Architect Gene Valentine jumped into community service as soon as he moved to Gilbert in 1998, in part because the town is a place where people have made it easy for him to stay involved.
"I think to me it's the elected leadership as well as the town staff" that have kept him in the loop, he said. "The council and mayor have always been very aware and appreciative of anything you give. I found that to be a welcome change from the previous town where I lived in New Mexico, there it was 'don't call us, we'll call you.' Here, it's quite the opposite.
"The town is much friendlier, and it's my adopted hometown."
Valentine, a longtime member of the Gilbert Redevelopment Commission and the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce's board, will get the chamber's Spirit of Gilbert Business Leadership Award on Friday at the annual Community Excellence Award at the Trilogy Golf Club in Power Ranch.
Each year the chamber and the town, along with the Gilbert and Higley unified school districts and Chandler-Gilbert Community College, recognize residents and employees who have excelled in their respective fields.
The chamber also is recognizing the town's Sam's Clubs for donating $50,000 to Mercy Gilbert Medical Center's Healing Garden and another $34,000 to other local agencies, and "their employees have donated countless hours," said Kathy Langdon, the chamber's CEO.
The Leon Uhlhorn Chairman's Award will go to Mike Kallhoff for his work with the chamber's leadership program.
The town's winners to be recognized at the event include Gilbert police Sgt. Andrew Duncan as public service employee of the year and Janet LaTour as volunteer of the year.
Like Valentine, LaTour jumped into community involvement soon after moving to Gilbert in 1995, and was drawn into public safety by the Citizen's Police Academy. "These people are able to help out at accident scenes, and there is a whole list of things they can do and it's getting longer," she said.
LaTour retired from a 25-year accounting career this year and now assists the Gilbert Police Department's administrative section with clerical tasks, and said she's very honored but a little uncomfortable with the attention she's getting now.
"I just prefer staying out of the limelight, doing my own thing," she said.
At Friday's dinner, the town also will hand out community and mayor's awards, and the school districts and community college will recognize educators and volunteers for their efforts.