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Monrovia Chamber Announces Annual Award Recipients

The Monrovia Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce its 2022 award recipients. On January 27, 2023, at the Awards Gala and Installation Dinner, the Chamber will recognize the recipients of the Iris Award (Citizen of the Year), the Monroe Award (Business of the Year), the Service to the Chamber Award, the Military Service and Stewardship Award, and the Pam Fitzpatrick Award (Advocate for Building a Stronger Business Community). This year we initiated four new awards as well: Educator of the Year, Firefighter of the Year, Police Officer of the Year & Ambassador of the Year.

The Iris Award "Citizen of the Year"

Janie Duncan

Janie Duncan was born and raised in Montana where she attended college and worked in various jobs mainly focused on cooking. When she was 23, she was the head chef in the largest seafood restaurant in Montana. Janie moved to Monrovia in 1976 and has lived in the same house for over 45 years on Route 66 with her husband. Chris had his own Surveying Company in Monrovia and now is the head of the survey department for Civiltec Engineering. They have two sons living at home.

Janie Duncan is a 5th generation rockhound and has an extensive rock collection in her basement, the "Good Old Days Museum”, which includes her most prized possession, a 3-foot-long dinosaur leg bone, found by her father in 1938.  Janie was featured with the bone on a National Geographic television show.  She also owns a fossil ammonite, the 6th largest in the world, and a chunk of coal from the Titanic.  Janie Duncan was an officer of the Monrovia Rockhounds for 25 years.  In 2010 she was honored as Member of the year from the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies.  Janie gives free Rock Talks at schools, senior centers and for other interested groups.  She also does programs on dinosaurs, stone stories, history of beads and history of buttons sharing her extensive collection.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, Janie was able to write her family history regarding rocks and her work was nationally published in three issues of Rock and Gem Magazine in 2021.

Janie served the Boy Scouts of America for 30 years.  She has served in almost every capacity in Cub Scouts including Cubmaster and Webelos Activity Badge Counselor by helping over 4,000 scouts earn their Geologist Pin.  Janie also served as a Geologist Merit Badge Counselor for the Boy Scouts.  In 2010, Janie received the Lucky Baldwin District Award of Merit for her years of dedication to BSA.  She also worked with hundreds of Girl Scouts and Brownies by teaching them about rocks, minerals, fossils, and jewelry design.

In 2000, Janie was named Volunteer of the Year by Mothers Against Child Abuse, a national organization based in Monrovia.  She served on the PTA as Earthquake and Safety Chairman for Wild Rose School for 18 years and received the Golden Oak Award.  She also served on the Monrovia Duarte PTA Counsel for 2 years.  Janie’s own personal fundraiser is her annual cookie exchange for Multiple Sclerosis which will run for the 20th year as of December 2022.  In 2021, over 4000 cookies were baked, and 100% of the proceeds were raised to help support a local MS chapter.  Janie was the Queen of the Royal Order of the Daffodil Chapter of the Red Hat Society.  Queen Janie's title was GEMS of the Foothills which stands for Girls Entering Midlife Screaming.  

Janie has been a member of United Methodist Church of Monrovia for over 12 years and helps in many different capacities for the Church, serving as a board member and Missions Chairman.  She is also the Coordinator of the Thrift Store located inside the Church.  The Thrift Store’s resources help provide medical items, clothing, blankets, and food to those in need here in Monrovia.  Janie is one of the founders of "Foothills Kitchen" which has served almost 9,000 hot meals to those in need in Monrovia.  Nine years ago, Janie Duncan, Carol Daley and Pam Werner started serving full course meals at the Methodist Church basement.  The guests who attend are homeless, seniors, vets, and families with children; everyone is welcome.  The group helps with job listings, housing listing, medical and optical referrals, free phone contacts, free medical items, haircuts, clothing, blankets, toiletries sleeping bags, tents, as well as resume help, legal help, and referrals.  The group runs on personal donations, has no corporate funding, and is operated by volunteers; they are sponsored by the Methodist Church in Monrovia as a 501(c)(3) #95-1683886.  Janie says, “Volunteers are welcome!”

Monroe Award

Ricardo Jurado, Merengue Bakery & Café

Ricardo Jurado is the owner of Merengue Bakery & Café in Old Town Monrovia.  In addition to running a successful business, he is actively involved within the community.  Serving in his 3rd term as a Board Member of the Monrovia Old Town Advisory Board (MOTAB), and 3rd term as a Director for the Monrovia Chamber of Commerce, Ricardo stays close to all city events and matters that support the growth of the City and its constituents. 

Ricardo works diligently to seek programs and solutions that benefit his fellow Monrovians and Old Town Merchants.  Even when Merengue is not poised to maximize from an initiative, Ricardo is known to look beyond his front doors and embrace measures that will benefit Monrovian businesses as a whole.  He has also generously contributed to and promoted community events year-round.  Merengue Bakery & Café is well known as a generous sponsor of the City’s Monrovia Days celebrations; Ricardo has donated hundreds of pies and more to this beloved annual event.  His generosity has reached even our local educators as Merengue donated several gift cards for MUSD’s New Teacher Breakfast.

Ricardo grew up in Temple City, later relocating to Monrovia, where he lived for over 10 years.  Ricardo’s career began in the family clothing business, where he worked closely with his father and grandfather, learning all the ins and outs to eventually own and operate it himself for nearly 20 years.  Ricardo now resides in Glendora with his girlfriend, Veronica, and their youngest of four, Jaxon, who is in 1st grade.  Their oldest, Ricky, recently moved to Arizona where he is pursuing a career in lending.  Vanessa is in her 3rd year at Chapman University studying Business Administration, and Natalie is a freshman at Cal State San Marcos pursing a degree in Psychology.

Service to the Chamber Award

Donna Baker, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

Donna Baker started real estate in 2001, after a 30-year career as an administrative professional.  As a casualty of the dot com bust, she found herself jobless.  A friend who saw Donna’s potential prompted her to get her real estate license.  The rest is history!

Since 2002, Ms. Baker has been the #1 agent in her office and consistently one of the top agents in Monrovia.  She is currently in the top 7% of all agents at Douglas Elliman and sells over $20 million in real estate every year.  Donna attributes her success to her administrative background, along with her personality, professionalism, and ethics.  She specializes in architecturally significant and historic properties, but represents every type of home, from condos to “castles.”

When not selling homes, she is very involved in her community.  Ms. Baker presently serves as an Ambassador for the Monrovia Chamber of Commerce, where she has been involved since starting her business in Monrovia in 2001.  She was also instrumental in researching the history of the Chamber while serving on the History Committee.  Donna frequently volunteers to assist the Chamber, often of her own accord, and does so altruistically and passionately.  When the Chamber launched initiatives to assist Monrovian Restaurants during the difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Donna generously stepped up to help sponsor the project with her own personal funds.  Currently, aside from her work as a Chamber Ambassador, Donna also serves on the Boards of Monrovia Parks, Wilderness & Recreation Foundation, and the Arcadia Association of Realtors.  

Previously, Donna served twenty years as Historic Preservation Commissioner in Monrovia, traveled to Thailand to work on the Jimmy Carter Work Project with Habitat for Humanity, and supports many community organizations and activities, including Monrovia Historic Preservation Group, local schools, City of Hope, youth baseball, Foothill Unity Center, the Immigration Resource Center, and many more, with a major focus on young people. Donna was on the Board of the Santa Anita Family YMCA for over seven years and served as President from 2008 to 2010.  She also served on the Board of the Boys & Girls Club of the Foothills and was President of the local Quota Club chapter and the Monrovia Day Association. 

In 2014, Donna was awarded the Woman of Distinction Award by Congresswoman, Judy Chu, representative of the City of Monrovia.  Additionally, Donna was appointed to the Small Business Advisory Board for District 41 by Assemblyman Chris Holden, also representing Monrovia.  Ms. Baker received the coveted Iris Award as 2008 Citizen of the Year from the Monrovia Chamber of Commerce.  That same year she was recognized by the Boys & Girls Club of the Foothills as the recipient of the Mary Wilcox Youth Advocacy & Community Leadership Award, an honor Donna cherished because of her friendship with Mary Wilcox while she was on the City Council.  In addition, Donna has always been a supporter of the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts, a nonprofit group that encourages awareness of the arts.  In 2012, she was honored with the Renaissance Award from MAFA for her contributions to the community.  Donna was also presented the Volunteer of the Year award from the Arcadia Association of Realtors in 2014.

Donna has been married to her husband, David, for over 30 years and has an orange polydactyl cat named Catcher.  She enjoys volunteering, philanthropy, photography, reading, painting kindness rocks, and traveling.

Pam Fitzpatrick Award

Macy Gracia, Volunteer Center of SGV

Macy Gracia is the Executive Director of the Volunteer Center of San Gabriel Valley.  She has been employed with the organization for 16 years, beginning her career at an entry level position.  Her diligence and exemplary work ethics made her the perfect candidate as Executive Director.  In the 3 years as Executive Director, Macy increased the Meals on Wheels client count to over 950 monthly meals.  This program services homebound seniors in the San Gabriel Valley with lunch and dinners delivered by volunteers.

Macy has also strengthened the partnership between the City of Monrovia and VCSGV by coordinating volunteers for many of the City’s events, such as the popular Old Town Wine Walk.  Macy is considerate of her fellow Monrovia organizations as she attentively organizes her volunteers to support their respective events as well.  In their support of recent Monrovia Chamber events, Macy’s volunteers went above and beyond in their efforts, much like she is known to do herself.  In addition to supporting local organizations, Macy organizes one of the largest community-based volunteer events, Make a Difference Day.  Macy is admired by her peers for her coordination of this massive event which encourages local non-profits, service clubs, and families to volunteer and work on beautification projects in the City of Monrovia.

In her spare time, Macy spends quality time with family & friends.  She loves her furry pets.  Enjoys listening to music & attending theatrical plays when possible.  Macy is a kind soul who always takes the time to help others.

Military Service and Stewardship Award

Manny Rodriguez

Manuel “Manny” Rodriguez was born May 2, 1969, to Cuban Immigrants as their youngest of seven.  After graduating from St. Francis High School, Manny attended Cal Poly Pomona where he majored in Communication, with a minor in Criminal Justice.  One year later, he joined the United States Marine Corps Reserves while continuing his education.


In 1991, he was activated and participated in Operation Desert Shield/Storm with his artillery unit.  Upon returning from Operation Desert Storm, he returned to his education and served seven years in the Marine Corps Reserves where he was honorably discharged at the rank of Sergeant.  Shortly after, he entered the California Highway Patrol Academy and served the people of California for almost 26 years before retiring at the rank of Sergeant. 

For the last 5 years, Manny has been an active member of Veterans of Foreign War Post 2070 in the City of Monrovia.  Within the VFW, he has held several positions including House Committee Chair, Junior Vice-Commander, Judge Advocate, and he is currently the Sergeant-of-Arms.  During his time with the VFW, Manny assists veterans in need by facilitating on behalf of Post 2070 and providing them food, clothing, and shelter.  Manny also serves as an ambassador for the elderly veterans at Post 2070, by providing them assistance in getting to doctor’s appointments, contributing to projects at their homes, and assisting them with applications and paperwork.  Manny continuously seeks ways to serve veterans at the VFW.

Posthumous Community Veteran Award

Norman Ross

Educator of the Year

Maria Lomelin, Wildrose School of Creative Arts

Maria Lomelin was raised in the San Gabriel Valley by her parents, two hardworking Mexican immigrants who have been proudly married for over 55 years.  She has two brothers and a sister who is also a teacher.  Before becoming a teacher, Maria spent her grade school years first at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Pasadena and then Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Monrovia.  Maria was the first in her family to graduate from college; she obtained a bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies along with a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, both from Cal Poly Pomona.  She then earned her master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Grand Canyon University.

Maria was just 18 years old when the Monrovia Unified School District hired her as an Instructional Bilingual Aide in 1987 and has remained an active employee ever since.  She was the first instructor at MUSD to obtain a Bilingual, Cross-cultural, Language and Academic Development Certificate (BCLAD).

Currently, Maria is a 3rd grade teacher at Wild Rose School of Creative Arts.  In addition to teaching, Maria serves her school through her involvement with several programs aimed at enriching day to day life at Wild Rose.  Maria serves on the PBIS committee, a program that promotes positive behavior in school, as well as the Social Committee, which promotes comradery and collaboration among school staff.  She also serves as a Mentor Teacher to the school’s new teachers.

Maria is also known for her service related to community and the arts.  She actively recruits for the Wild Rose “Golden Bears,” an outreach program intended to include senior citizens as an integral part of our society.  Maria serves as a Technology Enhanced Arts Learning (TEAL) Coordinator at Wild Rose, and she also volunteers for the school’s musical theatre production team.

Outside of the classroom, Maria’s hobbies include developing a curriculum for Humanitarian Awareness for Kids and finding heart-shapes occurring in nature and has run the LA Marathon, gone skydiving and scuba diving.  Maria is the proud mother of two adult children, Alexandria, who is also a teacher and a Master of English, and Marcelo, a Master of Social Justice, and she became a grandma to her “Sweet Pablito” in 2021.

Firefighter of the Year

Ryan Scott

Ryan Scott has been a firefighter with Monrovia Fire and Rescue for the past 5 years.  He is a strong member of the organization that takes pride in serving citizens and the community as a whole.  When it comes to describing Ryan, he accentuates all the core characteristics that the City of Monrovia embraces:  HUMBLE, HUNGRY, LOYAL, and SMART.  Ryan is willing to take on any challenge presented to him and produces results that exceeds expectations.

In his current assignment he plays an instrumental role in shaping the personnel in the Fire Cadet program.  Over the last five years he has impacted the lives of nearly 30 fire cadets.  From developing an orientation program to oral interview preparation, Ryan has helped numerous aspiring firefighters to prepare for a job in the Fire Service.  Through Ryan and his team’s efforts, nearly half of those cadets now have a career in the Fire Service, five of which currently work for Monrovia Fire and Rescue.

Over the last year, Ryan has expanded his outreach by visiting fourth grades classes throughout the community to discuss the importance of smoke detectors and having a fire safety plan.  In addition to this, Ryan also completed a paramedic program, which allows him to serve the City of Monrovia in an enhanced capacity.  Thanks to the support of his wife Caroline and daughter Riley, Ryan continues to thrive in his new role and provide premier service to the community.

Police Officer of the Year

Grace Aparicio

Grace Aparicio grew up in Southern California.  Grace has dedicated years of hard work to gain knowledge and experience in the field of law enforcement.  While attending college, Grace volunteered with the Monrovia Police Department in the Detective Bureau.  Grace graduated from the University of California, Irvine in three years with a degree in Criminology and Law and served as a UCI Community Service Officer.  Grace also earned a Certificate of Achievement for Law Enforcement from Golden West College.  Now an Officer of the Monrovia Police Department, Grace embodies the fundamentals of MPD in her commitment to education and professionalism; through these efforts Officer Aparicio proudly serves Monrovian citizens with dignity and respect. 

Grace is the proud mother of a 2.5-year-old daughter, Liliana, who is her mini-me.  During her time-off, Grace enjoys spending time with family, working out, and baking; Grace hopes to own her own bakery one day.

Ambassador of the Year

Sandy Ellis, Fetch! Pet Care

Sandy Ellis is a local owner and operator, along with her husband Corey, of Fetch! Pet Care Monrovia-West Covina which offers reliable and trustworthy pet care services for one’s animal family members.  Sandy has a huge passion for all animals and knows firsthand how important it is to have the best pet sitters to love on your pets.  She also has a huge love for people which correlates to the pride she takes in cultivating a welcoming culture for her staff.  Sandy’s love and pride extends to the Monrovian community, to which she is grateful for the many opportunities it provides that enrich life for her and her family.  Her gratitude towards the Monrovia community is also what drives her to contribute to and serve the community in return.  

As a business owner, Sandy wanted an opportunity to be a mentor and partner to her fellow business leaders, so she became an ambassador for the Monrovia Chamber of Commerce.  In doing so, she has been recognized for surpassing standard requirements and making exceptional efforts to embrace the Chamber’s culture and values.  Sandy enthusiastically  participates in and promotes Chamber events, both as a volunteer and a sponsor, and has gladly set aside personal time to make direct contact with members and non-members alike on behalf of the Chamber.  Her peers welcome her energetic dedication and resourcefulness. 

Prior to becoming a businessowner in Monrovia, Sandy lived in Hawaii where she worked in the corporate field for over 10 years as a Talent Advisor, District Manager, and an Account Executive.  Sandy is a mom of three and loves to encourage her kids, Nayah, Aryah, and Shaun to make the most of life in Monrovia through school, athletics, and the arts.