KPBS and Union Bank hand out annual awards; new blog shines light on diversity
By Anthony King | SDUN Editor
with Morgan M. Hurley | SDUN Assistant Editor
At a ceremony held Tuesday, Feb. 5, several Uptown residents were among 16 individuals celebrated as San Diego “local heroes.” Now in their 15th year, KPBS and Union Bank host the annual awards in part to signify both organizations’ commitment to diversity.
“Diversity and inclusion are an important part of our Union Bank heritage, and we are proud of our Local Heroes program in partnership with KPBS that celebrates cultural diversity in our communities,” said Union Bank Senior Executive Vice President Pierre Habis in a release.
The private awards ceremony was held at the San Diego Natural History Museum, and was hosted by Kathi Diamant.
In Uptown, honorees include Michelle Elise Houle of Golden Hill, Doris A. Howell of Hillcrest, Jill Spitzer of North Park, Jerry Dilno of Kensington, Larry Baza of North Park and Dennis-Michael Broussard of Normal Heights.
Other honorees are JiAel Brownell, Bishop Roy Dixon, Mike Kawamura, Gussie Zaks, Michael Cruz, Danny Gutierrez, Louis Frick, Laurel Moorhead, Patricia Dixon and Leroy Elliott.
“The program shines a spotlight on the accomplishments of extraordinary individuals, and we are thrilled to honor them with the recognition they deserve,” Habis said.
The 16 were acknowledged in eight categories throughout 2012: Native American Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Disability Awareness Month, LGBT Pride Month, Black History Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, Women’s History Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The ceremony and reception marked the end of the yearlong celebration.
Dilno and Baza were honored for LGBT Pride Month, as both play an integral part in the LGBT community. Dilno, who was the first female executive director of The San Diego LGBT Community Center, is a current board emeritus for San Diego LGBT Pride.
Baza, an arts administrator and advocate, has also served on several nonprofit boards, including the Centro Cultural de la Raza and the LGBT political organization, Democrats for Equality. He is also a member of The Center’s Latino services advisory council, among others.
Houle, who began her education career as a substitute teacher at the Lindsay Community School for pregnant and parenting mothers, was honored for Women’s History Month with Howell. A medical doctor for over 50 years, Howell helped establish San Diego Hospice, and was honored by the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center in 2006.
Broussard, honored as part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, is the founder of Silk Road Productions, a event management company responsible for organizing many fundraising events throughout the San Diego Asian community. He serves on the board of several organizations, including the Asian Journalists Association and the San Diego Asian Film Foundation.
Now CEO, Spitzer began working at Jewish Family Service of San Diego in 1984. Under her leadership, the organization focused on domestic violence, youth mentoring, senior care and hunger issues, and has grown to serve more than 30,000 people annually. Spitzer was honored for Jewish American Heritage Month.
Throughout the years, KPBS has honored people within each of these communities as “local heroes,” and recently, 18-year KPBS-veteran Monica Medina has taken that concept one step further.
In November 2012, Media – director of diversity, engagement and grants at the media organization – lead a group that launched the blog “Hey Neighbor!” on the KPBS website.
In her position Medina initiates and oversees outreach campaigns within the greater San Diego area that focus on community areas like the Local Heroes program, as well as military, mental health and aging. An avid blogger in her own right, Medina has taken to writing on the KPBS blog about outstanding people within the community who may not have been honored with a hero nomination or award.
Hey Neighbor! is inspired by the universal appeal of Mister Rogers and his decades-long request for viewers to “be my neighbor.” It sheds a shining light on those who dedicate their lives to making the world better for other people.
Since first launching in November, Medina has profiled several people, including former-KPBS General Manager Stephanie Bergsma, Tom K. Wong – whose childhood as an undocumented alien Medina details with great care – Urban League President Ray King and others who are adding to the list of local heroes.
“Basically I am hoping as word gets out as people become more aware of the blog, they’ll contact me if they know of a story, or if they have a story that’s pretty extraordinary: an ordinary person that has done something extraordinary, while giving back to the community,” Medina said.
Medina’s Hey Neighbor! team consists of her staff, Ashley Rodriguez, Trisha Richter, Clare Pister and Leng Caloh, interactive strategies manager.
KPBS President and CEO Tom Karlo, a 40-year veteran of the news organization, is a big supporter of Medina’s work and mission.
“We celebrate diversity throughout the year and we tell the stories of those communities, and I want the website to reflect it more,” he said. “I want people of those different communities to come to our website and tell their stories.”
To read the blog and to contribute story ideas to Medina, visit kpbs.org/news/blogs/hey-neighbor.