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The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce virtually hosted its New Heroes Celebration on Oct. 27, celebrating the everyday leaders who lift our community up. What the event lost in sociability this year, it gained in poignancy by honoring a series of healthcare heroes and a Samohi student supporting isolated seniors during COVID-19.

“This is the yearly event where over three hundred businesses and residents look forward to seeing their longtime friends and colleagues from the city and the business community and I think we are all missing being together in person,” said Chamber President Laurel Rosen. “Having said that this event is very personal and that did translate into our virtual event last night. Many people reached out after the event to say thank you and used the words lovely and meaningful to describe the event. That makes me realize that we did our jobs.”

This event is in its 26th year and creates an opportunity for the businesses community and City to welcome Santa Monica’s new fire, police, education, and healthcare employees.

“These Hero awards are more important this year than ever. We’ve got our firefighters both handling fire safety here in the City of Santa Monica, but then also supporting and assisting wildfire efforts all over the state,” said Senator Ben Allen. “Our police have been working hard to try to keep the community safe and this has been extra challenging both under the pandemic conditions and with all the politics and unrest that exists in our society. And then of course we have our incredible health care workers.”

Health care hero honorees included William Dunne, Administrative Director, Security, Safety, Emergency Preparedness, UCLA Health; ICU Team, Providence; West LA ICU, Kaiser Permanente; Front-Line COVID Caregiving Team, Cedars-Sinai Santa Monica. They were recognized for their work on the frontline fighting COVID-19.

Officer Stephanie Tovar was honored by the Santa Monica Police Department.

“I love being a police officer and having the role of a Neighborhood Resource Officer where I can truly have a connection to the community is the real reward I have,” said Tovar. “Being given this award is a humbling experience, but it’s truly the icing on the cake.”

The Santa Monica Firefighter’s honoree was Andrew Klein.

“Andy loves being a firefighter and there’s no way you don’t know that the second you talk to him,” said Bill Walker, SMFD fire chief. “Andy is the type of firefighter that every firefighter wants working next to them, because you want the person next to you to work as hard as you will ever work and that’s Andy.”

For the Young Inspirational Hero award Quinn Armour, a senior at Samohi, was selected for her work with elderly community members. Armour founded the Samohi Community Connect Club, which pairs isolated senior citizens with students for safe companionship through phone conversations.

A group of Santa Monica College leaders were selected as educational heroes for their work running community food drives and helping adapt their campus to the challenges of the pandemic.

“Welcoming our outstanding educators, police, fire fighters, and this year honoring our health care heroes, is something that no other community does,” said Rosen. “This event offers our community a chance to say thank you. These are our unsung heroes and they deserve this recognition.”