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Christina Gray wins Pleasanton Mayor's Award

Local photographer honored for commitment to volunteerism

Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne presents his 2019 Mayor's Award to Christina Gray during ceremony last month. (Photo courtesy of city of Pleasanton)

Christina Gray, a photographer, business owner and author who volunteers her time and skills to a variety of causes throughout the year, has received the 2019 Pleasanton Mayor's Award.

A longtime Pleasanton resident and owner of Bella Luna Studios, Gray was lauded for her dedication to local nonprofits such as Kids Against Hunger, Axis Community Health, Open Heart Kitchen and CASA -- in addition to her volunteerism with school and youth organizations as a parent.

"Receiving the Mayor's Award has renewed my dedication to service," Gray told the Weekly in an interview after accepting the award last month.

"I spread my time over many organizations, volunteering an hour here and an hour there. I have always hoped that time would amount to something meaningful for the people and places I support," she added. "What an honor to be recognized in this way."

In presenting the award, Mayor Jerry Thorne commended Gray as someone who "embodies selfless service and captures the true essence of community volunteerism."

"Tonight we recognize an individual who exemplifies volunteerism in its truest form," Thorne added. "Her commitment and dedication to her family and her community has helped make Pleasanton the very best version of itself."

Some 250 city officials, current and former elected representatives, community leaders, previous Mayor's Award recipients and other residents were on hand in the Palm Event Center in the Vineyard for the evening dinner and award presentation organized by the city of Pleasanton on Nov. 14.

With a theme of "Pleasanton Means Home," the 48th annual Mayor's Award Celebration event also served as an opportunity for the Pleasanton community to recognize and highlight the work done during the past year by city commissions, committees and leaders -- many of whom were in attendance.

"Every one of you here this evening has contributed in some way to making Pleasanton the greatest place to live, and what other communities wish to be," Thorne told the audience.

And like many of the winners before her, Gray said she was shocked to hear the mayor soon spotlight her as the night's main honoree -- the winner's name is kept a secret until the ceremony.

"I went to the Mayor's Dinner as a guest of my friend (Councilwoman) Kathy Narum who said

her husband was out of town and she wanted me to join her. Turns out it was all just a ruse to get me there," Gray said.

"It was the surprise of a lifetime when I heard Mayor Thorne announce my name," she added. "The event organizers had even arranged to have my family attend. That was so incredible because everything I do is possible because of their support. The shock and thrill of it all still hasn't passed."

Gray is an accomplished professional photographer whose Bella Luna Studios, based in Pleasanton, is a favorite among residents in the area, including as 10-time winner of the annual Pleasanton Weekly Readers' Choice competition and a Readers' Choice Hall of Fame recipient. She is also a published author; her allergen-conscious cookbook, "Be Free Cooking: The Allergen-Aware Cook," was released in 2015.

Gray often pairs her photography skills with her commitment to volunteerism, taking pictures for free for nonprofit organizations such as CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation, First Tee of the Tri-Valley, Axis Community Health, the Ed Kinney Foundation, Make a Difference for Pleasanton, Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and Kids Against Hunger.

Thorne also commended Gray for other volunteer work, such as supporting Open Heart Kitchen's Feed the Need bag lunch program, helping to send food to victims of hurricanes, judging the photography category for the Reflections program, leading a classroom workshop at Mohr Elementary School and launching a Rising Start Program to inspire students to write and publish original books for their library.

As a working mother, Gray is also actively involved her daughter's Girl Scouts troop, serves on the Pleasanton Unified School District's Public Safety Committee, and coaches sixth-grade volleyball at Harvest Park Middle School and Phantom League under-13 softball teams.

"Time and time again, (she) has demonstrated how limitless a person's compassion to serve others above self can be," the mayor added.

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Comments

3 people like this
Posted by Jack Balch
a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Dec 4, 2019 at 4:09 pm

Jack Balch is a registered user.

Congratulations Chrissy! So deserved - thank you for everything you do for others in Pleasanton!


4 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Dec 4, 2019 at 11:24 pm

While I do think Chrissy is amazing, it would be nice to see the mayor pick someone who hasn’t already won a city award this calendar year. His inability or unwillingness to think outside the “inside baseball” box year after year is what perpetuates the perception of Pleasanton as an “old boys“ network” town. It’s too bad. There are a lot of deserving people in a town of 80,000.


2 people like this
Posted by ???
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2019 at 12:43 pm

Julie, do you have someone in mind? Did you suggest the person to the Mayor?


Like this comment
Posted by Alfie
a resident of Birdland
on Dec 5, 2019 at 1:11 pm

Alfie is a registered user.

Julie, your post is one of the most outrageous comments that I have ever seen. I guess there are some folks that try and find the negative in everything.
In the first place, this "good old boys" network you referred to has produced at least 3 female winners of the Mayor's Award since Thorne has been Mayor.
In the second place, at least three of his winners had not received awards in the community previously.
I guess you will continue to complain, complain, complain about everything or perhaps you are mad because you have never been chosen.


5 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Dec 5, 2019 at 1:14 pm

Chrissy, thank you for all that you do for our community! You are so deserving of this award and we are lucky to have you and your family in Pleasanton! Congratulations!!!


1 person likes this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Dec 6, 2019 at 2:00 pm

@Alfie - in my experience and history with the city, Thorne has never given someone the Mayor's award that wasn't (a) his campaign manager; (b) had just received another award; (c) were actively involved in the Chamber community.

Wondering who you think got an award that was so original? Seems like in a town of 80K, it's possible to think outside the box a little.


4 people like this
Posted by Why
a resident of Birdland
on Dec 9, 2019 at 5:21 pm

I'm sure the city of Pleasanton is a better place because of Christina Gray.

But the Mayor's award is a joke.

Look into the backgrounds of the past recipients, they all have connections a City Hall. Maybe City Hall should have a public nomination process for transparency. I lived in Pleasonton for 40 years, and I have never seen the Mayor ask the public for a nomination. Over the years, I have seen many residences of Pleasanton volunteer 100s of hours yearly to make our schools and city a better place. How come the Mayor hasn't recognized one of them. It appears simple to me! No connection to City Hall.


Like this comment
Posted by Ummmm
a resident of Amador Estates
on Dec 10, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Why—- it’s called the MAYORS award meaning the MAYOR awards it


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