Businessman Jim Abbate and Merced College educator Jonae Pistoresi have been honored by the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce as man and woman of the year.
Abbate, whose Alia Corp. operates McDonald’s restaurants in Central California; and Pistoresi, a business professor and consultant, were among several people and groups recognized for their service to the community during a banquet Friday.
Mike Carpenter, who served as master of ceremonies, said it was an honor to present the awards and to express the chamber’s appreciation of the local business leaders who contribute their time to the organization.
“These ladies and gentlemen give hours a month to set policy and make sure that the chamber organization is building programs, events and educational opportunities that will enhance and benefit our members,” Carpenter said.
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The chamber also recognized new members of its executive board, to be led by Robert Dylina of Envoy Mortgage. He succeeds 2015-16 Chairman Tom Leach of Mid Valley IT.
Abbate, whose father’s McDonald’s business began with the restaurant located across from Merced High School in 1969, has grown the enterprise from five locations to 29 over the past three decades, said Doug Fluetsch in presenting the Man of the Year award.
“Today, he employs over 1,500 employees from Merced to just south of Bakersfield,” Fluetsch said.
Pistoresi was lauded for her work with local businesses and organizations to help them develop their leaders and personnel. A group she created, the Customer Service Academy, partners with the chamber to teach job skills and has branched out with a new program, the Emerging Leaders Institute. She also has been involved with the chamber’s Junior Leadership Merced program and, in 2001, she founded Coffee Break, a Bible study group for women.
“Through her leadership, the ministry of Coffee Break has touched hundreds of ladies,” Karyn Johnson said in presenting Pistoresi’s award. “She has been a champion of excellence and effective support for women seeking to discover and know God.”
Others honored by the chamber were:
Educator of the Year – Susan Walsh, interim president of Merced College
Youth Citizen of the Year – Emily Ewing, 15, fundraiser for the New Beginnings animal shelter and coordinator of its foster care program
Volunteer of the Year – Kathy Hansen, president of the Merced County Arts Council
Ambassador of the Year – David Spangler, Mid Valley IT and former chamber chairman
Business of the Year – Merced School Employees Federal Credit Union
Business Leaders of the Year – Merced Booster Club
Special Recognition Award – Gateway Gardens