Seven years have passed since Charlie Wise and Larry Stover (Lost Dutchman Realty) and Ed Barker (The News), decided to take a day to celebrate the people who matter most to their businesses: their community! Every year since then, Lost Dutchman Realty and The Apache Junction/Gold Canyon News team up to throw a big block party in the parking lot in front of the businesses at 1075 S. Idaho Road in Apache Junction. Many additional local businesses and organizations join the fun by providing door prizes, sponsoring food trucks, participating with entertainment and services – and everything is Free!
The 2018 Community Appreciation Day, as it came to be called, was held on Saturday, January 27. As always, it was a huge success; so much so that event organizers are currently working with the city of Apache Junction to plan a possible move to Flatiron Park next year. But there was one new facet to the festivities this year that tops even the anticipation of expanding to a larger venue: the ‘Spirit of Community’ Award.
With Ed Barker’s passing in early 2017, family members – those related and those chosen – wanted to find a way to honor his memory by honoring those who, like him, go above and beyond and then a little further in service to the community he loved. Thus, the ‘Spirit of Community’ award came to be.
“Ed worked hard,” shared Trish Hoagland, to whom Ed was “Papa.” “He was selfless, dedicated to the truth and always put this community first. His blood, sweat and tears can be found all over AJ. There are so many people like him here in AJ who don’t ever get publically recognized, and we want to change that and inspire people to get involved to help make the changes this community needs to see.”
The first recipient of this soon-to-be annual award is Cami Garcia, who received an engraved plaque in front of an enthusiastic crowd on Saturday.
Cami was born and raised in Apache Junction. She and her husband Joe Garcia have been married for nearly 25 years. Joe has been a captain with Superstition Fire and Medical for about 18 years, and they have three children: Tanner, Cameron and Garrett, who are all very active in sports and attend AJUSD.
In 2014, after 10 years in the real estate business, Cami became a broker and, at present, owns Western Lifestyle Realty. “While this keeps me busy,” she told us, “I also find it very fulfilling to volunteer and contribute to my community wherever I can assist.” Cami has been president of Black & Gold Youth Football League for about 14 years, Vice President of Apache Junction Little League for several years, served on Parent-Teacher Organizations and is currently on the Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board. Wherever you turn in Apache Junction, Cami Garcia is there, doing whatever she can – and often more – to make our corner of the world a better place.
Although Cami was selected by the organizers of Community Appreciation Day, future candidates will be nominated by the community. “We don’t know for sure yet what that process will look like,” said Hoagland, “but it’s only fitting that the community should have a voice in selecting the recipient.”