East Bay Philanthropy Awards to honor unsung heroes in community

East Bay Philanthropy Awards to honor unsung heroes in community
Photo credited to CocoKids, recipient of the Social Impact Award at the 11th Annual East Bay Philanthropy Awards set for Thursday, Nov. 18.

From organizing donations of supplies to local farmworkers who continue to toil in the fields amidst the pandemic and wildfires, to providing childcare for essential workers or platforms for local entrepreneurs and small businesses to thrive, many unsung heroes in the East Bay have offered rays of hope to local residents during a difficult time.

On Thursday, a number of local heroes will get a much-deserved spotlight at the 2021 East Bay Philanthropy Awards virtual ceremony. Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell is slated to make a special appearance at the 11th annual event, which is free to attend and runs from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Click here to register.

The annual awards ceremony “celebrates community leaders, philanthropists, employers, and volunteers who embody the East Bay’s resilience,” according to the East Bay Leadership Council (EBLC), a public policy advocacy organization that works to increase economic vitality and quality of life in East Bay.

Honorees this year include organizations serving West Contra Costa residents, such as Kitchen@812, which was nominated by Chevron Richmond to receive the Building Wealth Award. Kitchen@812 is a food business incubator “that helps entrepreneurs build businesses, create jobs, stimulate the local economy, and reach their full potential with dignity,” according to EBLC. Kitchen@812 supports at least 60 underserved local entrepreneurs annually. It has thus far supported 430 startups and small business owners, helped launch over 120 businesses and contributed to the creation of nearly 400 new jobs, EBLC states.

Also recognized this year is CocoKids, recipient of the Social Impact Award following a nomination by Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey. The organization has provided affordable childcare to Contra Costa County residents since 1976. During the pandemic, it stepped up its game, launching the Emergency Child Care Program to provide vital child care services to 565 children of essential workers. “Not a single eligible applicant for emergency child care was turned away,” according to EBLC.

Four daughters of immigrants and farmworkers have shared a similar vigilance in helping underserved community members in need during the pandemic. Their organization, Hijas del Campo, coordinated donations of food, PPE and other supplies to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Hijas del Campo, which means Daughters of the Field, partnered with Contra Costa Health Services to provide COVID-19 information and vaccinations to farmworkers. The group aims to connect farmworkers to healthcare, legal and labor education resources as part of its aim to improve their working conditions, health and safety. For its efforts, Hijas del Campo has earned EBLC’s Equity Impact Award, as nominated by Kaiser Permanente, 

Nancy Raniere also “met the moment” when COVID-19 struck. Raniere, division manager of nutrition services for Meals on Wheels Diablo Region, has earned EBLC’s Meeting the Moment Award for her efforts to continue and expand the organization’s services as the need increased. Raniere leads 33 staff and 300 volunteers in delivering 540,000 meals to 4,000 local seniors annually. During the pandemic, she created systems to ensure there were no gaps in service, according to EBLC. Her initiatives included reaching residents who could no longer stop by senior centers to eat and socialize, and developing Breakfast Bag and Grocery Bag programs in over 10 cities. “When the number of meal delivery requests swelled by 40 percent, Nancy created new delivery routes overnight to meet the demand,” among her other Herculean efforts, according to EBLC.

Other organizations earning EBLC Awards this year are Opportunity Junction (Economic Justice Award), a skills-building, career-launching organization in Contra Costa County that championed initiatives to train community members to enter the healthcare workforce; Oral Lee Brown (Lifetime Achievement Award), whose promise in 1981 to send a first-grade class of students in East Oakland to college has expanded into a foundation that has helped hundreds of students; and The Trinity Center (Community Resilience Award), a Walnut Creek-based organization that continued or expanded efforts during the pandemic to ensure unhoused populations received critical services, including meals, affordable housing and vaccinations. The Antioch Community Foundation and Contra Costa Health Foundation received Honorable Mentions at the 2021 EBLC Awards.

On its website over the past few months, the EBLC has been telling the stories of this year’s award recipients leading up to Thursday’s ceremony. Read those stories here.

“This group and their inspiring efforts are at the very center of overcoming some of our region’s most profound challenges and envisioning a more resilient and equitable future for all,” EBLC stated.