of our attorneys are ranked within the top 5% of all lawyers in California in addition to many other accolades. Many of our paralegals received their paralegal certificates from COS and are leaders in the local paralegal community.
Griswold Lasalle’s goal is to build exceptional relationships with our clients. We build relationships with our clients so we can take steps to help you along your personal or professional journey. Our clients range from individual family needs to some of the most successful multimillion dollar private and government organizations in the valley.
Finally, we want to impact the community so profoundly that the perception of what a law firm should do is changed. To accomplish this, our staff participates in and with many charitable organizations including the Tulare Kings Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Tulare County, the Tulare County Child Abuse Prevention Council, the COS Foundation, Rotary, and through its own foundation, the Griswold LaSalle Community Foundation which is run entirely by its staff.
Large Business of the Year – Alts Solar
AltSys Solar is a full service, solar and energy management company. With over 1,200 installs in the 15+ years in business, we still have the two people who did ALL the installs the first few years working at the company. We are a local Tulare business that wholeheartedly supports and services our community. We service all our customers including the “Orphaned” ones of bankrupt solar companies and those that don’t return phone calls. As your local install company, you get 45 years of technical experience, an owner that meets with the crews every morning at 6am, (5am in the summer), and a reputable service contractor to back up every sale. AltSys Solar is here to help with your energy management needs including Home Backup Generators and Battery Storage.
Corporation of the Year – Valley Strong Credit Union
In 1938, a small group of dedicated and concerned teachers met for the purpose of forming a financial cooperative for school employees and their families. From these very humble beginnings, Valley Strong Credit Union was founded and formed.
The first Valley Strong “office” was actually a small room located in the library of a local high school. A single volunteer conducted all the operations, with transaction receipts kept in a shoe box. By the end of our first year, Valley Strong had 141 individuals banking with us and approximately $1,300 in assets.
Simply stated, a lot has changed over the last three-quarters of a century. However, our commitment to serving all Californians remains the same. That’s why more than 210,000 individuals representing more than $3.5 billion in assets choose to bank with us.
Our mission is to turn people’s financial possibilities into financial realities. We work every day to create a better tomorrow for our children and families. We are here to stay and grow together. And, here to discover the best financial possibilities for the best possible outcomes.
From extensive loan programs, including home and auto, to the latest in digital technology, retirement and wealth management services, and business banking, Valley Strong is your lifelong financial partner.
So, no matter what your financial possibilities may be, we are here to serve you.
LGBTQ+ Business Advocate of the Year – Sam Ramirez of The Naxon Group
Sam Ramirez is the founder of The Naxon Group, a hospitality development, and management company based in Visalia. He started his career as a front desk agent in a small golf resort hotel and fell in love with the industry and serving others.
His range of experience has found him leading teams for boutique independent, full service, and select-service hotels. He has spent time managing bars, restaurants, and even a nightclub for a stint. His projects have taken him throughout the US including major projects in Roseville, Portland, Phoenix, Denver, and many others. After serving as Chief Operating Officer for a Salt Lake City-based firm, he started his own company 2 years ago and decided to make Visalia it’s home.
In 2019 he launched Bello Vita Venue, renovating the former Sons of Italy Hall into a premier indoor event venue. In June of 2020 he was part of the management team for the launch of The Darling Hotel, the first boutique hotel in Visalia. In the fall of 2020, he opened The Woodlands, a beautiful outdoor venue in northwest Visalia
Along with his partner Adrian and sons Nathan & Jaxon, whom Naxon is named after, Sam has made it his goal to create some of the Valley’s most memorable events and host public events that bring our community together. He is proud to support many local non-profits and has made respect and inclusiveness for all a pillar of his company’s ethos.
Community Excellence Award – Aldiva “Ali” Rubalcava of Recovery Credit Repair
Aldiva “Ali” Rubalcava, was born in Kingsburg, CA. Moving to the small city of Artesia, Ca at the age of two. In 1988, parents relocated to Visalia, Ca, where Aldiva attended Mt. Whitney High School, and attended Barclay College in Fresno, Ca simultaneously. Moving to the Bay Area in 1966, she became one of the few licensed, female contractors specializing in kitchen and bath remodels and ran a successful business until 2008.
After meeting her husband, Cesar Rubalcava, and Bay Area real estate prices soaring. Aldiva and her husband moved back to Visalia in 2012. After holding several management positions in the valley she decided to embark on a new venture: Credit Repair. In 2015 Aldiva founded Recovery Credit Repair, Inc. Starting with a small office on Main Street, it blossomed into successful businesses with three locations, Visalia, Fresno, and Delano. With a staff of 15 employees, including 4 Credit Repair Specialists, and foreseeable growth. Passion and dedication to truly help people overcome obstacles in their lives and empower them towards a better life, has been her driving success of business. Aldiva’s goal is to continuously improve her business, have more growth, and give back to the community.
Aldiva awarded the Businesswoman of the Year Award in Washington D.C. In addition to this Award, she a Living Well Expert for NBC11, featured on Rob Black and Your Money, Bay Area Bargains, and Rapid Remodel TV. Also a graduate of Visalia Leadership and won the Small Business of the Year Award from the Tulare Kings Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to Credit Repair, Aldiva also a Business/Commercial Loan Broker and owns Pro Funding Group. A Certified Tax Preparer business partner of OMG Tax Gals. A credit repair outsourcer and owns CreditRepairOutsoursing.com and a business consultant and owns Econsultingpro.com. Serving on these non-profit organizations: NAHREP FRESNO – President, Paw Estates Rescue and Shelter – Secretary, Habitat for Humanity – Board Member.
Rising Star – Lorena Rios of Cardinal Financial
My name is Lorena Rios I am a mother to my son Daniel and my daughter Carmen. I was born in Culiacan Sinaloa Mexico. My parents immigrated to California in the late 70’s. Growing up with an immigrant family came with challenges and hardships, because of this I am who I am today.
I have over 18 years of sales and management experience. I’ve additionally worked as an insurance agent, collection officer, and a mortgage loan originator. I’m currently the Branch Manager at Self- Help Federal Credit Union in Porterville. Our mission is to create and protect ownership and economic opportunity for all. We do this by providing responsible financial services, lending to small businesses and nonprofits, developing real estate, and promoting fair financial practices. While our work benefits communities of all kinds, our focus is on those who may be underserved by conventional lenders, including people of color, women, rural residents, and low-wealth families and communities.
I strive to make a difference in our community and I think it all starts with volunteering. I spend most of my free time volunteering at women’s shelters, senior centers, churches, food banks, and nonprofit organizations. I have a passion for helping underserved people.
Woman of the Year – Gigi Crouse of Gigi Kraus Photography
Born and raised in the Philippines, studio photographer Gigi Crouse moved to Visalia 13 years ago and started a photography business in 2016. After completing two semesters of online photography classes from Santa Barbara Community College, she decided to put her focus on business and marketing. In 2020, Gigi photographed the Visalia Latino Rotary Club, honoring Latina women in our community and this year, Latino men. She also worked with the Soroptimist Live Your Dream Awards recipient in 2020. While Gigi loves taking pictures of practically anything, her real fascination is taking photographs of people and pets. Specializing in modern magazine-style photo shoots with a timeless and classic approach, she loves capturing the beauty of everyday men and women in photographs. Gigi isn’t just a photographer, and she captures more than photographs. Celebrating curves, age, and even scars, Gigi invites clients to join her in a life-changing journey of self-discovery: You are more beautiful than you realize! Clients have described their experiences with Gigi: “She captures the soul of her clients—the inner beauty that even they may not know that they have.” “The special place she creates for her clients to make them feel like the most important person in the world is the highlight of the experience.” Gigi creates experiences where men & women feel beautiful and valued. She makes sure to get to know her clients on a deeper level so that she can bring out their personality in photographs. Gigi makes it her mission to invite men and women—no matter what shape, size, race or age—to exist in portraits and to see their own unique beauty through the legacy of portraits.”
Man of the Year – Tulare County Supervisor of District 4 Eddie Valero
Supervisor Eddie Valero, first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2018, serves as Tulare County Supervisor representing District 4, which includes the unincorporated communities of Badger, Cutler-Orosi, Elderwood, Goshen, Ivanhoe, London, Monson-Sultana, Seville, Traver, and Yettem. The cities represented in District 4 include Dinuba, Woodlake, and a small portion of Visalia.
A longtime resident of the Central Valley, Supervisor Valero left his hometown to obtain an Ivy League education and returned with the goal of prosperity for Tulare County residents. He has been working with the greater North County to positively impact at-risk youth, particularly fatherless young men, throughout the Central Valley. In 2014, Valero founded Young Men’s Initiative (YMI) in order to develop courageous, motivated and successful young men. Most of these young men were on the margins but, through YMI, paved a new path and became part of community.
Supervisor Valero’s education in City and Regional Planning along with public service experiences over the years have prepared him to serve District 4. He is a servant leader who believes in community voice and collaboration while valuing ideas and interests.
Supervisor Valero was elected to the Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District in 2012 and served as School Board President for three consecutive years, 2016–2018. He is a native of Cutler-Orosi, graduated from Orosi High School in 2000, and completed undergraduate and graduate degrees from Cornell University. He also participated in the Woodrow Wilson Junior Summer Institute at Princeton University and obtained graduate training in conflict resolution studies at Georgetown University.
An academic at heart, Supervisor Valero taught Foundations of Education and Introduction to Teaching in the School of Education at Fresno Pacific University. He has also taught Art of American Education at Fresno City College. He is a member of the Dinuba Chamber of Commerce and facilitates its Leadership Northern Tulare County (LNTC) program. Supervisor Valero is a proud Woodlake Kiwanian.