Politicians come and go, but not former Mayor of Long Beach Beverly O’Neill, who has continued devoting her time and energy to her city in the years since she left office. One of the causes nearest to her heart is her work promoting the efforts of the city’s diverse community of nonprofit organizations through her television program, “The Heart of Giving,” which has been on the air for a little more than two years.
“I just felt that the nonprofits gave our city soul,” O’Neill said of what inspired her to start “The Heart of Giving” in 2013. “There are thousands of women and men who work together for something that they are interested in, whether it is abandoned children, abused children, people with disabilities or health problems . . . all of these things that a little niche of society needs.”
O’Neill has featured 91 local nonprofit groups on her program, with 122 guests – including a dog. She films two episodes of the show once a month at the studio of PADNET, Long Beach’s public access channel. Each half-hour program features two 15-minute segments in which O’Neill chats with guests from local nonprofit organizations. Episodes air Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 32 on Charter Communications cable and Channel 41 on Verizon Fios. Episodes are also available online at www.padnet.tv. The series is sponsored by MemorialCare Health System.
(Photograph by the Business Journal’s Erin Kleeklamp)
“For me, it has been a really joyful experience,” O’Neill said. “It has been really revealing. I think more people need to know about what’s happening,” she said, referring to the work of so many local nonprofits. “I have been tearful on several of them,” she recalled of past episodes, adding that some of the most touching discussions were with organizations dedicated to helping survivors of abuse, those in poverty or people with health problems of some kind.
When asked what she hopes to achieve with the program, which airs year-round, O’Neill reflected, “I hope it just gives exposure to this part of the community.” People who watch the show have told her that it inspires them to donate their time and volunteer with local nonprofit organizations, she noted. “I say this all the time. I think Long Beach is probably the only big city in California that has this real strong sense of community,” she said.
On top of providing a platform for local nonprofits, the show is also just plain fun for O’Neill. “I probably shouldn’t tell people this, but it’s probably the most delightful job I have ever had, because I don’t have to prepare a lot,” she said with a laugh. “I just ask questions. They are all glad to be there and I am glad to have them there. And nobody gets mad at me and I don’t have to make any big decisions.”
Between the show connecting her with so many local nonprofits and her own connections as former mayor of Long Beach, O’Neill’s mailbox is now frequently full of invitations to local events. So when she isn’t taking in the view of the ocean from her living room, she’s out and about in the community.
“Now that I’m doing this, they all have my number and address,” she said, laughing as she expressed sympathy for her mailman. “I’ve got to get a bigger mailbox.”
In her free time, O’Neill enjoys tending to her dog and cat, taking in movies and attending local theater performances. “I keep busy,” she said.
As an active member of the community and, of course, as former mayor, O’Neill said she feels the City of Long Beach is moving in the right direction. When asked if there was anything she’d like to see the city council prioritize, she was quick to say no. “I wouldn’t give them any priorities, because anything to do with change usually includes some kind of financing,” she said. “I think we need to get through our own financing things before we look ahead.”
Asked to close the interview with the Business Journal with a quote from one of her favorite leading ladies, Mae West, O’Neill settled on this one: “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.”