Richmond-based efforts recognized at EBLC Philanthropy Awards

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Bret Sweet, center director of Renaissance Entrepreneur Center in Richmond. (Photo contributed)

By Kathy Chouteau

In the city of Pride and Purpose, difference-makers abound. And so it’s no surprise that a number of honorees in the East Bay Leadership Council’s (EBLC) 10th Annual Philanthropy Awards happen to work their magic right here in Richmond.

Amid the health and economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the EBLC Awards this year carried the apt theme, “Giving in Uncertain Times: The Courage to Do Things Differently.” A Zoom awards ceremony is set for Thursday, Nov. 12 from 9-10:15 a.m.

Among the honorees is Bret Sweet, center director of Renaissance Entrepreneur Center in Richmond and a central figure behind the creation of the state-of-the-art coworking space and business incubator CoBiz Richmond. He will be honored with the Economic Justice Award.

The Changemaker Award has been awarded to Healthy Richmond, an initiative of youth and community organizations advocating for health and racial justice policy changes, while the Next Generation Leadership Award is going to RYSE Center, the expanding Richmond-based, youth justice organization.

Meanwhile, Tamisha Walker, executive director of the Richmond-based Safe Return Project, which supports individuals impacted by the criminal justice system, is being honored with the Social Impact Award alongside Donald Frazier, executive director of Berkeley-based Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS).

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these award-winners didn’t just continue to provide services, but stepped up by administering creative solutions for East Bay residents in need at a critical time.

For example, Sweet was honored for his work assisting micro enterprises and small businesses in the East Bay, particularly during the pandemic.

“I kept my head down since February to August servicing any type of relief loan, working hard to try to figure out how [to] keep the ship from sinking,” he said. “It’s very much like feeling like you’re an EMT with a laptop.”

Meanwhile, the initiative he helped to realize – CoBiz Richmond— has similarly stepped up its game amid the pandemic to support budding local businesses and entrepreneurs. The co-working space came is part of the $10 million Chevron eQuip Richmond initiative, which funds strategies to improve communities in Richmond and North Richmond.

Other Philanthropy Award honorees include: CSAA Insurance, Corporate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award; Blue Shield of California, Corporate Community Impact Award; Contra Costa Health Services, Bridge Builder Award; and Monument Impact Fund, Meeting the Moment Award.

To register to watch the Zoom awards event, click here.