Youth advocates take top honors at Community Awards

June 5, 2012

By Christina Lords

Renee Zimmerman reacts to a standing ovation May 31 after receiving the Citizen of the Year award from Issaquah Chamber of Commerce board chairwoman Dianna Reely, during the 33rd annual Issaquah Community Awards at the Hilton Garden Inn. By Greg Farrar

As Issaquah celebrated its very best at the 33rd annual Chamber of Commerce Community Awards, two residents — celebrated for their lasting contributions to the community — were inducted into Issaquah’s Hall of Fame on May 31.

Barbara de Michele and Master Sgt. Richard “Top” DeMarco received top honors at the May 31 ceremony, which included recognition for Issaquah’s finest in 18 categories, including awards for standout volunteers, businesses leaders, organizations and youth.

Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger said the Hall of Fame awards were based on several criteria, including inspiration, leadership, civic mindedness, fundraising efforts for public good and length of service to the community.

None more so affected by the awardees are Issaquah’s youth.

De Michele, a longtime education and youth advocate, has helped provide a safe place for at-risk youth and create strong families in Issaquah by promoting healthy living as the executive director for the Issaquah Community Network. She also won the Issaquah Schools Foundation-sponsored Golden Apple Award during the ceremony.

DeMarco has proven himself a worthy recipient after instructing the Issaquah High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps for the past 10 years, Frisinger said. A 2007 IHS graduate nominated DeMarco for the award, citing his profound positive influence over students’ lives.

“Rick instills in young people a commitment to their community, a strong, strong love of service, a willingness to volunteer for the public good, and he instills in them a love of country,” Frisinger said.

Often the first to volunteer her time and the last to leave a project, Renee Zimmerman was awarded the Citizen of the Year award.

“She is a champion of her community,” chamber board chairwoman Dianna Reely said. “She cares deeply about Issaquah citizens, its quality of life and its future.”

As the Issaquah Highlands Toastmasters Club founder and as a volunteer through the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Grand Ridge Elementary School and the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce, Zimmerman’s optimism and enthusiasm for the Issaquah community is contagious, Reely said.

Robyn Barfoot, the Cougar Mountain Zoo’s general curator, and Darrin Helfrecht, a financial services representative of the Principal Financial Group, were crowned queen and king of Issaquah for 2012, thereby becoming honored guests for the Salmon Days Grande Parade and other events.

“These individuals and the work they do contribute to our community and its success,” Reely said.

Christina Lords: 392-6434, ext. 239, or Comment at

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