Sixteen years ago, when the president of the Monarch Beach Sunrise Rotary asked Terry Rifkin to look into what the rotary could do to support the Marines and families at Camp Pendleton, she had no idea Dana Point’s 5th Marine Regiment Support Group would become the “gold standard of support groups” in the United States.
“Little did I know that in 2003, in the heat of the Iraqi war, Dana Point had adopted the 5th Marine Regiment, the most highly decorated regiment in Marine Corps history,” Rifkin said. “Well, what an honor when I realized that we can do something to help the Marine Regiment and we formed a board of directors.”
During the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce’s annual Awards & Installation Dinner on Thursday, Jan. 26, Rifkin was honored as the 2022 Citizen of the Year for her charitable work with the support group, rotary and more.
“It’s truly an honor to be able to give back to those who sacrifice so much for our American way of life and for our freedom,” Rifkin said. “To me, that’s just an honor and a privilege.”
In addition to the support group, Rifkin has served as a member of the Monarch Beach Sunrise Rotary Club since 1988, the first year that women were allowed in Rotary, she noted. Rifkin has also participated in Operation Homework at Boys and Girls Club Capistrano Valley and the J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center.
“My father always said that life was for living, loving and service,” Rifkin said. “And service was a very common virtue or value, not an uncommon one. So, when I’m recognized, it’s always kind of surprising. I love what I do and I do what I love.”
Since 1991, Killer Dana Surf Shop has been a staple of Dana Point’s surf culture, said Billy Baker of Dana Point Hardware—the Chamber’s 2021 Business of the Year. Barker on Thursday got to present the 2022 honors to Killer Dana.
“When you walk into Killer Dana, you experience the aloha and stoke of an old-fashioned, sand on the floor, California beach surf shop,” Barker said. “You instantly become a part of the Killer Dana Family.”
Killer Dana part-owners Mike Foster and Carrie Foster, along with their team comprising Keeli O’Neill, Kim Hemline and Mike Cruickshank, all gathered on the stage to accept the award.
“To our amazing city of Dana Point and everybody that lives here and has grown up here, we have such a great history and so much behind it,” Mike Foster said.
O’Neill, the assistant manager, added that she’s never seen two people work harder in her life than Mike and Carrie Foster.
“They are the best bosses ever and really taken me under their wing and I couldn’t appreciate it more,” O’Neill said, adding, “Dana Point is super rad, obviously we live in the coolest city ever and we’re lucky to be a part of it.”
The Chamber also took a moment to “get loud” and fill the room with cheers of appreciation for Wayne Rayfield, a former Dana Point City Councilmember who served from 1998 to 2006 and died on Oct. 7 at the age of 88.
“Wayne was and had a unique voice in the community,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vickie McMurchie said. “He was well respected and loved by his peers. He was a mentor to so many, always so knowledgeable, generous with his time, and he had a wicked sense of humor.”
“I’ve been known to say, ‘he or she, they build this city,’ but Wayne was that guy,” McMurchie continued. “He really did build the city and it rings so true for him. His passing is a major loss for this community, but more importantly, we’ll miss the great man and friend that he was.”
Rayfield served as Dana Point mayor in 2005, as director of South Coast Water District from 2008 to 2022, and was awarded the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year in 2006.
The Chamber recognized Caleb Gonzales of VonKeith Real Estate as the Ambassador of the Year. The Ambassador of the Year award is voted on by the Ambassador committee as a whole to celebrate one of its members.
“The ambassador we are honoring this evening is always eager to welcome new members to the Chamber in connection with local business,” Chamber Marketing and Events Manager Katie McGann said. “He’s demonstrating great leadership and a strong voice within the business community.”
Mayor Mike Frost commended the Chamber for its support of the local business community of the last 75 years.
“Thank you for your leadership and thank you for setting an example for other business owners in the community, hopefully shaping future leaders to come,” Frost said.
“Small business is the heart of our Dana Point community and something I’m incredibly passionate about,” Frost continued. “I look forward to working with all of you in the Chamber staff in the year ahead.”
Recapping the last year, 2022 Chamber of Commerce Chair Marco Scognamiglio noted that “it’s safe to say that we saw a return to a bit of normalcy this year here in Dana Point. Our community events have returned with a bang, seeing some of the strongest attendance numbers ever.”
Looking forward to the coming year, incoming 2023 Chair Beth Oas added that “2023 is the year of the member.”
“We want to hear from you,” Oas said. “How can we help you, what are your priorities what workshops and resources can we bring to Dana Point to help you build your business? In order to remain a relevant and essential part of our business, we will increase our outreach efforts.”
Oas added that whether it’s showing up to a networking event or getting involved with one of the Chamber’s committees or reaching out for a one-on-one chat, “there’s no shortage of ways to be heard.”