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Who is O.C.'s Kindest Business Owner?
DANA RICE, Dizzy Flower Boutique, Orange
Rice makes every customer feel like a member of her family, says nominator Gail Case, who made the effort to send her letter even though she cannot use her hands to type following a stroke. Rice always makes time for Case and other customers. "She celebrated my birthday with cake and gifts." Rice teaches special needs children at a local high school and is a signer for the deaf.
WAYNE IRVING, Iconosys, Laguna Niguel
Irving is not only the CEO of a company that makes privacy technology for mobile devices, he is founder of Text Kills, a nonprofit that warns of the dangers of distracted driving and cyber bullying. Irving's firm has designed smartphone apps for OC Walk for AIDS, Long Beach Marathon, some children’s museums and charities for fundraising.
KELLY MC KINNON, Kelly McKinnon & Assc., S.J.C.
Nineteen people nominated McKinnon, whose business provides after-school socialization programs for kids with special needs such as ADHD and autism. McKinnon provides Friday night activities so parents can get a date night. She trains parents to work with their autistic children and offers a camp for special needs children.
TONY CORKE, Chaparosa Grill, Laguna Niguel
Corke contributes to all local schools, doing fundraisers for them and offering special discounts. "He never refuses a request," says nominator Mary Kay Beck. "Tony’s culinary demonstrations are humorous, informative and delicious," she says. Corke has a free culinary club for regular customers and serves a free meal to members once a month.
SUSAN SCOTT, Premiere Health Services, H.B.

Scott contributes to more than 10 nonprofits including Someone Cares Soup Kitchen, Alzheimer’s Association, Harvest for Hospice and Friends of Dorothy. She frequently buys lunch for her staff throughout the week, brings in a fitness trainer to work with employees and offers them money and furnishings if they're struggling and help if they have long-term illness.
DAVID TRUONG, Mimi's Jewelry, Fountain Valley
Truong donates jewelry to city events, local charities and church organization for fund raising purposes. His shop is a collection point for the Presents for Paws drive to collect blankets, towels and pet toys for dogs and cats at the O.C. Animal Shelter.
MARK DELP, Institutional Wealth Consultants, S.A.
Delp gives every employee five weeks vacation and encourages employees to stay home if necessary to deal with a sick child or family problems. Employees can arrive late or leave early if they notify the company. "Many companies say they are family friendly, but Mark's actions confirm his belief that ‘family comes first,'" says nominator Jessica Moon.
ANN LEWIS-ROCKE, DirectBuy, Anaheim
Four people nominated Lewis-Rocke for taking care of her staff and bending over backward to solve every problem. She makes everything at work about the team and not herself, says husband Geoff Rocke. She provides lunch every Saturday for staff. Former employee and DirectBuy member Kimberly Ehart says Lewis-Rocke sacrifices personal time for her employees and members.
JOHN ETHERIDGE, Seashore Pest Control, H.B.
Etheridge is president of the 92-member Huntington Beach Kiwanis Club and volunteers at many events to help local youth, military and the elderly. In December he and the club worked on Clothe the Children, which buys clothes for 140 children for Christmas.
JOHN HELFRICH, Helfrich Tool & Die, Garden Grove
Helfrich is the third-generation owner of the metal stamping company. Every month he buys boxes of food for each of his employees from Saddleback Church. About three times a year he gives employees $100 gift cards to grocery stores and occasionally slips a bonus into pay checks to show appreciation for hard work.
Eight employees nominated Blake as one who takes care of his staff like family. He has provided jobs for people in difficulty after being laid off from other companies, says Jack Blake, Josh's dad and employee. Blake donates products to Heritage House Women's Shelter for the residents to give as gifts, and to Toys for Tops and Goodwill Industries adds brother Caleb Blake, another employee.
Seven people nominated partners Christine Anzell and Jack Levenson who do year-round food collections in their shop. Customers who bring in a nonperishable food item get 10 percent discount on a purchase. The pair have given more than 3,000 pounds of food to South County Outreach. The support local schools and host fund-raising events for South County Outreach, Breast Cancer Solutions and other charities.
BRUNO SERATO, Anaheim White House, Anaheim
Serato, who was nominated by five people, has been feeding 300 motel kids every afternoon at his restaurant since 2003. He continually helps families who live in motels to find permanent housing. At Thanksgiving Serato treated 100 low-income children to a feast and 10 tons of snow to play in. He provides his restaurant as the venue for fundraisers.
KIM SHEPHERD, Decision Toolbox, Irvine
Shepherd's leadership philosophy is "people are our most valuable asset," according to nominator Jennifer Heinly. Shepherd is a two-year winner of an award for workplace flexibility. She has spoken to groups of military officers who soon will enter the civilian workforce and to human resource managers groups. She is active in Girls Inc. and on the board of directors for Working Wardrobes.
JONATHAN BIRER, Charlie's Locker, Newport Beach
Birer came to save a money-losing, family-owned nautical shop when he was 21 and bought the shop and has stayed for 37 years, says employee Karen Marshall. She intended to work at Charlie's Locker temporarily but has stayed because Birer is so kind and caring and the best boss in the world. He once bought a horse for her daughter.
MICHAEL RAPACZ, Pacific Contours Corp., Anaheim
Rapacz loves Make a Wish Foundation so much that his company has made 11 wishes come true so far. Now he is chairman of the group's board. "If he hears of someone struggling, whether it is an employee or vendor, he want to help," says an employee who nominated Rapacz.
JOHN KOOS, Core Communications, Brea
Koos "constantly devotes his time to the service of others" says Mark Carney in nominating Koos for the Holiday Spirit. Koos, who has five children, finds time to be an assistant Cub Scout pack leader, a Rotary member and on the Brea Art Commission.
THOMAS LAMONS, Cummins & White LLP, N.B.
Lamons is "the one of the nicest attorneys I have worked for in 40 years as a paralegal," says nominator Lynne Shertzer. "When I am overwhelmed with rushes, he tries to do his own work to help me out." Lamons volunteers for Orange County Rescue Mission in Tustin, filing tax returns for free. Lamons buys his employees lunch once a week.
JOHN & STACY LaBRAKE, Love at First Bite, H.B.
The LaBrakes donate holiday feasts to poor families through the Great Hunting Valley Indian Princess Nation. They adopt two to three families in need every Christmas and buy them gifts and serve them a Christmas dinner, says nominator Barry Colburn. For three years, John LaBrake has given his time and money to run the snack bar for South Huntington Beach Girls Fastpitch Softball League.
MELISSA WEILER, Royal Jewelers, Newport Beach
Weiler donates to more than 25 charities each year including Pacific Symphony, World Vision, Free Wheelchair Mission, CASA of Orange County, American Association of University Women and American Heart Association. "She is dedicated to her customers who she treats as part of the family," says nominator Lisa Moreira.

Holiday Spirit Poll - 2012

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