Awards announced for Conejo Chamber’s May 19 recognition gala

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The Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce will host its Recognition Gala from 6 to 9 p.m. Fri., May 19 at America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College, 7075 Campus Road.

The event will honor Jill Haney, outgoing 2022 board chair and vice president/branch manager for Montecito Bank and Trust, as well as winners in eight award categories. The winners are:

Business of the Year: Westlake Village Biopartners. In December 2020, the company launched two funds totaling $500 million to provide biotech venture capital in the Greater Los Angeles region. Biopartners has invested in 10 companies in the Conejo Valley region, including Atara, Capsida, Dantari and Acelyrin.

Man of the Year: Al Adam, City of Thousand Oaks. Adam has served on the Thousand Oaks City Council since 2012. He was a Thousand Oaks planning commissioner from 2004 to 2010. His community service includes 20 years as a Conejo Valley YMCA board member as well as Alliance for the Arts founding member and board of governors member.

Woman of the Year: Vanessa Bechtel, Ventura County Community Foundation. Bechtel serves as the foundation’s president/ CEO. Under her leadership, the foundation formed and led the Complete Count Committee for the 2020 census. In 2018, the foundation launched funds concurrently for the Borderline tragedy and the Woosley/ Hill fires. During the pandemic, the foundation administered the Ventura County Business Assistance Program distributing over $20 million in small business and nonprofit grants.

•Small Business of the Year: Ninjio. In July 2015, Zack Schuler launched a security awareness business that uses Hollywood style storytelling to educate people about cybersecurity breaches and avoidable threats. Starting with four employees, the business now has over 60 employees and delivers cybersecurity awareness training solutions for companies around the world. Ninjio recently opened a new office in Thousand Oaks and acquired a company in Israel. Ninjio has also worked on cybersecurity issues at the state level.

•Nonprofit of the Year: Manna Conejo Valley Food Bank. Manna has been operating in Thousand Oaks for over 50 years. The bank recently moved out of a 700-square-foot house and into a new 7,000-square-foot facility, distributing more than 250,000 pounds of food to thousands of clients.

•Volunteer of the Year: Tim Harrington of Many Mansions. Harrington joined the Many Mansions board of directors in 2015 and serves as the board chair. Over the past few years, Many Mansions has completed construction of over 150 new housing units and is in active construction of nearly 300 units. He also serves on the board of directors for Southern California Special Olympics, United Way of Ventura County. He’s a member of the Simi Valley Youth Employment Council.

Ambassador of the Year: Lauren Lerch, Your CBD Store. Lerch has been an ambassador since 2020. As the owner of multiple Your CBD Store locations, she attends ribbon-cutting ceremonies supporting other local businesses and delivers her remarks with sincere professionalism. At Chamber breakfast and mixer events she introduces people.

Corporate Sponsor of the Year: Logix Federal Credit Union. Logix has been part of the Chamber’s Chairman’s Club since 2015. In addition to financial investment, Logix prioritizes team member participation in Chamber programs. Logix has hosted mixers throughout the years at its local branches and paid for numerous nonprofit Chamber memberships.

Presale gala tickets begin at $160 per person through May 15 at


This article was originally published by the Thousand Oaks Acorn.

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