Published in the November 16 – 29, 2016 issue of Gilroy Life

By Mark Turner

Mark Turner

Mark Turner

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce has identified its 2017 Spice of Life award winners. Over the next several issues, you will be introduced to the individuals and organizations that are making a difference in our community.


Malcolm McPhail

2017 Man of the Year — Malcolm McPhail

Malcolm, his wife Kathy, along with their four children ages: 6, 4, 2 and 3 months, arrived in Gilroy in the winter of 1992. They had been selected to be the New Pastor of “First Assembly of God Church” located on 6th and Hanna streets. Having lived in large metropolitan areas most of their lives, they were struck by the small town feel. They began to meet people and immediately felt accepted into the community both from old and new Gilroyans.

As a pastor, Malcolm had always dreamed of a church outside the walls. He was constantly reminded, “The church was placed in the community for the community, not the community for the church.” As a result, Malcolm became a member of the first Gilroy Gang Task Force. Seeing struggles school teachers faced he developed some school assembly programs; helped with the Character Counts program; developed the Teacher Comeback Day which consisted of breakfast provided by the church and an encouraging pep talk provided by Malcolm. Under Malcolm’s direction, the church did various outreach programs to Gilroy’s underprivileged working families by providing groceries, haircuts, clothing, and other services. Malcolm was invited to join the Gilroy Rotary in 1996 and has been a member ever since. Malcolm event pioneered the chaplaincy program for the Gilroy police and fire departments.

Malcolm has seen and been through a lot in his time in Gilroy. He renamed the church in 1994 calling it New Hope Community Church. That same year, Malcolm was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and was told by his doctor he only had two years to live. The entire community rallied to encourage, pray and support Malcolm and his family through the seven-year battle, resulting in a last minute life-saving bone marrow transplant. Twenty-two years after his diagnosis, Malcolm continues to do church outside the walls and has made a tremendous impact in the lives of so many people.

2017 Woman of the Year — Sue Thurman

Sue Thurman moved to South County in 1995 and from her first visit was attracted to the small town friendliness she sensed while wandering in and out of businesses. As a new business owner herself, she appreciated that she was never considered an outsider. Sue said, “Our town has grown dramatically and yet the care and concern that Gilroyan’s show towards one another has not lessened. I am proud to be a part of such a caring Community.”

Sue has served in the Gilroy Sunrise Rotary; the Exchange Club; the GUSD School task force; the Memorial Day Parade Committee; The Holiday Parade Committee; the Gilroy Premium Outlets task force; Relay for Life; Leadership Gilroy; the Reading Program at Glen View School; supported Rebekah Childrens’ Services, assisted at the Gilroy Welcome Center and also worked with the Gilroy Foundation. Sue commented, “I have loved working for the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and the opportunity to get to know so many over the past 10 years.”

While claiming to have always been a “work in progress,” Sue admires so many people who have guided and supported her. Sue said, “I appreciate the challenges, encouragement and support that Susan Valenta and Mark Turner have shown me; the professionalism that Jane Howard always demonstrates; the incredible knowledge that Tammy Brownlow has; the skills that my co-workers, Michelle Garcia, Chris Bevilacqua, Candace VanSambeek, Jude Miranda and Eric Howard have shared with me; the enthusiastic spirit of the Chamber’s Ambassador Committee and Board of Directors. Add to that the love and support of my family and these are the inspirations that motivate me today.”

Mark Turner is the president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.