Park City Rotary Club names volunteer and trails aficionado citizens of the year
When the Park City Rotary Club informed two longtime residents they were going to be recognized for their service to the community, they both humbly responded: It must be a mistake.
Rotarian Bob Richer, chairman of the committee that selects the citizens of the year, said those who have been chosen for the awards represent a “who’s who” of the last 38 years of Park City’s history.
“These are the people who helped shape the town into what it is today,” he said.
Cooper, the award recipient for the volunteer citizen category, was described as one of Park City’s “unsung heroes.” The Volunteer Citizen of the Year award is named after Jack Green, Park City mayor from 1978 to 1986, who helped guide Park City through its formative years as a resort destination.
Melissa Cassey, who spoke at the event, said she first met Cooper through the Park City Lions Club and eventually began working with him at the Peace House, an organization dedicated to providing shelter, programs and case management to domestic abuse victims in Summit and Wasatch counties. She said he has been delivering food to victims at the shelter for almost 25 years.
“Although Craig never talks about himself and what he does for the community, we’ve heard this man described as the most generous, kindest man ever,” she said.
Cassey gave a rundown of the ways Cooper has selflessly volunteered his time and money to countless nonprofit organizations in the community. She said that, in addition to his work at the Peace House, he takes food to the volunteers at the Christian Center of Park City and delivers flowers to veterans in Salt Lake City and Heber. Cooper has volunteered for or supported the Park City Institute, Hope Alliance, National Ability Center, Make-a Wish Foundation and the Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City, as well.
“He has more than 25 years worth of selfless giving and support,” Cassey said. “When you combine them and imagine the countless hours he’s given without any fanfare, he is truly an example of service above self and an unsung hero. He is so deserving of this honor.”
Cooper said on Wednesday he was shocked when he heard the award was going to him. He added, “I thought there must be some kind of mistake.” He said there were several great candidates the award could have been given to, but was honored to be chosen.
When asked what the award meant to him, he was at a loss for words.
“I’m still trying to let it sink in,” he said. “I’m grateful. I just don’t have a lot to say. It was nice of them to allow me to bring some of my family because it meant a lot to them.”
Cooper named several individuals who mentored him over the years, including Bob Jarvis, Duncan Silver from the Park City Elks Lodge, and Merlyn and Bonnie Johnson from the Utah Lions Club.
Cooper also commended Sturgis for his award. He said the community should be grateful for what the Mountain Trials Foundation has done.
“It’s a really unique and special place because of their work,” he said.
Sturgis was recognized with the Professional Citizen of the Year Award, named in honor of Linda Singer-Berrett, one of Park City Rotary’s first female members and later its president. Sturgis is credited with building, promoting and policing the area’s trail network through Mountain Trials Foundation and as an early owner of White Pine Touring.
Cheryl Fox, executive director of the Summit Land Conservancy, said Sturgis’ willingness to work with others is “truly amazing.” Fox, along with Wendy Fisher, executive director of Utah Open Lands, were the 2017 recipients of the same award.
“Charlie is always looking for ways to float everyone’s boat,” she said. “Park City is better when we follow his advice to practice those 10 seconds of kindness. We are indeed happier when we look past the grumpy neighbor and realize life is really good here and Charlie is really a wonderful part of our lives.”
Tim Henney, a Park City Councilor and longtime friend of Sturgis’, described him as a “gregarious and happy guy.” Henney said he first met Sturgis nearly 30 years ago when Henney would spend his summers in Park City. He said the things he noticed about Sturgis then still resonate today.
“It’s all about personal responsibility,” he said. “He has been very courageous in pointing out to this community when they are coming from a position of entitlement. We need to be grateful and need to show consideration for what we have here in Park City.”
Sturgis said he hopes what he has brought to the town for the last 35 years is passion. He told the Rotarians he feels fortunate to be in a community where thinking outside of the box is encouraged.
Like Cooper, Sturgis said when Richer told him he had won the award, he thought Richer dialed the wrong number.
“I still think it falls under the category of crazy,” he said on Wednesday. “I truly feel like it has been a privilege to work in the outdoor industry and have that be a part of my life. My mission all the way along is to make sure people are happy and safe.”
Sturgis said he was honored and humbled to be recognized for everything he has done within the community.
“Lots of people come to Park City and are just learning about the lifestyle, and it has been super fun to help them get along the way and get going,” he said.
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