People that Make a Difference: Cecelia Jernegan and Dr. Hojat Askari

01 January 2019  
Here at eNews, we believe that it’s a great way to start out the year by recognizing people that make a difference in our community. 

Cecelia Jernegan, featured as a 'Woman in Business' in the October, 2018 Prescott Living Magazine, is a wife and a grandmother. Cecelia is also the queen bee of networking. She knows who you need to meet and she makes that happen. As part of her work with Forest Villas Hotel, she set up monthly Sangria Socials for people to come and socialize with one another. 

Although Prescott is known for some rather massive (considering our community size) political efforts and organizations, Cecelia isn’t really a partisan political person. However, when she sees a cause or a person that she believes in, she’ll jump right in with her support. She has learned to walk that balance with finesse and grace. Look on her Facebook page, and you’ll see her with local Republicans, Democrats and those who don’t really care much about political parties one way or the other. She’ll spearhead a Prop 443, and lead the Prescott Good Governance Committee while firmly steering it in a non-partisan direction. 

By the way, if you’re on Facebook, you’re probably a friend of Cecelia Jernegan, who has been called, "The Encourager-In-Chief." That’s because she’s friends with just about everyone. Wake up in the morning, and the first thing you’ll see are positive, cheerful and frequently humorous posts by Cecelia. It’s an amazing way to start your day. 

She explained one time, "People ask me why I am so cheerful every single day. That is because I HAVE ANOTHER DAY!  When I was 10 years old my mom was killed in a car/truck/bus wreck.  They said she was gone forever. I learned today could be your last day so make it the best day. Smile, hugs, be kind and cheerful."

Prescott truly needs more people like Cecelia Jernegan.

Photo by Patrick Kuykendall - taken during the inagural
flight adventure with Prescott's new air service.

One of the first things you'll notice about Dr. Hojat Askari is his exuberance and his enthusiasm. When he does something, he does it in a big way. You think your holiday guest list is big? He hosts hundreds of people at his home the weekend before Thanksgiving, also takes trays of food to volunteers at the hospital. 

Dr. Askari is more than a modern-day doctor, who sees you for a couple of minutes and then hands you a prescription. Dr. Askari is truly a healer. "I believe in praying and hope and love together [with medicine]," Askari explained. He sees a need and looks for solutions. That might mean bringing a specialist in a particular medical field up from Phoenix on a regular basis. It may mean helping a patient find treatment at UCLA if such treatment is not available locally or even in Arizona. It could mean making housecalls for the elderly and infirm.

Dr. Askari has built a multi-specialty clinic in Prescott, complete with 17 doctors, a walk-in urgent care, a dentist and more. Walk into his office, and you see staff wearing turquoise scrubs with the statement, "We treat you like family," embroidered on the back. You might even see Dr. Askari wander into the waiting room to greet his patients and assist them as they walk to their examining room.  

Realizing that many elderly people in Prescott are still driving, Dr. Askari also knows that sometimes those drivers can’t hear well enough to recognize sirens. So, he offers a free hearing screening to those at risk of accidents.

His desire to find solutions goes beyond the medical field. Dr. Askari also looks for solutions in everyday situations. When the airport needed a new terminal, Dr. Askari spearheaded efforts to consider raising private funds to help with funding. When he went to a shelter for the homeless, he donated the food for an evening meal, and participated in serving it. He also recognized the austerity of the facilities and started churning on ideas.

Recently, Dr. Askari revealed another solution he’s proposing that will benefit the entire community. He was before the Prescott City Council to ask for annexation and approval of an 80-acre development project that will include facilities to create a medical facility and tourism destination. The concept is a mixed-use development, with medical facilities, restaurants, a hotel and more on 60 of the acres, and donating 20 acres of Granite Dells to the City for trails and recreation. 

Council discussed the project, and then called for comments from the public. Daniel Mattson, a homeless advocate, stood up and explained, "One of the things I do when I help people, is provide transportation to and from Thumb Butte Medical, Dr. Askari’s medical office. And I’ve been doing that for years… I got to see closeup the work he did, and you could tell he very much cared. He built this new Thumb Butte Medical, which is just beautiful. It’s very well built, it’s a beautiful design. If the development he’s building is half as good as that, we’re in for a real treat. I’m looking forward to the increase in services he can provide, I think this is a wonderful thing for the City... I see nothing but good from this."

After the unanimous vote in favor of the project, Dr. Askari asked to share a few words. "9-11 has been an emotional day for me since I became an American citizen. And I’m honored to be here. Talking about my generosity with the 20 acres is nothing compared to the generosity of my father. I was the last baby of the family… He told me, at age 27, you’re a business man, you’re successful. You go become a doctor, like your brothers and help people. You don’t need money... That man has generosity to let his last baby go to today, 27 years, take me from three continents to be in Prescott and serve the community. I love you, Dad, and I love you all and thank you for your support."

One thing that Cecelia and Dr. Askari have in common is that they’re not done yet. They will keep on doing what they do for the greater Prescott area.

So, let's congratulate them for being chosen as the annual People that Make a Difference. Let's also offer thanks that they chose to contribute to our community with their amazing good cheer, love and enthusiasm.



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Lynne LaMaster

Lynne LaMaster is the Founder and Editor of the eNewsAZ Network of websites. She asks a lot of questions! In her spare time, she loves photography, cooking and hanging out with her family.