Bits 'n' Pieces

Free Tax Prep Service

College of Business students from Cal State Long Beach are providing free in-person tax preparation assistance to families who make $64,000 or less, low-income students, elderly, non-residents and individuals with limited English proficiency. All the students are volunteers and are certified by the IRS.

The free service is part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance clinic (VITA), an IRS-sponsored program. Last year student volunteers filed state and federal tax returns that resulted in over $1 million in refunds.

The VITA service offers face-to-face, drop-offs, walk-in, and Zoom (virtual) services. An appointment is recommended, but not required. Walk-ins and those dropping off documents should go to room 243 in the College of Business Building. There is a fee to park on campus.

The hours of service are Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. until April 10. There will also be two Saturdays (March 2 and 23) when assistance is available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The service will be closed for spring break April 1–5.

Info: VITA coordinator Marco Vasquez, at vita.csulb@gmail.com.

Alison King Appointed DHHS Director

Alison King is the new director of the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), effective immediately. King brings to the position over five years of experience as a public health administrator and over 20 years of human services experience. King has served as acting director since October 2023.

King will oversee more than 55 diverse programs in core public health services as well as social determinants of health, including housing and homelessness, mental health, and family and youth development. She will lead a department of over 500 employees operating at 12 sites throughout the city and oversee an annual budget of $180 million, 95% of which comes from federal, state, county and private funds. DHHS is one of only three city-run health departments in California.

King joined the City of Long Beach in 2005 in the Housing Authority, a bureau in the Health Department, and held various positions of leadership before being named bureau manager in 2016.

As Bureau Manager, she oversaw a $110 million budget that subsidizes rental housing for more than 7,000 local low-income families. Under her leadership, the Housing Authority made great strides to support the city’s local affordable housing stock, having awarded over 900 housing vouchers, 10 affordable housing development contracts for 522 project-based voucher units, and commitments for nine additional developments that will create over 400 new units in the next year.

She also led the Emergency Housing Voucher program, which in early 2023 committed all 582 qualifying voucher holders to permanent housing, the first time the City has reached maximum lease ups for the program since 2021.

King holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. 

Sidewalk to Success

The City of Long Beach, through the Long Beach Recovery Act, is funding a sidewalk vending support program, “Sidewalk to Success,” to help ease the financial burden for small businesses in the first year of the city’s recently approved Sidewalk Vending Ordinance.

The City Council approved the development of a sidewalk vending support program to cover the costs of the required business license and health permit fees for operating in the first year and provide reimbursements for the first year of insurance costs. Under the Sidewalk to Success Program, all costs will be covered at the time of the application, with the exception of insurance costs, which will be covered through a reimbursement process for an amount not to exceed $450.

A second phase of the program is being developed that will provide up to 40 free food vending carts to sidewalk vendors who apply and meet eligibility requirements; actual carts available will depend on the type of carts and program participation. Details on eligibility and how to apply will be shared later this summer once established. 

The Sidewalk to Success Program is now available for businesses. All applicants who apply for a sidewalk vendor business license and permit between Feb. 26, 2024, and Feb. 26, 2025, will not have to pay the $300 fee. During this time, all applicants who also require a health permit and/or plan check will not have to pay the associated fees.

All sidewalk vendors will be required to obtain general liability insurance coverage, which is required to be issued a business license. The city will reimburse each approved sidewalk vendor applicant up to $450 for the cost of this coverage upon receipt of the actual cost that is submitted by the vendor between Feb. 26, 2024, and Feb. 26, 2025.

The goal of the program is to support sidewalk vendors who are interested in and are eligible to participate in the program. The actual number of vendors and financial support provided may vary depending on the applicants. Depending on the program’s participation levels and outcomes, additional funding may need to be explored. 

Nearly $200,000 Awarded to Three Nonprofits

Dignity Health – St. Mary Medical Center recently granted nearly $200,000 to three local nonprofit organizations who are truly making a difference by addressing the health care needs of local, underserved communities. Through its annual Community Health Grant Program, St. Mary Medical Center is able to work collaboratively with these select organizations to improve the well-being of local residents in Greater Long Beach.

First, Century Villages at Cabrillo received funding for its Pathways to Health 2024 program that prioritizes mental health resources, community engagement opportunities, peer-to-peer support groups and more. The second grantee is Mental Health America of Los Angeles for its support in addressing the psychological factors that contribute to community members who are unhoused with mental health needs using the Emergency Department as their primary form of healthcare. The third recipient is Precious Lamb Preschool, receiving a grant for its supportive services that promote healing and trauma-informed care for students and their parents who are experiencing homelessness. 

“Thanks to our Community Health Grant Program, we were able to provide assistance to three organizations that prioritize the needs of underprivileged families and victims of trauma,” shares Carolyn Caldwell, president and CEO at St. Mary Medical Center. “We are so grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with such key partners in the community to help those in greatest need.”

Dignity Health’s Community Health Improvement Grants program has awarded $91 million to nearly 3,800 health improvement projects since 1991. For more information, please visit https://www.dignityhealth.org/about-us/community-health.

Rescue Mission Award

Spectrum announced a donation of $5,000 to the Long Beach Rescue Mission through the company’s employee-driven grants program that recognizes the value of community service, Spectrum Employee Community Grants.

Founded in 1972, the Long Beach Rescue Mission provides care for those who are homeless and in need of food, shelter, clothing and other critical needs. The mission also offers several faith-based programs for men and women who are looking to make a new start with the help of dedicated counseling, training and education.

“The need for a shelter like the Apostle House is great, as 37% of the people experiencing homelessness in the city of Long Beach have a physical disability,” said Jeff Levine, executive director, Long Beach Rescue Mission. “This Spectrum grant will support the compassionate care and life-changing programs for men with disabilities that will be offered here. We are incredibly grateful for Spectrum’s support and know that many lives will be transformed as a result of this partnership.”

Earlier this year, Charter announced its commitment to award $2.5 million over the next five years to local nonprofits through Spectrum Employee Community Grants. Charter pledges to support a minimum of 500 nonprofit organizations across its 41-state service area, impacting more than 70,000 community members, through 2028.

Launched in 2019, Spectrum Employee Community Grants support nonprofits nominated by employees with a personal connection to the organization through at least one year of their own volunteer work, including nearly $200,000 in grants in California to date. Recipients deliver a broad range of critical social services to underserved community members, including food pantries, homeless shelters, clothing distribution, job training for veterans and paying overdue rent and utility bills for those in crisis.

New Ministers Installed

The First Congregational Church of Long Beach, United Church of Christ announces the official installation of their newly called senior minister, the Rev. Petra Malleis-Sternberg and their newly called associate minister, the Rev. Wally Hoeger, was held on Feb. 25.

The First Congregational Church was founded in 1888 by a group of early Long Beach residents led by Margaret Bixby and her husband Jotham to be a congregation of social activism and liberal theology. The beautiful sanctuary on the corner of Third and Cedar is one of the oldest buildings in downtown Long Beach; “designed for worship but built for service” as Margaret Bixby declared. The church’s well-known rose windows and tower have graced both celebrations of the arts and ongoing work for justice in the Long Beach community since 1914.

The Rev. Petra Malleis-Sternberg is the 14th Senior Minister of the congregation. She attended the University of Arizona and the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities before serving two other United Church of Christ (UCC) congregations in Southern California since 2001. The Rev. Wally Hoeger is a graduate of Chapman University and the Claremont School of Theology and has worked in ministry with children and youth in the UCC for 15 years. Both ministers share a commitment to interfaith and community partnership and creative intergenerational worship leadership.

First Congregational Church became an Open and Affirming Congregation in the United Church of Christ in 1992, publicly declaring a full inclusion of people who are LGBTQ into the membership and leadership of the church. The partner ministries of the congregation include DAYS Long Beach’s educational support and youth leadership programs, the Urban Community Outreach’s services for people who are unhoused and economically disenfranchised, and the Landmark Theatre Company’s commitment to inclusivity, social justice and diversity in their engaging, challenging, and inspiring productions.

First Congregational Church of Long Beach celebrates its next chapter with our newly settled ministers as an inclusive community of hope, working for justice, and celebrating all ages in shared ministry, service, and creative growth, together.

Tennis Family of the Year

The United States Tennis Association of Southern California (USTA SoCal) named the Bridge family of Long Beach the 2023 USTA SoCal Family of the Year. This accolade is awarded to families who show exceptional dedication, commitment, and passion for tennis, both on and off the court. 

Mitch and Kim Bridge, along with their children Jordan, Cooper, and wife Lauren, make up the Bridge family, which exemplifies the true spirit of tennis. They have shown unwavering support and active participation in the sport, ranging from grassroots initiatives to competitive tournaments, and their love for tennis shines brightly within their community and beyond.

As devoted parents and tennis enthusiasts, Mitch and Kim have instilled a deep appreciation for the sport in their children from a young age. They have fostered an environment where tennis is more than just a game but a unifying force that strengthens familial bonds and nurtures individual growth. 

The USTA SoCal Family of the Year award is a testament to the Bridge family’s enduring dedication to tennis and exemplary contributions to their community. Their story is one of inspiration, unity, and passion, embodying the values that make tennis a sport for a lifetime.

Leap Babies at Memorial

Leap Day, the rarest birthday a person can have, occurs only once every four years, with the odds of being born on Leap Day at one in 1,641. Seven “leap baby” families at the Cherese Mari Laulhere BirthCare Center at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach celebrated with a special keepsake frog beanie, making the day even more memorable for the babies and their parents.

At Miller Children’s & Women’s the care team understands that every birth is a special and unique event and celebrates it with all its families. With exceptional programs and expert care teams and high-quality care, nearly 6,000 families trust Miller Children’s & Women’s to safely deliver their babies every year. U.S. News & World Report has even recognized Miller Children’s & Women’s as a ‘High Performing’ hospital in Maternity Care – the highest rating U.S. News awards for this type of care.

“We see on average 10 – 15 babies born a day, and every day is a special day,” said Lisa Delong, M.D., OBGYN, MemorialCare Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach. “But today is extra special for seven of our families, with this one in every four-year birthday. We do anticipate a few more families to join this special birthday today and can’t wait to meet them.”

Infrared Saunas Latest Franchise Deal

Following a 2023 performance that yielded development deals throughout Greater Los Angeles County, Perspire Sauna Studio, a sauna franchise brand in America specializing in full-spectrum infrared (IR) and red-light therapy (RLT), is officially announcing its first 2024 franchise agreement. Entrepreneurs Julia and Ben Chan of Southern California have inked a single-unit deal to bring Perspire Sauna Studio to Long Beach.

Both Julia and Ben come from a background brimming with sales and marketing experience across the media and manufacturing industries, which they trust will translate well into procuring memberships and notoriety for their first studio location.

Perspire Sauna Studio has taken an active role in advancing the research behind the modality’s full range of health capabilities, which has proven a significant selling point for those looking to get involved with an impactful brand that’s making holistic health more widely accepted, accessible, and comprehensive than ever.

The Chans hope to introduce additional Perspire Sauna Studio locations to the area in the coming years, as the community becomes accustomed to the brand’s spa-like experience and the franchise is able to develop its namesake in the area.

Perspire Sauna Studio is currently seeking single-unit and multi-unit franchisees interested in new career opportunities or those looking to diversify their current portfolios. To learn more about the brand’s franchising opportunities, visit https://www.perspiresaunastudio.com/franchise/.

Acura Grand Prix Construction Underway

Southern California’s 200-MPH Beach Party Returns April 19-21, and construction has begun on the city streets comprising the world-famous Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach race circuit.

Over the next 50 days, more than 2,400 concrete blocks that anchor the safety system around the 1.97-mile, 11-turn racing circuit will be placed along with 14 large grandstands that line the racecourse. More than 192,000 fans attended the race in 2023, the event’s highest attendance since the 2008 Indy car “reunification.”

In total, Grand Prix Director of Operations Dwight Tanaka, LIUNA Local 1309 and Grand Prix Operations staff will put in more than 33,000 working hours installing the safety system – more than 14 million pounds of concrete blocks, four miles of fencing and 17,000 bolted-together tires – along with grandstands, six pedestrian bridges and nine giant vision boards for full-circuit TV coverage.

Tanaka’s staff will also install 50 high-end hospitality suites, three hospitality clubs, tents, electrical lines and equipment, phones, porta-johns, trash containers and a myriad of other items around the track.

The eastern portion of the racetrack (Turns 9, 10 and 11) will also be used for Round One of the eight-event 2024 Formula Drift season April 12-13, and part of the circuit will be used as a running course for the Grand Prix Foundation of Long Beach’s 6th Annual Grand Prix 5K Run on Sunday morning, April 14.

All businesses along the race circuit, which includes Shoreline Drive, Aquarium Way and Pine Ave., will remain open during construction of the racetrack

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