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Featured Image: State Sen. Patricia Bates highlights some of local developer Dan Almquist’s contributions to San Juan Capistrano ahead of presenting him with a California Senate Resolution during the SJC Chamber of Commerce’s annual Installation and Awards Banquet on Thursday, July 14. Photo: C. Jayden Smith

By C. Jayden Smith

San Juan Capistrano’s finest community members and organizations were honored on Thursday night, July 14, as part of the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Installation and Awards Banquet, where the 2022-2023 Board of Directors was also installed.

Kathy Hooper had the honor of presenting the Woman of the Year award to one of her best friends in Cindy Russell, as well as presenting the Man of the Year award to local developer Dan Almquist.

“There are organizations in San Juan, too many to mention, that would not be able to function without her,” Hooper said of Russell. “She loves what she does, and she takes great pride in her numerous gifts.”

Russell, a San Juan Capistrano resident who has worked for the city in numerous important roles since 1986, has long been known for her accomplishments and presence at community events.

Hooper further spoke of her friend’s kindness and consistency in getting the job done behind the scenes—qualities that helped Russell be nominated multiple times for the award in previous years.

Almquist, an executive with Frontier Real Estate Investments, was recognized for his recent activity around the city in attempting to expand San Juan’s economic and equestrian successes.

In February, he held a ground-breaking ceremony for the incoming commercial village known as the River Street Marketplace, near the Los Rios Historic District.

He has also spearheaded the redesign of the Capistrano Plaza, which he owns, and has been active in proposing the establishment of a horse facility, riding arenas, and a cattlemen’s club at the Northwest Open Space among other competitors.

“He is listening to the needs and wants of our community and feels very, very strongly that your word is your bond,” Hooper said. “His goal is to create special places that resonate with his neighbors and visitors alike to ultimately foster togetherness and continue to build a true community.”

Additionally, he is involved with organizations that assist teenage mothers and seek to find homes for foster children. Hooper described Almquist as committed to honoring the city’s history and working to shape a positive future.

State Sen. Patricia Bates presents Project 3R founder Ryan Hickman with the 36th Senatorial District Nonprofit of the Year award during the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce’s annual Installation and Awards dinner on Thursday, July 14. Photo: C. Jayden Smith

Assemblymember Laurie Davies gave a speech to recognize Russell, and State Sen. Pat Bates honored Almquist’s accomplishment with a California Senate resolution.

Bates later named Project 3R, an organization Ryan Hickman founded that is dedicated to environmental education, as the 36th Senatorial District Nonprofit of the Year.

After developing an interest in recycling at an early age, Hickman has grown to lead beach cleanup events across Orange County and emphasize the importance of recycling to adults and all with whom he interacts.

“Ryan is responsible for recycling over 1.5 million cans and bottles,” Bates said. “He has been recognized nationally and globally for his recycling efforts.”

Additional residents and local businesses were also recognized during the awards ceremony, including Susie Wernet as Ambassador of the Year, and the Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, which received the Business of the Year award.

For the Chamber’s Nonprofit of the Year, that honor went to the Fiesta Association, and the Rancho Capistrano Winery garnered the CEO President’s Award of Excellence.

C. Jayden Smith

C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.

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