Carol Ornelas, CEO of Visionary Home Builders, was stunned when the Stockton, California Chamber of Commerce CEO Douglass Wilhoit presented her with an award at what she thought was a usual meeting.

The organization awarded Ornelas the 2016 Athena Award for professional excellence, community service, and assisting women in attaining professional excellence and leadership skills.

“I am speechless,” Ornelas said, wiping away tears from her eyes. “My heart is on the floor. This is so heartfelt, thank you so much.”

For more than 33 years, Ornelas has made her mark in a male-dominated world of home building, while creating award-winning neighborhoods throughout Northern California, chamber officials said. Under her leadership, Visionary Home Builders has built and rehabilitated more than 1,200 rental housing units and more than 700 affordable houses for first-time home buyers in San Joaquin County as well as Stanislaus, Fresno, Merced and Sacramento counties.

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