The Tri-Cities has its own dynamic duo — a powerful pair who over the years, in their own quiet way, have fed the needy, encouraged the young, boosted community spirit and even saved a valuable program for the elderly.
Their giving nature was recognized Thursday night when Steve and Shirley Simmons of Kennewick were named recipients of the 2017 Tri-Citian of the Year Award.
As always, the committee in charge of the prestigious prize has made a fantastic choice.
The Tri-Citian of the Year is regarded as the highest honor bestowed in the community and is sponsored by the Rotary Clubs in the Tri-Cities.
It has now been awarded 47 times and recognizes those who exemplify the Rotary motto of “service before self.”
Steve and Shirley Simmons certainly fit the criteria.
Steve Simmons earned his associate’s degree at Columbia Basin College in 1973. He worked his way up from an automotive technician to general manager of several Firestone Tire Service Centers in the Tri-Cities, before joining his wife in the restaurant business in 2002.
Her parents founded Wyatt’s Pancake Corral in 1979, which was renamed The Country Gentleman in 1984. Shirley became a partner in the restaurant in 1996, and added a successful catering service.
Recently, the restaurant was renamed again and is now the C.G. Public House.
They are known for generous contributions of food to charitable organizations, and their willingness to pitch in when a community group needs help.
A great example of that is when the Meals on Wheels program lost its kitchen when the Pasco Senior Center went up for sale.
Steve and Shirley were contacted in early 2015 to see if The Country Gentleman kitchen could be used to cook the thousands of meals that are delivered weekly to the homebound.
The program needed a temporary home until it had enough money to build a new, permanent facility of its own.
Not only did Steve and Shirley share their restaurant kitchen, Steve led the fundraising campaign to help Meals on Wheels buy kitchen equipment worth thousands of dollars.
Over the years, Steve has been a leader on many boards and commissions that include the United Way, the Hanford Reach Foundation, the Richland Public Facilities Board, the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau, the Carousel of Dreams, Sunrise Rotary, the March of Dimes and the Washington Restaurant Association.
And this is just a spattering. There are actually many more organizations that have counted on Steve’s willingness to serve or give.
Shirley, too, has been heavily involved in the community over the years, helping out with business and children’s organizations, as well as the Soroptimists.
In her nomination form, Kathy Balcom, a Tri-City advertising executive, said she once heard Shirley say that, “Steve is the meeting-bee and I am the worker-bee.”
Together, they make a wonderful team.
The couple was nominated by Balcom and their four grown children, Nikki, Steph, Jason and Kyle Simmons.
In her recommendation, Balcom wrote that, “Steve and Shirley provide continual community support quietly, without any expectation of credit… They don’t contribute for recognition or what they can receive in return; they contribute because they genuinely care about this community and making it a better place to call home.”
We are always grateful to the people who give so much of their time and energy to make our community stronger. Steve and Shirley Simmons are definitely among those who represent what the Tri-Citian of the Year honor is all about.
Go to tricityherald.com to see a full list of past winners.