The City of Baker presented the 2017 Citizen of the Year Award to Kelly and Angela Heiser on April 5. The Heisers, owners of Heiser’s Bar on Main Street in Baker, were presented a commemorative plaque at the regular city council meeting on Wednesday night.
By Sherry Vogel
Mayor JoDee Pratt stated, “The City Council chose Kelly and Angela as the recipients of this year’s award because they have been involved in numerous activities and are an asset to the community.” She continued, “This past year they stood out because after last summer’s tornado they assisted the clean up efforts by supplying volunteers on site with food and refreshments which kept up their morale.”
The Heisers have performed a number of acts of goodwill over the years. The community Thanksgiving Dinner is an annual event in which the Heisers open their business free of charge to provide a traditional Thanksgiving feast to anyone who has nowhere to go for the holiday. The meal which was begun in the early seventies by Kelly’s father and mother, Bernie and Marge, is a community benefit that Kelly and Angela and their kids, Sara and Michael and families, have chosen to continue to host each year. The entire family and their staff volunteer their time to make the meal a success.
Angela shared, “Kelly and I usually began cooking at 4 a.m. to be ready to serve the meal from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. The grandkids usually arrive at 3 p.m. They love to help refill soda glasses and also help to wash all the dishes.”
When asked, who attends the feast? she replied, “A mix of people: young couples, elderly, singles, empty nesters and people staying at motels.” Kelly added, “One year we had a family of ten who were staying at a motel and then one year we had a family stop that was traveling through Baker to Minnesota, from Washington because their son had been in an accident.”
Angela who feels humbled by being chosen for the award added, “Our employees are amazing. We always tell them to clock in when coming down to help on Thanksgiving Day. They refuse and even donate all their tips made at the dinner that day, to someone that they want to help.”
Kelly has called Baker home all his life. Angela, a native of Cody, WY, moved to Baker with Kelly in July 1995.
Kelly, who had graduated in 1984, left Baker to work overseas on a seismograph crew. Shortly after returning to Baker they both joined the Baker Jaycees. This began their career as volunteers in the community. In the following years, Angela would become an eight year volunteer on the ambulance crew; become a Girl Scout and a Boy Scout leader. Kelly, who was employed at Tri-State and Heiser’s for two years before becoming the owner of Heiser’s, enjoyed being a member of the Baker Jaycees that was a service orientated civic organization.
The Heisers, ever alert to the needs of the community, have never hesitated to step forward to offer a helping hand in anyway they can. They have successfully organized a number of community events to aide local families in need. In 2014, a local family lost all their belongings to a house fire. The Heiser’s organized a clothing drive through Facebook and set up their business as the collection site. As customary, many family members got involved. Angela’s mom Roxanne Brown, took in stacks of clothing to freshly launder before giving it to the family.
Helping and organizing community charities seems to run in the family. When Kelly and Angela’s daughter, Sara, was only in the fourth grade she organized a fundraiser dance at school to raise funds for a couple of her classmates who were battling cancer. She served popcorn, candy and pop and raised $400 for the cause.
As an adult, Sara has continued to serve the community in organizing other charity events. In 2004 she spearheaded a community-based project called Stockings for Soldiers. The event took place every year for five years. One year in particular with the help of the community, they sent 300 Christmas packages to soldiers stationed overseas.
When Sara’s husband Nick received a diagnosis of cancer, she got involved with Relay for Life. The family organized the Zombie Run, which continues to take place the first week of May each year. Last year a local high school student benefited by receiving money to help meet his medical expenses.
The Heisers were a little surprised when they were notified about winning the award. Angela said, “We live in a community that has a lot of amazing people. I feel a lot of people in our community do a lot that goes unrecognized.”
Kelly added, “I’d give the plaque back to the community. Our community is a giving community. It was proved in one of the first years we had Relay for Life in Baker. That year, the small town of Baker collected $250,000 for the Cancer Society while Billings; a much bigger city collected $500,000. Our people gave so much more than did theirs.”
The Baker City Council has been recognizing Baker area volunteers since 2007. The intent is to honor an individual or individuals in the Baker community who have made exceptional contributions to the city. Each year, members of the council select a person they feel has gone beyond the call of duty to voluntarily meet the needs of others in times of necessity.