At the City of Santa Clara’s virtual State of the City on June 30, the Santa Clara City Council presented the 2021 Community Hero of the Year Awards.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor gave the COVID-19 Citywide Hero of the Year Award to The River of Life Christian Church and Foundation.
“Ever since COVID-19 hit our community, the River of Life’s Foundation and its dedicated volunteers rolled up their sleeves and opened their hearts and through their food pantry, these incredible volunteers served thousands upon thousands of our community’s neediest citizens,” Gillmor said. “They also made sure that essential household products and hygiene supplies were available. They even distributed school supplies for students learning from home.”
“Our food pantry doors were consistently open throughout the pandemic,” said Sam Loh, President of the River of Life Foundation. “We would not have accomplished this without the many brave volunteers sacrificing their time, energy and health to come out to serve the people in our community.”
Councilmember Kathy Watanabe gave the District 1 COVID-19 Hero of the Year Award to Dr. Nira Singh, Director of Behavior Health at AACI (Asian Americans for Community Involvement).
According to Singh, AACI has offered mental health support to address behavioral health needs of the community, coordinated community COVID-19 testing and vaccination events, delivered meals and resources to isolated older adults and offered shelter-in-place kits to families in need. Also, the organization has provided safe housing and support to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.
Vice Mayor Raj Chahal gave the District 2 COVID-19 Hero of the Year Award to Mahesh Nihalani, Community Director of Priya Living.
“The pandemic created a need in the community which I answered by getting together all our seniors to stitch face masks, knit beanie caps and scarves, contribute toward [feeding the homeless], do yoga, meditation and other fun and wellness programs over Zoom, which even other seniors could participate in,” Nihalani said. “I’m happy to say that we have no cases of COVID at all.”
Councilmember Karen Hardy gave the District 3 COVID-19 Hero of the Year Award to Raisa Galat, a receptionist at Pacific Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Support Community. Galat caught COVID-19 and has recovered from it.
“The pandemic created a need in the community which I felt compelled to answer by spreading awareness and sharing my story,” Galat said. “I was in the hospital for a couple of months and it was a difficult time. I want to encourage people who have COVID to stay positive and think about things being okay and getting back to normal.”
Councilmember Kevin Park gave the District 4 COVID-19 Hero of the Year Award to Santa Clara residents Tom and Martha Taylor. According to Park, during the pandemic, this couple has connected neighbors by hosting virtual game and talk nights, organizing donations and deliveries of food and flowers, keeping track of neighbors in need and sending out messages of where to go for toilet paper and other necessities.
“The pandemic created a need in the community which we answered by helping our neighbors and encouraging good neighboring,” Tom Taylor said.
Councilmember Suds Jain gave the District 5 COVID-19 Hero of the Year Award to Jennifer You, owner of YogaSix Santa Clara.
“Our community came together to help others in need by distributing groceries to local families, raising money to stop Asian hate and sending oxygen and COVID supplies to India,” said You, who also explained that her studio, during the pandemic, has offered a full schedule of socially distanced outdoor yoga classes in the park.
Councilmember Anthony Becker gave the District 6 COVID-19 Hero of the Year Award to Lisa Chung and the restaurant she owns, China Delight.
“I love the Santa Clara community,” Chung said. “I’ve been operating China Delight since 1996. In 2016, I lost the lease on my restaurant on Homestead so I moved my restaurant to the San Jose and Cupertino area. Then I planned to move the restaurant to where By Th’ Bucket was but there was a fire there in July 2018. So I couldn’t move my restaurant there anymore. Then the owner of a Chinese restaurant called 456 sold their business. We took the space. Now this is where China Delight is. Someday I might like to move our restaurant to the space where By Th’ Bucket is when I get a permit.”