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On Feb. 11, the California Area Chamber of Commerce presented its annual Volunteer, Citizen and Business of the Year awards to this year's winners — Volunteers of the Year Dan and Carol Mesey with Moniteau County Toys for Tots, Citizen of the Year Allen Smith, and Business of the Year Leeper Auto Repair.

After a few weeks for the honor to sink in, this year's recipients join a list of past winners grateful to the community for its support and recognition.

Though the Meseys were humbled to receive their award, they said they'd also like to give credit to everyone else who makes the county's Toys for Tots program what it is. Dan Mesey was quick to point to the countywide support for the program, which he said should almost outsize what he does from his end personally.

"It was a surprise," Dan Mesey said. "We were pretty humbled because the Chamber itself should have got the award along with other folks who have helped by either giving money or have given toys or even their time. I see myself as nothing more than a facilitator. This isn't my program, it's Moniteau County's program. They're the ones who deserve the award, not necessarily me. If you look at the whole picture, I do very little. There are so many other people that contribute just as much, if not more, than I do, so for us to get that award it was gratifying and very humbling. But it's really the county that should've had their name on that plaque."

Smith, the city of California's fire chief, received his Citizen of the Year award in honor of all the years he has spent serving and helping his community.

"It surprised me, I thought I was there for somebody else and it turned out I was the one," Smith said when reflecting on being presented with the award earlier this month. "I was pleasantly surprised by it; it felt good to get a pat on the back, it's always good. I'm honored they did that for me. I've been fire chief for a long time, since 1984. And over the years, it has required a lot of time away from the home and away from the family. The part of it that is rewarding is being able to provide assistance to our citizens. I get a lot of gratification being there for them in their time of need, to be able to assist and help them."

Though Smith has enjoyed his years as fire chief and being there for the community of California, he said is looking forward to the day he gets to retire and spend more time at home with his family.

Finally, Business of the Year went to Leeper Auto Repair. Representatives with the business said they are thankful for all the years that California has been there for them and their business.

"We are very appreciative of the Business of the Year award and thankful for all our customers in the community for their support the past 23 years and to future generations to come," Sharon Leeper said.

Recipients of the Chamber's yearly awards are always a big part of the community of California, with the recognition serving to thank them for everything they have done and will continue to do.

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