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Saturday, February 1, 2020


The Granada Theater
17440 Monterey Road
Morgan Hill, CA 95037

20’s themed costumes encouraged!




Non-Profit of the Year: South County Tail Waggers

South County Tail Waggers mission is Saving Each Other — People Saving Dogs, and Dogs Saving People Right Back! The way they implement their mission every day is through their Community Influence Program. Volunteers take their adoptable Tail Waggers into the community to visit incarcerated minors, senior citizens, at-risk youth, and foster children. These special populations of people help socialize the Tail Waggers to get them ready for their forever homes and families, and in turn they receive back the unconditional love and understanding that they so desperately need and deserve. SCTW is so proud of the thousands of lives they have been able to touch and change through this crucial program that they have created for our community.

SCTW has saved over 400 dogs and adopted them to their forever homes and families. They focus on the dogs facing euthanasia for medical and/or behavioral issues, and roughly 90% of their rescues were facing this fate.

SCTW has created more than one instrumental program for South County in the last year. Aside from their Community Influence Program, they also created South County’s first ever free spay and neuter clinic for our residents in need. They also worked very closely with the Compassion Center and helped get the dogs living with their homeless companions spayed and neutered. When just one female and her unaltered litter can create over 100,000 puppies in just seven years, spaying and neutering is SCTW’s top priority. Finally, after seeing a real need, they also created the first free day camp for children with disabilities and their families. It was met with great success, and the gratitude from the kids and their parents meant the world to SCTW.

SCTW attributes their success to three things: Unwavering commitment, deep personal sacrifice, and their incredible team of volunteers, fosters, and donors. Managing a 100% volunteer-run nonprofit on top of their own personal and professional lives comes with its challenges. However, knowing that rescue never sleeps, and that there are a million more dogs waiting in line to be rescued, keeps them going every day.

SCTW has a lot in store for 2020 and beyond including expanding their Community influence program to working with the homeless population, children and adults with disabilities, and domestic abuse victims. They are going to create reading programs for kids, where they can practice reading in a safe space to adoptable Tail Waggers. They are currently planning Spring Fling luncheons for seniors that are unable to participate in social activities because of mobility issues, where the Tail Waggers and a plated lunch will come to them. They also are working on curriculum with retired teachers to bring animal welfare awareness, and the importance of spaying and neutering into the classroom for K-12.


Volunteer of the Year: Lisa Blagof

Lisa really enjoys the small town feel and the ability to “know her neighbors”. Coming from a very small town in Oregon, she appreciates that Gilroy is a bit larger, yet not so big that she gets lost in the masses. She loves the generosity of the community and the ability to pull together in a time of crisis across political and religious lines.

Lisa believes that when you help others you gain a better perspective of your own life. You can reach across barriers and bring comfort to others, giving your own life purpose or meaning. Lisa has been busy helping others for quite some time. Below is a list of different activities and organizations she’s been involved with:

Gilroy Chamber of Commerce

  • Chamber Member
  • Ambassador
  • Ambassador Vice Chair 2018 & Chair 2019
  • Ambassador of the Year 2018
  • Greeter Mixers & Breakfast
  • Mixer Emcee
  • Beer Tent Cash Monitor
  • Paws in the Park Chairperson
  • Car Show – Show ‘N Shine(s) Greeter
  • Biz Expo Committee Member


Rotary International

  • Projects Director
  • Blood Drive
  • Murder Mystery
  • Golf Tournament Committee


South County Tail Waggers

  • Wag-a-thon Co-Chairperson
  • Car Show Raffle Tent & Ticket Sales


South County Realtors Alliance

  • Events Director
  • Member Appreciation Event
  • Holiday Can-Tree Breakfast
  • Seasonal Can-Tree Fundraisers
  • SCRA Golf Tournament Volunteer


Leadership Gilroy Class of 2019

  • Tame the Flame Class Project


Coldwell Banker Community Fundraising

  • Habitat for Humanity – Office Champion
  • Party in the Vineyard – Volunteer
  • Freedom Fest Parade – Volunteer


Community Solutions

  • Holiday Giving Program
  • Walk for a Wish Walk-a-thon


For Lisa, this quote sums it up best, “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote everyday about the kind of community you want to live in.”


Large Business of the Year: Cresco Equipment Rentals

Chris Smith, President of Cresco Equipment Rentals said, “Cresco has always felt accepted and valued by the community of Gilroy. We do business in cities throughout Northern California. In many, they are just another face in the crowd. The Gilroy Chamber, the business community, events and people of Gilroy have always made us feel important. We are offered an incredibly diverse mix of customers from Gilroy. We are offered opportunities to rent on large public sector projects while also helping with fun and interesting small projects on people’s personal homes and property. In Gilroy we feel supported and safe doing our business. We feel as if our opinion matters and that we have a say in things that matter.”

One of the most important Core Values that drives Cresco’s culture is that of Service. Obviously, this applies to customer service. Cresco tries to provide service to their customers unparalleled in the industry. The profit they hope to make through their customer service is really the fuel that fires the more important application of service and that is service to the community.

As an organization Cresco lives by a simple credo that one never need ask permission to do the right thing. It turns out that many people need the things they have. Many people can not afford to rent them for very important projects which will benefit those in need. Chris said, “If Cresco can be part of a solution, we will be. If we can help kids in need, we will. If we can help a little league that is struggling, we do. If an Eagle Scout needs some tools for his project, we have what he needs. We are blessed with a wonderful business and most importantly one that puts us frequently in a position to serve. At our core, we are servants.”

Chris went on to say, “If we were not serving others, we would be left thinking about ourselves all of the time. What a miserable and sad experience that would become.”

Cresco supports hundreds of organizations each year both with equipment and monetary donations. A few examples would be:

  • UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and San Francisco
  • The Taylor Family Foundation
  • Red Cross
  • Build – 826 Valencia
  • Little Leagues
  • Youth Football
  • Eagle Scouts
  • Local churches
  • Schools

“One major accomplishment we’re most proud of,” Chris said, “has been our business partnership with The Gilroy Garlic Festival.”

Another very proud day for Cresco was their move from the smaller location on the corner of Chestnut to their current larger facility. Chris said, “We were so excited and proud that we could afford to make that move.”

Chris also said, “We are most grateful that we were able to survive the challenges of the 2008 recession and maintain our presence and services in Gilroy. That was certainly not the case for everyone.”
Cresco has served two US Open Golf Championships from their Gilroy location over the years as the primary rental equipment provider in addition to supporting many other smaller events at Pebble Beach.

When asked what advice he would give to other businesses, Chris said, “Commit to the towns in which you choose to do business. Serve those towns when it is profitable and when it is just the right thing to do. Do everything you can to hire people from the local community for your team. Find a way to love what you do no matter what the challenges. Listen to the community and make every effort to do business in the way they prefer. Always do the right thing.”


Small Business of the Year: Straw Hat Pizza - Gilroy

Raj Nayyar was born in Punjab, India, the second of six children. His paternal grandparents migrated to the United States in the early 1970’s. After encouragement from his father, Raj’s father decided to immigrate to the United States in order to offer his children more opportunities. Raj’s father originally immigrated to the United States in the 1980’s and later was able to send for Raj and his sibling. The family settled in Union City, California, where Raj attended James Logan High School. After graduation he attended Ohlone College and Heald College where he took several business courses that would later be useful in his career.

Realizing that he wanted to run my own business and with no prior experience in the restaurant or pizza industry, Raj opened his first Straw Hat Pizza Parlor in May 2002 in Watsonville, California. After several years of successful operation in Santa Cruz County, Raj decided to open a second location. He opened a second Straw Hat in Hayward, California in June 2007. His third and largest Straw Hat was opened in Gilroy, California in November 2015. This location boasts 7,000+ square feet, with two separate private party rooms, arcade and over 40 High-Resolution large screen flat-screen Televisions.

Raj loves the town of Gilroy. Raj, said, “It’s a very family oriented, friendly and supportive place to be. It makes it easy for me as a business owner in Gilroy. Seeing such a tight knit community like Gilroy inspires me to be equally giving and generous.” Raj has always felt the need to give back to the community. He has sponsored numerous community organizations, such as South County Tail Wagger’s, Indian Association of South Santa Clara County, Christopher High School wrestling, Gilroy High School Football and wrestling teams and various Little League Teams, not to mention supporting Wreaths Across America.

Raj and his team at Straw Hat Pizza along with community volunteers stayed up all night after the incident at the Garlic Festival making and delivering pizzas to law enforcement personnel at Christmas Hill Park. Raj has also organized numerous fundraisers for various local groups such as the Gilroy Foundation in order to help the victims of the recent tragic shooting incident. Raj said, “We do these things not out of obligation, but out of love and appreciation for our neighbors and our neighborhood.”

As for advice to up and coming small businesses, Raj said, “I would offer one simple recommendation, prioritize good customer service. Pay attention to the people who not only provide for you and your family, but who provide for your employees and their families as well. Treat your customers as you would want to be treated if you were the customer.”