This guest post was written by Gregory McConnell, President and CEO of the Jobs and Housing Coalition, which represents major businesses in Oakland.
Oakland shined at the September 21st Jobs and Housing Coalition’s Legacy Event at the beautiful grounds of the Oakland Museum of California. A “who’s who” of five hundred Bay Area leaders honored Oakland icons, Jim Falaschi, CEO of Transbay and co-developer of Jack London Square, Shirley Nelson, Chairman of Summit Bank, and John Woolard, CEO of BrightSource Energy.
Remarkably, Don Perata, former California Senate President pro Tem, and Mayor Jean Quan shared the stage as award presenters. They were joined by Nicole Taylor, CEO, of the East Bay Community Foundation, and Fong Wan, Senior Vice President for Energy Procurement at PG&E. The caliber of these people reveals the great drawing power of the remarkable Legacy Award recipients.
With the help of Michael La Blanc of Pican Restaurant and Mark Everton of the Waterfront Hotel, JHC showcased many of the great restaurants that have brought national acclaim to Oakland’s culinary scene. Dashe Cellars, JC Cellars, Rockwall, and Linden Street Breweries poured fine wines and great beers. The Oakland Youth Chorus and Terrence Brewer provided entertainment. And, as the evening wound down, Oaklanders were treated to a special bourbon tasting. As Michael La Blanc says “we added just a touch of flair.”
Many people have dubbed the Legacy Event the event of the year and surely it was a huge success. But something else happened that night that topped it off and says something special and unique about Oakland.
On this special night, recently homeless people, recovering addicts, and ex cons who participate in the St Vincent de Paul Kitchen of Champions Culinary Program mingled with Fortune 500 business leaders.
JHC invited Gary Bonney to share the stage with the above-mentioned luminaries. Everyone listened intently as he said: “I ain’t no Mayor or important guy. I am an ex con who got out of jail four months ago, and joined the Kitchen of Champions program. They taught me about food, but that is not the only thing, they gave me a chance to turn my life around. Now, I have skills, hope, and a job.” The audience gave him a long, warm, and sincere response.
This was a very special evening for Oakland and the Jobs and Housing Coalition. We are very thankful to all who attended and honored that they gave their time to help us celebrate our fifth anniversary, honor three icons, and support the St Vincent de Paul Kitchen of Champions program.
Once again we showed the Bay Area the real Oakland. It is hip, raw, powerful and compassionate. Most important, Oakland has heart!
Special thanks to our Event Committee, Becca Perata, Chairperson, Tom Guarino, Brendan Heafey, Doris Carlick, and JR McConnell, as well as, Silvia Morita Patel, event manager, and Kimberley McConnell Sharper of Kim Sharper Studio for graphic artistry. See our website for more details, www.jobsandhousing.com