Recognizing those who help set the rhythm of Downtown as the heartbeat of Long Beach, the Downtown Long Beach Alliance last month honored six outstanding individuals and organizations deserving of the coveted Spirit of Downtown Award.
“The accomplishments achieved by these individuals and organizations, especially during this pandemic, reflect the strength and resiliency that is part of Downtown’s DNA,” DLBA COO Broc Coward said during the Celebrate Downtown community event and award ceremony at Lincoln Park.
The DLBA’s annual award ceremony—and highest honor—highlights those who have significantly influenced and shaped the Downtown community over the past year.
Among the 2021 awardees was Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, a longtime Downtown resident who previously represented the First Council District. A proud supporter of the DLBA, Garcia said the work the DLBA does in the city for businesses, residents, and visitors, is at the core of what makes Long Beach the best beach city in the country.
“It’s great to see how far we’ve come in the last decade,” the mayor said. “New business and residential developments have brought new life to Downtown—which bring new life to the entire city. I’m excited to see what’s next for us, and I will continue to do all I can with DLBA to build a stronger Downtown and stronger Long Beach.”
Another awardee, Jamaica Ali, Founder of Black Everywhere, helps connect members of the Black community in Downtown Long Beach and beyond. The Downtown Long Beach-based empowerment organization has 1,800 local members—and 8,000 nationwide—who aim to bring people together for a variety of social activities, including hikes, happy hours, entrepreneur workshops and much more.
“We love biking along the protected bike lanes, taking in the view of the Queen Mary from the lighthouse, and enjoying the numerous locally owned bars and restaurants,” Ali said.
Also taking advantage of those bikes lanes is Pedal Movement, an honoree represented by Co-Founders Johnny Tully, Evan Kelly and Graham Baden. Wanting to empower the community to feel comfortable cycling, the organization hosts free bike valet parking at events as well as bike rodeos at schools, group rides, repair workshops, and more. The organization also supports Moonlight Mash, a regular nighttime ride.
“Pedal Movement believes that when more people use bicycles for transportation, streets are safer and communities prosper,” Tully said, noting that the Downtown area has some of the best bike infrastructure in the city. “The three of us co-founded Pedal Movement to remove barriers to entry for cycling in our community. It’s pretty cool to see that, several years later, we’re doing exactly that on a scale we never dreamed of.”
He added: “The DLBA knows better than anyone the importance of sustainable transportation to thriving downtown communities. Pedal Movement is in the business of making cities safer, healthier, and more livable for everyone—one revolution at a time.”
Another sustainable way to get around town is by traveling with the Downtown Runners. Represented by Joaquin Nuñez and supported by his wife, Vanessa, the club is dedicated to social exercise—going beyond running to include beach cleanups, food collection drives, house builds and more. It’s free and open to everyone, meeting twice a week, with members regularly supporting local businesses.
“This award really belongs to our community. Without the support of all the restaurants, bars, pizzerias, coffee shops, pie bakeries, (the list goes on), we would not have the weekly excitement that we do, and the runs would not be the same without all the amazing runners who come out and are supportive of one another,” he said.
Speaking of moving fast and supporting local shopkeepers, Business Owner Robert “Robb” Smith—the creator of Alley Cat Deliveries—was honored for his contributions of time, labor and materials to businesses suffering from vandalism after civil unrest, in addition to supporting local charitable causes.
Alley Cat helps deliver food, prescriptions, alcohol and other products, as well as offering airport shuttle service. It doesn’t take commissions from local businesses, and it gives back 20 percent of sales to people in need.
“Our goal is to have people use us as their leading delivery service and ditch these big companies that do nothing for our community,” Smith said.
Another honoree doing good in the community is Willmore Baking Company, represented by Sheila Gibbons and her husband, Chef Alan Giomi. The company offers an eight-week, tuition-free program for low-income individuals to learn professional baking skills at the community kitchen at Cesar Chavez Park, with support from the Willmore City Heritage Association, Long Beach Community Foundation and Knight Foundation.
“It’s more than baking,” Sheila says, noting that participants learn about kitchen safety and make focaccia bread, braided breaks, cupcakes, pies, muffins, and more—baking 3,000 loaves and 1,500 cookies during the pandemic to support those in need. “It’s about creating a sense of worth, and it’s just a lot of fun.”
The DLBA Spirit of Downtown award was established in 2012 to posthumously recognize four individuals: Shaun Lumachi, founder of the Long Beach Post; Larry Allison, long-respected Editor of the Press-Telegram; Bill Baker, a famed volunteer and redevelopment master; and Mark Bixby, DLBA Director and Long Beach’s bicycling guru.
A list of past Spirit of Downtown winners is on the DLBA website.