Meet 2020's Impact Makers to Watch

2020 was the fifth year that Impact-Makers to Watch shined its spotlight on the individuals who are making a positive impact on their communities and who are expected to take their contributions to new heights in years to come. On January 29 we saluted the honorees during an evening celebration in the Council Chambers at Los Angeles City Hall. Hundreds attended to toast and meet these 32 leaders who are making a true impact across L.A. Ana Guerrero, Mayor Garcetti’s Chief of Staff, delivered keynote remarks and throughout the celebration the hall was abuzz with the sharing of ideas for a better L.A. Congratulations to all the 2020 Impact-Makers to Watch!

Nicole àBeckett, Co-Founder & CEO, SameSide

Using her background in tech and politics, Nicole created SameSide, a marketing and events platform connecting supporters to the organizations they care about through events they do every day. Since 2017, SameSide users across America have engaged in more than 100,000 grassroots actions to elect women, defend DACA, fight for pay equality, stand for LGBTQ rights and stricter gun laws, and so much more. SameSide will be a balm in the tumultuous political landscape of 2020.

Ashley Atkinson, City Planner, Los Angeles City Planning

Ashley Atkinson is a planner in Los Angeles City Planning’s Performance Management Unit where she is working to develop metrics and strategic enhancements for planning while sharing outcomes with stakeholders. As the Chair of APA Los Angeles for 3 years, Ashley helped its members share knowledge, advance their careers, and guide change in both the profession and our communities. Ashley will lead the California Chapter as President in 2021-2022, where she will have an even greater impact on planning in communities.

Elvina Beck, Founder, PodShare

Since 2012, Elvina has lived in and continues to hand-build more than 200 pod-style living units that promote a minimalist approach to living affordably in typically unaffordable cities. Her startup has been internationally recognized in publications like LA Times, CNN, Yahoo Finance, the Guardian, Vice, Buzzfeed, LA Business Journal (cover), DT News (cover), Huffington Post, and Business Insider. This year, PodShare for Social Good filed for 501c(3) status and a pilot program with the Downtown Women’s Center is underway to dedicate a 4-bed room to women who wish to live in community, subsidized by private sponsorship.

Tonja Boykin, Chief Operating Officer, Weingart Center

More than just a non-profit leader, Tonja is active in her Downtown LA community, and she always makes time to share her knowledge and experience with developing leaders. A project she is shepherding is the Weingart Towers, a multi-story affordable housing complex that will feature 382 units of permanent supportive housing along with more than 25,000 square feet of supportive services space, a ground-floor café for resident meals, and 2,250 feet of ground-level retail space. Rising 12 stories and 18 stories respectively above Skid Row, these two towers are a reimagination of what permanent supportive housing can look like.

Kelly Bruno, President and CEO, National Health Foundation

At the intersection of homelessness and healthcare, Kelly Bruno continues to improve upon the recuperative care model she began more than 11 years ago. Today, Kelly is creating innovative cross-sector partnerships with health plans and hospitals to ensure a secure funding stream for the 92 beds her organization is currently offering, with more than 75 hospitals and health plans contracting with NHF to provide a safe discharge option for their patients. NHF’s recuperative care program has delivered 15,788 days of service and $77.5 million in health care costs avoided.

Deborah Brutchey, Executive Director, L.A. Works

Deborah Brutchey is the Executive Director of L.A. Works, the city’s largest volunteer network committed to increasing volunteerism in Los Angeles. Her agency curates and promotes volunteer projects that empower individuals to get involved, get connected and work together towards a better future. Since starting at L.A. Works in 2009, she has continued to push the agency to do more, engage more, educate more, and inspire more, expanding its network to 25,000 volunteers and growing. Deborah has served on the City of Los Angeles’ “We Serve LA” Community Service Advisory Cabinet and the Points of Light’s Corporate Institute Leadership Faculty. Recently, she has launched a larger initiative that envisions volunteerism in a radically new way, developing opportunities that seek to empower volunteers to take action as policy change-makers to move the needle on critical social issues impacting the Los Angeles community.

Isaac Bryan, Director of Public Policy, The Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies

Isaac has worked as a David Bohnett Mayoral Fellow in Mayor Garcetti’s Office on reentry policy for individuals returning home from prison. He’s a leading member of the UCLA’s Million Dollar Hoods team which maps how much the LA County and LA City spends on incarceration. His TEDx Talk on bail reform has more than 100,000 views. Issac is well on his way to become one of the most exciting young change-makers in Los Angeles and across the U.S.

Lyn MacEwen Cohen, Founder & President, First-In Fire Foundation

Lyn has been instrumental in partnering residents with their local fire stations, fostering friends and funds for the Department, and championing local emergency preparedness. Through her work as President of the First-In Fire Foundation, Lyn has been key in establishing memorials for fallen first responders as well as creating opportunities for citizens to interact with and learn from their local firefighters. In 2020, Lyn is expected to continue her work creating neighborhood fire station gardens and planting and preserving trees. She will also continue to invite the community to get to know their local first responders at events made possible by the First-In Fire Foundation.

Winnie Fong, Senior Associate, Estolano Advisors

Winnie Fong is a Senior Associate at Estolano Advisors, where she focuses on housing and transportation policies through an equity and sustainability lens. This year, Winnie will serve as President of Project by Project (PbP) – Los Angeles Chapter, where she will lead a team of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) volunteers in a tailored year-long campaign on civic and political empowerment. She was also selected to join the 2020 UCLA’s Community Collaborative applied research program as a community partner for the Chinatown Community for Equitable Development to collaborate with graduate students on anti-displacement interventions in underserved communities in LA County.

David Ford, Government Relations Manager, Southern California Edison

With years of service, David has helped inspire young people to success through his various volunteer roles. He currently serves as Chairman of the GLAAACC Education Foundation as well as Vice-Chair of the Southwest Community College Foundation. David is a cancer survivor on a mission to encourage more men and women, especially in African American communities, to get screened and care for each other to overcome health risks. David is also a Health Equity Champion and Board Member for American Cancer Society in the Los Angeles Central Coast area.

Chanel Frampton, Director of Programs, Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce

For more than five years Chanel Frampton has served as the Director of Programs for the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC) and the Director of GLAAACC’s Education Fund and Foundation. Throughout her career Chanel effortlessly shines in the areas of donor relations and large-scale event execution. An advocate for professional development and youth education, Chanel regularly engages with donors and sponsors to support African American entrepreneurs and students in the Los Angeles area. In 2020, Chanel will guide young people poised to be the next generation of community and civic leaders.

Tim Gaspar, CEO, Gaspar Insurance Services

Growing a small business into the largest independent insurance agency in the San Fernando Valley, Tim Gaspar has used his company and his position to support and advance causes in Los Angeles. In 2020, he begins his first full year on the Discovery Cube LA Board, as well as seeing the launch of a insurance-focused scholarship at CSUN. He continues to provide staff time and financial support to organizations across the Valley and LA.

Christopher Gonzalez, Wellness Advisor & Student

In his senior year at John Marshall High School, Christopher created LAUSD’s first student-led wellness center and solely wrote and received a $5,000 grant from California Mental Health Services Authority (CALMHSA) to promote social emotional learning and improve school climate and culture. As he continues his education at Mount Saint Mary’s University, he will continue to inspire and empower others.

Dan Halden, Director, HEART of Hollywood

After transitioning from Hollywood Field Deputy for Council Member Mitch O’Farrell and into leading this strategic initiative, Dan walks the walk—literally the Walk of Fame—each day building relationships and making the connections needed to physically improve the Heart of Hollywood. In 2020 he will be advancing transformative ideas that will manifest in Hollywood Boulevard recapturing its legendary allure.

Aubrey Hicks, Executive Director, Bedrosian Center

As Executive Director of the Bedrosian Center, Aubrey is bringing democracy to the university setting and all of Los Angeles. Recognizing the unique assets and role of her Center at USC in the 2020 Los Angeles, she is working to bring a voice to more staff and students to democratize the university.

Larry Laboe, Executive Director & Co-Founder, New Filmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA)

As founder of NFMLA, Larry has created programs to engage the creativity of LA to support LA. NFMLA’s On Location: The Los Angeles Video Project is a community initiative that celebrates and enlists LA’s remarkable filmmakers to act and serve as Ambassadors of LA, offering an insider perspective into this diverse city and its neighborhoods. He has also created the CineSessions High School mentorship program and works to support diverse voices in filmmaking with monthly film festivals planned for the year. Larry is connecting the entertainment industry to Los Angeles to shape a more inclusive future.

Catherine Landers, Director for Special Projects, Office of Councilmember David Ryu

Catherine is an integral part of Councilmember David Ryu’s team, focusing on connecting people experiencing homelessness with a growing number of bridge housing units that she has advocated for. In 2020, Catherine will push forward in garnering support for bridge housing and working to protect tenants from unfounded evictions.

Karen Mack, Founder, LA Commons

Since founding LA Commons in 2003, Karen Mack has been at the forefront of community arts programing to help reveal the truth of about Los Angeles and its residents as CEO of the SouthLA-based non-profit. She brings this approach to her work as an LA City Planning Commissioner and as she co-leads the national Creative Placemaking From the Community Up initiative supported the National Endowment for the Arts.

Joan Maltese, Executive Director, Child Development Institute

In addition to co-founding and leading CDI and serving youth of the San Fernando Valley and LA for decades, Dr. Maltese has provided visionary leadership for the Reseda community through creating an entire campus for CDI and for other nonprofits quartered there, as well as spearheading the Reseda Community Network, bringing together community leaders in this Valley neighborhood. Her creativity, partnership, and leadership will continue to shape the future of youth in the city.

Jennifer May, Executive Director, Designmatters, Art Center College of Design

Jennifer is a coalition builder, bringing together cross-sector partners and cross-disciplinary teams to collaborate on groundbreaking projects in the areas of social entrepreneurship, public policy, healthcare, and sustainable development. Her exemplary leadership has allowed art and design students to address diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, and social innovation challenges both locally and globally. In 2020, Jennifer will make her mark as the new Executive Director of Designmatters at ArtCenter College of Design.

Kit Miyamoto, President, Miyamoto Relief

Through his nonprofit, Miyamoto Global Disaster Relief, Kit has worked to bring Angelenos together for the city’s common good, creating “Night of 1000 Drawings Los Angeles,” a global arts initiative and exhibit that inspires people from all backgrounds and walks of life to draw and “doodle for a difference” for a common cause, raising money and awareness. The event returns in 2020, this time to unite L.A. behind assisting children and families served by Hope Street Margolis Family Center.

Kerry Morrison, Co-Founder, Heart Forward LA

After leaving a two-decade career as President and CEO of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, Kerry left her post to commit herself to addressing the mental illness crisis in America. Her work is fundamental to the TRIESTE pilot project, launching its planning phase in LA in 2020 to reimagine the way we care for those with mental illness, many of whom are living on the street.

Rick Nahmias, Founder & Executive Director, Food Forward

Rick founded Food Forward in 2009, which now collects surplus fruits and vegetables through three programs: Backyard Harvesting, Farmers Market Recovery, and Wholesale Produce Recovery. Collectively, these programs have recovered more than 85 million pounds of fresh produce. Under Rick’s leadership, Food Forward is now a model in the food recovery movement, annually providing free, nutritious fruits and vegetables to two million Southern Californians. 2020 will be a time to find a vision for a future, building off the successes of the last decade.

Brandi Orton, Managing Director, The Los Angeles Aging Advocacy Coalition (LAAAC)

Brandi’s work as the lead for the Los Angeles Aging Advocacy Coalition (LAAAC) has put her at the forefront of issues facing older adults in Los Angeles. Using the power of convening, she is driving change and working to destigmatize aging. Through her passion and professional commitment to some of LA’s most vulnerable, she’ll continue in 2020 to advocate for equity within systems that serve older adults and raise awareness of older adults experiencing homelessness.

Christina Ramirez, CEO & Founder, Plus Ultra

Christina launched Plus Ultra in LA in 2012, and it has been growing ever since, providing a biodegradable alternative to plastic toothbrushes. By replacing traditional plastic toothbrushes with bamboo, she’s responsible for diverting millions of pounds of plastic from entering the waste stream. Even better, she’s giving back by donating toothbrushes to shelters in LA.

Addy Gonzalez-Renteria & Erin Stone, Founders, 11:11 A Creative Collective

Providing more than 800 artists with opportunities to activate and beautify our communities, facilitating the placement of more than 15 permanent and temporary murals and public art installations, providing rich opportunities for emerging artists to hone their craft, hosting more than 60,000 participants at various street festivals including the Canoga Park ArtWalk, Ciclavia – the West Valley, and the annual Reseda Rising ArtWalk, Addy & Erin have programmed art and art-related events throughout 125 square miles of the 818 and beyond.

Richard Reyes, Executive Director, PLUS ME Project

Richard Reyes is the Founder and Executive Director of PLUS ME Project, a community partner dedicated to empowering middle and high school youth to build their confidence for college and career advancement by teaching the art of storytelling. He has grown PLUS ME from a $40,000 staff-of-one nonprofit to a $300,000 staff-of-five organization in less than three years. In 2020, he will continue to implement their strategic vision across LA to reach even more students to tell their story.

Meghan Sahli-Wells, Mayor, City of Culver City

In addition to serving as Mayor, Meghan chairs the Westside Cities Council of Governments and co-chairs Elected Officials to Protect California, as well as serving as a founding Board Member of Local Progress, a national network of progressive elected officials. With these various roles, Meghan is committed to turning the largest urban oil field in the US (Inglewood Oil Field) into the “Central Park of the West” while advocating for a just transition from fossil fuels for a future for all Angelenos.

Nathan Sheets, Executive Director, The Center of Hollywood

Under Nathan’s guidance since 2015, The Center of Hollywood has pivoted from a small four-person shop handling homeless outreach in the immediate Hollywood Community into a 20+ employee powerhouse that heads up services regionally for people experiencing homelessness. Nathan continues to lead and innovate, serving as a model for other organizations and bringing long-planned initiatives to fruition in 2020.

Erin Tanenbaum, Senior Managing Director, Southern California Leadership Network

Committed to the success of civic leaders, Erin has spent her career working for change at institutions both domestically and internationally. Currently, leading the Southern California Leadership Network, Erin and her team inspire participants to address complex issues facing the city and region, prepare them to take on leadership roles with their organizations and communities and connect them with a network of dynamic leaders to advance lasting, prosperous change.

Elizabeth Timme, Co-Executive Director, LA-Más

Elizabeth redefines the role of the architect in our city through her leadership on public space design. In partnership Mayor Garcetti’s Great Street Program, she has championed the inclusion of storefronts and small business support as a vital component of healthy public space. Her design approach is unique—upholding permanence of place, the value of community, and the importance of culture throughout her work. Elizabeth has transformed many small business owners’ storefronts into places that reflect their values in a way that is truly transformative and impactful. In L.A., Elizabeth’s creative approach will further impact neighborhoods in 2020.