On a blustery recent day, the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization held its Annual Luncheon and Awards Presentation in the ballroom of the Canary Hotel. Since 1977, the Downtown Organization has been presenting the Downtown Citizen of the Year Award at its annual meeting and, more recently, added a youth leadership and volunteer of the year awards.
DO executive director Bill Collyer welcomed the approximately 200 attendees and invited them to enjoy the Canary’s scrumptious buffet luncheon of Caesar salad, creamy pasta, grilled chicken, mashed potatoes and vegetables, plus a variety of homemade desserts.
Talk at our table was about the newly released Academy Award nominations and the upcoming Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which will energize the downtown business district when the nearly two-week festival opens Jan. 24. Hotel Santa Barbara general manager Nadine Turner said reservations were brisk for the international and national media who congregate and stay at the festival’s media hotel.
“It is so exciting,” she said. “There is such energy when all the movie industry press is here. We have hosted the kick-off press conference for years.”
Newly elected Downtown Organization president Dave Lombardi of FastFrame Santa Barbara then opened the next part of the program. He welcomed the other newly elected members of the DO executive committee: vice president Gene McKnight, secretary Laura Knight, treasurer Matt La Brie, Ginny Brush, Genny Cummings, Roger Durling, Michael Jordan, Randy Rowse and Mark Whitehurst. Other board members include Lynn Adams, David Asbell, David Beardon, Barbara Burger, Michael Cooper DDS, David de L’Arbre, Bill Duval, Tamara Erickson, Larry Feinberg, Sally Fouhse, Joanne Funari, Ed Holdren, Grant House ex-officio, Kathy Janega-Dykes, Eric Kelley, Trey Lindle, Laura McIver, Marianne Partridge, Kate Schwab, Brad Sherman, Tammy Steuart, Bob Stout, Tina Takaya, Traci Tritt, Eric Voulgaris, Billie Vrtiak, Randy Weiss and Gail Zannon.
Honored posthumously as Citizen of the Year was Dave Damiano, marketing director for the Metropolitan Transit District Santa Barbara and two-term past president of the Downtown Organization board. He died in October of liver failure at the age 46. Described as quiet and reserved, Damiano established himself as a consistent presence in community affairs and someone who did the work without grabbing the headlines. It was noted that when downtown merchants were clamoring for tougher laws restricting the homeless, Damiano created the “Real Change, Not Spare Change” campaign designed to provide those inclined to give to panhandlers to donate to the charities that help them.
“Due to Dave’s tireless work, he enabled hundreds of disabled and homeless to gain access to bus transportation,” said Mayor Helene Schneider. “He was the creator of the Seaside Shuttle in Carpinteria and the Crosstown Shuttle, as well and many new bus stop shelters.”
The George Gerth Volunteer of the Year award went to Tina Takaya, co-owner of Opal Restaurant and Bar, for her tireless work on the Downtown Organization’s projects, including Film Feast and Epicure, as well as her nonprofit work with the Arthritis Foundation, CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation), Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Hospice of Santa Barbara and others.
“I am completely surprised and thankful,” Takaya said. “I moved here in 1970 and it was been so great to become a part of this beautiful community.”
Laguna Blanca School senior Karinna Carrillo was presented the Harriet Miller Youth Leadership Award.
“I was in the midst of applying to colleges and I was so surprised and grateful to receive the call from the Downtown Organization that I had received the award,” she said. “I will be the first person in my family to attend college.
“I know that Harriet Miller was a trailblazer and a leader. She is the first woman political leader who I was aware of. I remember my parents pointing her out to me at downtown parades when I was little.”
Along with her 4.1 grade-point average, Carrillo is editor of Laguna’s student newspaper, The Fourth Estate; participates in volleyball and mock trail; and volunteers for a cure for cystic fibrosis, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Santa Barbara Teen Coalition and the Page Youth Center.
Lombardi and Collyer both delivered remarks on the progress made during 2012. Cited were the organization’s involvement in events such as Shop Spree Santa Barbara, the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, 1st Thursday, cruise ship hosting, Halloween and Holiday window display contests, Epicure, the Downtown Holiday Parade (it didn’t rain after all!), and, of course, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The new downtown holiday lights and improved navigational signs in downtown parking lots were also mentioned.
Lombardi summed it up: “Thanks for making downtown Santa Barbara a great place to stroll, shop, enjoy the arts, and, my favorite, to eat!”