Southern Utah firefighter receives Citizen of the Year award in recognition of Angel Tree Project

Krystle Lake, founder of the Lake Foundation, was presented with the UEA's Citizen of the Year award. Photo date and location not specified. | Photo courtesy of the Lake Foundation, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Southern Utah firefighter who founded the Lake Foundation was honored by the Elks Lodge last week.

Utah Elks Association Citizen of the Year award presented by the Elks Lodge in Provo, Utah, April 27, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Lake Foundation, St. George News

The Elks presented Krystle Lake with the Utah Elks Association Citizen of the Year award at a dinner held in Provo April 27.

To qualify for such an award, each Elks Lodge selects a citizen, not necessarily an Elk, who has contributed in a special way to improving the local community by demonstrating leadership through voluntary service. According to the Elks, recognizing these “all-around good citizens” helps to promote the organization’s vision of building a strong community, supported by the mantra of “Elks care-Elks share.”

Lake was recommended for the award through her efforts in establishing the Lake Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has spearheaded the Angel Tree Project. To date, the charity has provided Christmas to 72 Utah families who would have otherwise gone without.

“I am so truly honored to have the opportunities to be surrounded by some of the most amazing people with this incredible organization,” Lake said, adding that the award would not have been possible without so much support from individuals, businesses and organizations throughout Southern Utah.

List of supporters and contributors to the Lake Foundation as of May 2019 | St. George News

More than 30 sponsors and contributors are involved in the Angel Tree Project, including Sherrie Tate of Staheli Family Farm, a 300-acre farm that grows corn and other crops, raises cattle and offers family-friendly attractions throughout the year. Tate provides large food barrels each year that are included in the deliveries to families in need.

When Tate began working with Lake on the Angel Tree Project, she said she saw “a spark in her eyes and she is a go-getter.” Tate said Lake’s willingness to serve others is what inspired her to support the cause.

Trevor Cowley of Easier Accounting shared similar comments, saying his firm contributes to the foundation because of the type of person Lake is, who he said always has her heart in the right place.

“You just have to support people like that,” Cowley said.

Another supporter, Jeff Germain, owner of Chef Hog’s Oyster Bar & Grill, said he became involved in the project as part of a family tradition instilled in him from childhood when he observed his father pulling angels from a tree, inspiring him to contribute to charitable efforts throughout his life.

Kindness and hope in the wake of tragedy – The Angel Tree Project

The Angel Tree Project started as a small program at the Santa Clara Fire Department in 2014 after tragedy struck a family with a long history of firefighting service.

Kurtis Lake, who served as a firefighter for 26 years, died of a heart attack 13 days before Christmas in 2014.

His daughter, Krystle Lake, a firefighter and EMT with Santa Clara Fire at the time, was on one of the fire trucks that responded to the call for help, not knowing until she arrived that it was her father, who died after more than an hour of CPR.

Krystle Lake stands next to one of the many Angel Trees she decorated and donated, Washington, Utah, Dec. 22, 2016 | File photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

When he died, Krystle Lake was facing a hefty ambulance and doctor bill for her late father’s medical expenses. She contacted medical services hoping to work out a payment plan for the bills she could not afford to pay outright.

Instead, they insisted on covering the bill on her family’s behalf. Inspired by this act of kindness and her father’s spirit of giving, she said she decided to start the Angel Tree Project and later formed the nonprofit Lake Foundation in July 2017.

The program would not be possible without the generosity of numerous community businesses and individuals, offering a spirit of giving that has been vital to the program’s success and growth.

For more information about the Angel Tree Project, go to the organization’s Facebook page.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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