The Dec. 13, 2021 City Council meeting offered a rare accolade; winning an honor that has only been bestowed twice before, Lisa Skelley was named the 2021 Citizen of the Year.
As part of a city proclamation, City Clerk Jeremy Green stated, “The Citizen of the Year award recognizes an individual that has contributed significant charitable, humanitarian, educational or financial support that has contributed greatly to the benefit of the community.”
As noted in the proclamation, Skelley is a creator of Grace Diner, a place for hungry people to come and eat in a restaurant style setting at Grade Lutheran Church. Begun in 2009, the original brief was to open the doors and feed people once a week. With the focus on social connection and dignity, it offered much more than just calories. While in the first few years they turned out a regular hundred meals a week, the pandemic changed the volume.
Teaming up with Feed Culver, Food Cycle LA, the Culver-Palms YMCA and numerous local organizations and restaurants, Grace Diner has offered a thousand meals a week, feeding not just the unhoused but the unemployed and those struggling to feed their families.
“Through Lisa’s invaluable leadership, Grace Diner has become an impressive all-volunteer organization.” Keeping the service aspect of the diner as part of a community effort, Skelley has been able to ensure using every donation to support the mission.
The selection of Lisa Skelley as Citizen of the Year was the last proclamation by Alex Fisch from his mayoral office. “It was a pleasure to award that distinction to Lisa Skelley, who has worked tirelessly to feed anyone and everyone who needs a meal.”
“I really can’t describe how wonderful it feels to be receiving this award,” Skelley said, attending the meeting online to accept. “The population of people that I work with are what makes my job special and rewarding. To receive validation from the city for this work almost brings me to tears. Grace Diner is a small, local non-profit. However the pandemic really pushed us out of our comfort zone, to address the urgency of people needing food…I’ve had so many people tell me that the food we provide is literally keeping them alive. We continue to provide 200 hot meals a day, five days a week… I just want express how grateful I am and how honored I feel.”
As ever, donations can go to gracediner.org, and will be used to feed hungry people.