POST FALLS - Linda Wilhelm loves calling Post Falls her lifelong home, and her actions back that up.
Wilhelm, a broker for Coldwell Banker Schneidmiller Realty and city council member, was named Post Falls Citizen of the Year on Thursday night during the chamber of commerce's annual Community Recognition Banquet at Red Lion Templin's Hotel.
"I just love this town," said Wilhelm, fighting back tears. "You just made my life."
Wilhelm recently started her third term on the council. She previously served nine years on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
"It's not a requirement for the recipient to be born and raised in Post Falls, but this year's honoree is a home-grown local by every definition of the word," said Alan Wolfe, last year's Citizen of the Year. "It's our pleasure to recognize her many contributions to her hometown."
In the past six years on the council, Wilhelm has spent two terms on the Kootenai Perspectives board, two terms on the Jobs Plus board and four years as an alternate board member for former Mayor Clay Larkin on the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization.
She spent a year on the Post Falls Strategic Plan Committee and is a graduate of the chamber of commerce's River City Leadership Academy. She also serves on an advisory committee for the Spokane Street renovation project.
Wilhelm is a member of the Post Falls Community Volunteers, and spearheaded a drive to raise funds for the water features on Spokane Street at Interstate 90. She has also earned several real estate awards.
The chamber of commerce also recognized Valerie Wilcox as its Volunteer of the Year and Center Target Sports as its Business of the Year.
Wilcox has volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club of Kootenai County, the chamber of commerce and Post Falls Education Foundation.
"We've lived here for 33 years and have been involved in a lot of groups," Wilcox said. "We wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
Ed and Peggy Santos, owners of Center Target Sports, organized a benefit for the food bank, Toys for Tots, OASIS women's shelter and the Inland Northwest Blood Center. The company partnered with the chamber with a $1,000 cash match to promote tourism in Post Falls, and its customers booked nearly 300 local hotel nights last year.
The chamber of commerce this year rolled out the red carpet to include honors presented by the Boys and Girls Club of Kootenai County, the food bank and senior center for more of a community-wide flavor.
The youth nonprofit named Polin and Young Construction, a club sponsor and the builder that offered discounts on the club's facility, as its Business of the Year.
Andy Barrett, a volunteer who has helped develop science and soccer programs for the club, was named the club's Volunteer of the Year.
The crowd of 200 gave a standing ovation after the speech of club volunteer and member Cenedra Witherspoon.
Witherspoon, a sophomore, spoke about how the club and adults helped turn her life around from challenges she experienced as a youth. She was recently named the club's Youth of the Year and will represent Kootenai County at the nonprofit's state contest in Boise on Feb. 26.
The food bank recognized River City Chiropractic as its Business of the Year. In the past three years, staff and patients have collected and donated more than 14,000 pounds of food with multiple food drives.
George Gee, food bank board member for three years who has led multiple fundraising efforts, was named the nonprofit's Volunteer of the Year. Through the efforts of Gee and many others he listed after accepting his award, the food bank paid off its mortgage in January.
The senior center honored the Trading Co. Store as its Business of the Year for hosting the Post Falls Festival carnival and assisting the center with food needs.
Barbara Jordon, who has volunteered more than 2,500 hours at the center's kitchen, was named the senior center's Volunteer of the Year.
"It is my honor to serve the senior center and love on everybody," Jordon said.