Book of Golden Deeds and other awards at banquet 

Reid Hopkins and Pam Smith recipients of the Book of Golden Deeds award with Ireland Comstock (middle) rep for Congressman Vince Fong

Photos and story by Catherine Stachowiak

The Kern Valley Exchange Club (KVEC) held its 51 annual installation of officers at a banquet, Monday June 24, at Paradise Cove Lodge.  Master of Ceremonies for the event was John Blythe who was also stepping down from his presidency, to the club, after finishing his term.

Highlights of the evening included the rewarding of the prestigious Book of Golden Deeds award, which this year went to two recipients found worthy of the honor.  The winners of the Book of Golden Deeds Awards this year were Pam Smith and Reid Hopkins. 

Committee chair of the KVEC Debbie Hess introduced Pam Smith as the winner of the book of Golden Deeds Award, which Blythe, in his capacity as president did not select her for.  

Smith did not wish to seek recognition for her good deeds within the community although she was club secretary for the KVEC for many years.  Smith is business owner of Paradise Cove Lodge, which won the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year award, and served as Grand Marshal to the annual Christmas Parade in Lake Isabella.  As owner to the Cove, Smith has hosted the meetings for KVEC weekly for the entire 51 years. 

Smith was a retired long-term teacher for Kernville Union School District. She devotes her time to serving local senior citizens, giving them rides to church and elsewhere and bringing meals to those in need, helping the homeless and those struggling with addiction.  She has often opened her motel to those in need of free lodging because of her concern for the disadvantaged within the Kern Valley community.  Smith has donated sirloin steaks to the FFA for the Kern County Fair and recently hosted the Jockey Club awards breakfast for Kern Valley High School athletes.

Interestingly, Smith’s parents were both members of the exchange club. Her father Bo Williams was charter member of the club and was also awarded the Book of Golden Deeds award in 1986.  

Regarding Hopkins, Blythe said, “A central component about the exchange club is centered around helping the youth in our community. The exchange club supports the students at all three of our local school districts as well as scholarships. But we also help with donations for local youth organizations. One of those organizations that this club supports every year is the One Spade Youth Packers, which was founded by Reid Hopkins and his wife Eileen.”

Hopkins began a career with the US Forest Service, as a fire prevention technician and trail crew foreman and packer in 1971, eventually going into law enforcement with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department and later with the Bureau of Land Management. Hopkins was once deemed Kern Valley Exchange Club’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

Hopkins started One Spade Youth Packers program in 1995, to help youth develop character and leadership skills. Students in the program become experienced with horses and mules and then train to compete nationally at the world famous Bishop Mule Days.

The program also avails the opportunity for college and career placement assistance.

In addition to the two recipients receiving the awards from KVEC, on behalf of Kern County Supervisor Phillip Peters, field director Cody Criswell awarded Smith and Hopkins special awards of recognition for their good deeds in the community.  Ireland Comstock, field representative for Congressman Vince Fong awarded the two recipients certificates of recognition for their service to the community. 

Winning the Exchangite of the Year award that night was Michael Ryan.  As well as helping with scholarships in the community, he has supported youth in the community and served on the board of directors for KVEC.  

Winning the Rookie of the Year award as an exchangite was Alan Paradise the principal of Kern Valley High School.  Blythe said that Paradise is overall very passionate about ensuring high school students get a quality education.  

Also during the evening, a Kern Valley High School graduate, who was awarded KVEC  Student of the Year, Kyle Denys was acknowledged with a round of applause.

Blythe passed on the bell and gavel, to newly installed president of the KVEC, Fred Roach.  

Reid Hopkins and his wife Eileen
John Blythe president of the KVEC stepped down that evening
Pam Smith and her son Joey
Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce president Fred Clark (right) sits with his family
Congressman Vince Fong’s rep Ireland Comstock (left) sits with Man of the Year Gary Zuber with wife Karen and (front)  Supervisor Peter’s rep Cody Criswell.  
Student of the Year Kyle Denys, with his mother, was applauded
(Left) President of the KVEC with principal of Kern Valley High School Alan Paradise Rookie of the Year
(Left) President of KVEC with Michael Ryan Exchangite of the Year
Pam Smith holds her Book of Golden Deeds award
Reid Hopkins displays his Book of Golden Deeds award
KVEC board members and officers take oath of office
Newly installed president of the Kern Valley Exchange Club Fred Roach takes the gavel and bell of his office