Respectfully reserved, former Long Beach Mayor Beverly O’Neill has returned to the spotlight, and she wants everyone to know about the work that nonprofits are doing in Long Beach.
The beloved three-term former mayor’s show The Heart of Giving launched in late May as one of the first to debut since Long Beach’s public-access television station has made its own comeback as Public Access Digital Network (PADNET) last year.
O’Neill said it’s been a dream of hers to host a TV show on nonprofits ever since leaving the public sector. O’Neill has had a long career as an educator at Long Beach City College, an administrator at Cal State Long Beach and mayor from 1994 to 2006.
She said people mostly know about the functions of government, public safety, education and business but are unaware of the role of nonprofits, which she called “the soul of the city.”
Now, focusing on the more than 8,000 nonprofits in Long Beach, O’Neill will be hard-pressed to run out of material to talk about and hopes to expose the many nonprofit services available.
“I think Long Beach is a giving city,” she said in her Peninsula home. “We have many, many people who want to be a part of making it a good place, and there’s something that everyone can relate to and get involved with, whether it’s children, adults, addictions or health, there are people there to help and most people don’t know about them.”
O’Neill’s show is now produced with the help of the Long Beach Nonprofit Partnership (LBNP), known as a “hub” for nonprofits in the city, providing assistance to more than 200 nonprofit members.
Judy Ross, executive director of LBNP, who was the first guest on O’Neill’s show, said the exposure not only helps those in need but gives a “tremendous boost” to nonprofits during a time when they need it as well. She said the show focuses on nonprofits primarily in the PADNET broadcast area.
“[O’Neill] felt it was a good link to the nonprofit community,” Ross said. “We really worked to put the concept together. She figures out the actual content, and we help supply the nonprofits.”
But this isn’t O’Neill’s first go-round on camera. She was the host of a popular public-access TV program called The Heart of the City during her tenure as mayor and said she is a big fan of public-access television.
Ross added that the new show has now come together “at the right time” since PADNET re-launched on to the air waves last year after being silent for several years because of funding challenges.
“We’re excited to have a public-access station now in Long Beach, and this is one of the first full-time scheduled shows on the channel,” said Ross, who added that LBNP will be promoting the show through its newsletter, emails and streaming videos on its website.
Lisa Mastramico, director of PADNET, said the station is contracted out to provide equipment and crew assistance to produce the show.
The public-access television station, which was dark for several years because of state laws that restricted funding, was able to start broadcasting in August of last year after the Long Beach Community Action Partnership and the Long Beach Community Foundation stepped up to provide a grant to finance the operation for two years, she said. More recently, the station was able to launch its new high-definition studio in April, allowing for the ability to broadcast live one-hour shows.
Mastramico added, however, that the station still has to find ways to sustain itself operationally, since the station is now at the tail end of the grant and any funding public-access television receives from broadcasting fees can only be used for capital resources.
Members who don’t desire to learn how to run the equipment on their own may pay services that generate funding for the station to stay alive, while still providing the opportunity to “empower the community” with “hyper-local content,” she said.
In June, PADNET had 55 shows turned in by members, Mastramico said.
“We’ll do as much or as little as you want us to,” she said. “We have everything ready to go.”
O’Neill’s show is funded with the help of five Long Beach business sponsors, including George’s Greek Café, McKenna’s on the Bay, Legends Sports Bar, Taco Beach and FreeConferenceCall.com.
O’Neill said she tries to feature both large and small nonprofits in every show. So far, she has interviewed the Long Beach Day Nursery, Food Finders, Ability First, Long Beach Community Action Partnership, Meals on Wheels, the Assistance League of Long Beach and Families Uniting Families.
“I think it’s needed,” O’Neill said. “I think it’s good for the city to know that people care. It’s good for the city to have people involved in productive and positive things… We have a wonderful city to begin with, but having this exposes people as to why it’s so good. So it’s been, I think, a positive win-win.”
The Heart of Giving airs on Charter Channel 32 or Verizon Channel 41 Mondays at 6:30pm and Wednesdays at 6:30pm.