Long Beach came together over the weekend to recognize some residents for their selflessness towards their neighbors.
It was the eighth annual Unsung Heroes Awards Dinner, and 12 nominees were provided with a platform to share their stories, with one hero receiving the Hero of the Year award.
Unbeknownst to the nominees, at the end of the night the event organizer, Justin Rudd, announced that each nominee would receive $500. The elected Hero of the Year would be given an extra $1,000.
"The money you receive is meant for you to use personally, to buy a coffee or help you in some way," Rudd said. "It's not for you to give away to a charity, this is a 'thank you' to you for the work that you do in Long Beach."
Here are the 2019 nominees.
Hero of the Year: Maleka Chris
The Hero of the Year award was presented to Maleka Chris, founder of the nonprofit Love Beyond Limits, which helps at-risk youth raise their self esteem by promoting self awareness and responsibility through various activities and scheduled programs.
"When I was making bad choices when I was younger, it didn't make me a bad kid. I just lacked self-control, discipline and direction," she said. "So I started by being the influence to young kids that I needed when I was their age."
For more information about the Love Beyond Limits nonprofit, go to lovebeyondlimits.org.
Anthony has worked for a number of nonprofits, in addition to spearheading Long Beach's first annual Filipino Festival, which debuted last year.
He has hosted more that 50 neighborhood cleanups, been an active event coordinator for events in the East Village Arts District and is a member of the board at Rebuilding Together Long Beach — and for more than half of 2018, he was homeless.
"You would have never known that he was struggling because he was so focused on helping others," Steve Harding, president of the East Village Business Association, said.
Hulean Tyler was nominated for the Long Beach Hero award for his efforts in raising money and assisting with fundraisers and events for different causes and nonprofits, as well as playing an active part in helping cleaning up mattresses and abandoned furniture on Willmore sidewalks and alleyways.
In addition to being a true Long Beach hero, according to nominator Joe Danno, he also is a board member at the Willmore City Heritage Association.
"Willmore is lucky to have him," Danno said.
Luci has been a volunteer at Fix Long Beach since she was 15 years old. Her drive to help rehabilitate animals and ability to help others learn to do the same prompted her nomination.
Julie McCall is on the Aids Food Store board, a teacher at Nelson Academy and a social advocate for the LGBTQ community.
Her nomination for the Long Beach Hero award is from John Newell, who said that McCall is the perfect representation of a hero and supporter for people who are looking for a voice in the community.
Paige Pelonis has moved between working as the Communications Director for Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell's office to a multimedia editor at the Signal Hill Tribune to co-founding City HeART, a nonprofit connecting creative Long Beachers to different events that can help support the community with their talents.
"This woman next to me is a woman of integrity," Yeggi Watts said. "She has accomplished more at 25 years old than most people have in their lifetime."
Mary Ann Hernandez
Mary Ann Hernandez is another young volunteer at Fix Long Beach. At just 19 years old, she has become an important member of the Fix Long Beach community, as well as a Long Beach hero, according to nominator Kate Karp.
"Heroes keep getting younger and younger," Karp said. "It doesn't matter how old you are, you're a hero if you help others selflessly."
City HeART cofounder Izzy Matos was nominated by colleague Paige Pelonis for being the "epitome of selflessness" and his contribution to City HeART with his Art From Ashes nonprofit.
Like Pelonis, Matos spends his day-to-day working with programs and events that benefit artists — specifically young artists — through supportive youth programs.
"I don't know anyone who would take their retirement years and do this when they could be doing other things," Dixie Dohrmann said of the nominee.
As a retired Los Angeles Unified School District attorney, he has spent his retirement years volunteering his legal services at Christian Outreach in Action (COA), helping people who aren't able to afford an attorney themselves.
Baruch was nominated by 2018's Long Beach Hero of the Year, Yuri Williams.
He's the founder of nonprofit Project Coffee Cup, where he organizes care package deliveries to those in need.
"His method of starting a conversation with those in need is with one cup of coffee," Williams said. "From there, he'll figure out how he can be of help."
Lisa Hoffmaster's schedule is divide between acting as the Fund Development Manager for Long Beach Food Finders and as a consultant at the New Star Family Justice Center. Additionally, she's also is an active volunteer with Christian Outreach in Action.
As a senior Long Beach Police volunteer, Patricia DeBacker has conducted a number of wellness checks for domestic violence survivors, low-income aging seniors and more, totaling more than 130 volunteer hours with the LBPD.
The Long Beach Heroes event is an annual celebration of everyday heroes in the city. To find out more, go to justinrudd.com/heroes.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.