Two days after Jeannie Malik was officially recognized as Atascadero’s Citizen of the Year, tickets went on sale for her wildly successful “Dancing with Our Stars” charity event.
One of the most popular charity events in the county, “Dancing with Our Stars” has grown considerably under Malik — and was a significant factor in the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce’s decision to honor her.
“Its success is a testament to Jeannie’s vision and tireless work to expand the event and keep it fresh for all involved,” said John Donavon, chairman of the board of directors. “Atascadero’s rise over the last few years can be attributed to a lot of people and a lot of things taking place, but to have a cheerleader in the form of Jeannie Malik leading the charge has, in my opinion, helped people look differently at Atascadero than in years past and perhaps even with a little envy.”
The recognition adds to Malik’s growing list of achievements — from being named Allan Hancock homecoming queen to competing in a 435-mile bike race with a cumulative 30,000-foot climb to breaking a world fishing record. But this honor is different, Malik said — also a former Miss California Roller Skating Queen.
“I hesitate to view ‘Citizen of the Year’ as an accomplishment,” she said. “I didn’t have to run a race. It’s more akin to receiving a thank you for what I love doing.”
As noted in Colony Magazine’s August profile of Malik, she is known for her seemingly boundless energy. That’s apparent in her volunteer work and her daily walks.
“I make a point to prepare a nutritious breakfast so she can recharge after her daily 6 1/2-mile walk with Sophie, our Boston terrier,” said her husband, Greg, whom she met while swimming laps at the Kennedy Club Fitness Pool — also the site of their wedding ceremony.
During the Jan. 12 Atascadero Chamber of Commerce Installation Dinner, where Jeannie Malik was formally honored, past Citizen of the Year Grenda Ernst cited Malik’s numerous community volunteering efforts, including work with Friends of Atascadero Library, the Chamber of Commerce, local schools, the Boy Scouts and more.
“By way of all these activities, Jeannie has reached out and touched people in the best of all possible ways, whether by moral support, financial support, or creating a pathway for a dream to move forward,” said Ernst, who nominated Malik for the award. “Her good heart and gentle manner inspire others to want to be like her, but her friends know that she also has a spine of steel under that kind exterior and that she has an unerring instinct for what is the right and the good thing to do.”
Ernst also noted the success of “Dancing with Our Stars,” a community charity event modeled after the popular TV show “Dancing with the Stars.” Malik first participated in the event as a dancer in 2011, then became the chair, working on the event year-round in 2012.
This year’s benefiting charities were chosen in June, Malik said, and community stars were paired with professional choreographers in July.
“Some community star dancers have been learning their dance routines since August,” Malik said. “We’ll host three rehearsals and three full dinner shows March 21, 22, and 23 at the Pavilion on the Lake.”
She expects each night to sell out for the event, which will benefit seven local nonprofits. The ‘80s-themed event will feature 40 dancers and will be hosted by Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin and Joel Mason, a professional Las Vegas entertainer.
Greg Malik thinks part of the event’s success is attributed to recruiting a diverse group of talented people — and getting more people involved. The number of nonprofits benefiting from the event has also grown.
“Jennie has a genuine desire to help others,” Greg said.
While Jeannie Malik knows the role she has played in Atascadero, she doesn’t claim all the credit.
“We have so many deserving people in this community,” she said. “I feel like I am the face of many. I would not be a recipient of this honor if not for the many citizens I unite with to ensure the success of projects and events.”
When she’s not volunteering in the community, she works as the marketing manager for Greg Malik Real Estate Group. But her biggest achievement, she said, is raising three children. While those children are now grown, Malik’s extended family is Atascadero itself, where she has lived for the past 25 years.
“It is a privilege to live in such a desirable spot in the world and in a community with such remarkable people,” she said. “Our town really is the gem of the Central Coast.”