The Long Beach Martin Luther King Center transported attendees back to the Roaring ’20s at its Speakeasy Giving Fundraiser at the Seven restaurant in the West End last Friday.
The event not only offered a nostalgic journey, but also provided a unique opportunity for guests to contribute to community initiatives.
“My purpose of doing it in the West End was to see that side of town support the North Park area and what we do,” the center’s executive director, Andrea Gauto, said, “and they really showed out and showed up. I saw the support, and I saw the willingness to be there for us, from the politicians to the residents to people who run other nonprofits. Everyone came out and let us know they support the MLK Center.”
The fundraiser began around 7 p.m., and participants enjoyed an atmosphere of jazz, classic cocktails and community spirit. Long Beach residents Sean Monaghan and Cliff and Beth Skudin were honored at the event.
Monaghan, a professional boxer and a longtime supporter of the center, received the Champion in the Community Award. He has given free boxing classes to kids taking part in the center’s summer program since 2019.
The Skudins received the Impact in the Community Award. They, too, are supporters of the center and the summer program, and have offered its participants weekly swimming and surfing lessons.
“It really made our summer program very well-rounded,” Gauto said. “We had theater, we had cooking, we had boxing and we had swimming. We ran it for eight weeks. It was the longest-running summer program we’ve had, and it was even better than (others) that cost thousands of dollars. These people made it possible for our kids to get the best quality program in the summer and it didn’t cost anything to the center. So we wanted to honor them.”
Monaghan said he was honored and humbled to be recognized by the center’s board. “To be honest, there are a lot of people who are there day in and day out who I feel deserve recognition more than I do,” he said. “I’m just happy to contribute in any way I can, and I’m looking forward to continuing and expanding the programs for the kids.”
The fundraiser attendees enthusiastically embraced the 1920s theme. “It was super cute, everybody dressed up for the theme,” Gauto said. “Which again, shows support and respect, and it was just nice.”
The event drew a crowd of more than 150. The money raised through ticket sales will support the center’s enrichment program and its hope of establishing a computer lab.
MLK Board President Cedrick Coad, who has 16 years of experience at the organization, described this year’s fundraiser as “one for the books,” and noted the center’s continuing growth and community support.
“Seeing how far we’ve come to now just shows the work we do is supported and loved all over Long Beach, and more,” Coad said. “I am blessed to have such an amazing staff that goes above and beyond — 25/8.”
The center’s mission is to serve the low-income community with a range of programs including education, initiatives that address food insecurities, care for seniors and community events.
“I hope that the new leadership, new City Council members and the new legislator will continue supporting us,” Gauto said, referring to three new Republican members of the council and the new Republican county legislator in the 4th District, Patrick Mullaney, who was one of the attendees. “I hope to see more unity between the West End, the North Park area and the East End, because we need that — the center needs that.”
This event is just one example of the center’s commitment to serving the Long Beach community. Last year it provided 800 toys and more than 100 coats for children during the holidays, and it planned to give out more than 100 turkeys and hot meals to those in need on Wednesday, as the Herald went to press.
For the latest updates on upcoming events at the center, information on its programs and volunteering opportunities, visit its website, LBMLK.org.