Being named Tri-Citian of the Year is considered by many to be the highest honor bestowed in our community.
The award is presented each year and the standards are high: "The Tri-Citian of the Year, through 'service above self' has demonstrated outstanding leadership and contribution to positive development, economic growth and quality of life in the Tri-Cities."
Rotarians will recognize the "service above self" motto. The award, which was originated in the 1960s by the Tri-City Herald, has been sponsored by the community's Rotary clubs since it was revived 35 years ago.
This year's recipient has certainly earned the distinguished honor, though he would never seek out the kind of attention the award brings.
Craig Eerkes, president of Sun Pacific Energy, is the 2014 award winner.
Many may be familiar with Eerkes' name because of the fuel company he owns, or the ubiquitous SunMarts that used to dot the landscape before they were sold to Circle K.
Beyond his business acumen, Eerkes shines even brighter through his tireless support of multiple charities and causes in the community.
Eerkes has sponsored many programs during the years, with an affinity for those that are focused on youth. Through his efforts, the community is stronger and its children have more opportunities for success.
He is a major supporter of the Mid-Columbia Reading Foundation and helped develop the "Read to Lead" breakfast fundraiser. The SunMart Reading Van distributed free books to children in the community.
The Eerkes Memorial Golf Classic benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs and Young Life in the Tri-Cities. He also provides scholarships to the Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year.
He has also given his support to the Boy Scouts, the Tri-Cities Children's Developmental Center, Tri-Cities Prep, the March of Dimes, Women Helping Women, the Benton Franklin Fair 4-H and FFA Market Stock Sale, the Carson Kolzig Foundation and numerous food banks and youth sports teams.
At Christmas, Eerkes helps families in need with baskets of goodies and basic household expenses, sometimes paying utility bills or providing appliances.
He has served on the United Way board and was a founding member of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society for those donating $10,000 or more to United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties.
Eerkes is an active member of the First Presbyterian Church of Kennewick and supports its backpack and cereal fund.
His current pet project is as leader of a group of like-minded business people who are exploring the feasibility of a new Boys & Girls Club location in downtown Kennewick. A joint project with Habitat for Humanity has been proposed in an area that has a high population of low-income youth who would surely benefit from the Boys and Girls Club programs.
The list of Eerkes' contributions to the community goes on and on. He has more than earned the honor of Tri-Citian of the Year, and it doesn't look like he plans to slow down any time soon.
Congratulations, Craig Eerkes, and thank you for your generosity of time, money and spirit.