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Article by: Marc Garcia – City Ministry Network, Director of Communications

Since 2002, City Ministry Network (CMN) has been a catalyst in connecting, inspiring, and mobilizing our community toward good work for the transformation
of Modesto’s neighborhoods. CMN formally became a tax-exempt non-profit organization in April 2005. Its first board meeting was held in June 2005, and almost
immediately, there were opportunities to expand the organization’s positive influence.

Our Mission: Motivated by God’s love, CMN exists to listen to and advocate for our most vulnerable communities, connecting community and sector leaders to work collaboratively for maximum effect, so that all families can thrive.

Our Vision: To see our city become a good, safe place for all in which to grow up and to grow old.
Our Strategy: Advocate. Connect. Convene. Develop. Steward.

Featured Spotlight: Latino Leadership Initiative (LLI)

Latinos are a significant represented community in the Central Valley. As such, the LLI seeks to increase the core competencies of emerging Latino civic servants in the areas of growth, change, collaboration, and deep community engagement. The LLI takes a small cohort through a community capacity program that brings in training from experienced practitioners in subjects like business, non-profit management, financial literacy, board commission and advocacy, and more, and then directly applying these concepts within our community. Upon completion, participants will be well equipped with the necessary resources, insights, and skills for properly engaging with those serving our community.

“For our LLI workshop on ‘Effective Board Membership,’ some of my takeaways included: finding and using your inner power, trusting your intuition, speaking your truth, be of cause – you are the cause, and no one belongs in the room more than you  do”, said Monica Hernandez, current LLI member. “Being a part of the LLI cohort this past weekend has shown me how some ‘weaknesses’ are actually strengths when you understand them. I am excited for whatever else is to come,” observed another current LLI member, Nico Solorio. To learn more about the many other ways CMN is actively improving and aiding those who live and work in our area, visit:

Posted by & filed under Community, Relationship, Uncategorized.



MODESTO, CA (APRIL 16, 2021)————The Gallo Center for the Arts’ board of directors has named Chad Hilligus as the non-profit organization’s new chief executive officer effective July 23, succeeding the retiring Lynn Dickerson.  Hilligus comes to the center from Performance Santa Fe, a multi-venue performing arts organization in New Mexico where he has served as executive and artistic director since 2019.


Said Gallo Center board chair Evan Porges, “After a nationwide search, our board and its search committee are thrilled that a candidate of Chad’s background and talent will be taking the helm of the center.  Obviously replacing Lynn was a daunting task, but thanks to a comprehensive selection process we believe Chad is the right person to follow her.  As sad as we are to see Lynn retire, we are excited for the future with Mr. Hilligus.”


Hilligus’ experience includes five years, 2014-2019, as director of major gifts at the non-profit McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, California.  While at the McCallum, Hilligus also was engaged in programming, talent acquisition, contract negotiations, budgeting and producing special events.  Prior to that, he spent three years as a performing artist with the multi-platinum recording stars and international touring group, The Ten Tenors.


“I am extremely honored and beyond thrilled to be joining the Gallo Center family,” said Hilligus.  “This is an exciting time for the center as we move confidently toward reopening and, in many ways, reintroducing ourselves to the community.  I look forward to continuing the highly respected legacy that Lynn and her extraordinary staff have built as we seek new and innovative ways to serve our patrons.”

“Chad comes to this position with a unique perspective,” Dickerson commented.  “He has spent the last seven years on the leadership and management side of our business, but before that he was an accomplished performer, so he brings the perspective of an artist, as well.  Chad is a professionally trained opera singer, and essentially grew up in the theater.  That background will be most beneficial as he leads the center going forward.”


A board member for the California Presenters Association, Hilligus’ experience in producing, directing and performing in more than 300 theatrical events includes a starring role as Tony in the 50th anniversary world tour of “West Side Story.”  He also has been a resident artist with opera companies in San Diego, Tulsa and Nashville, among others.

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Adapting and Reinventing Modesto’s Hospitality and Tourism


Todd Aaronson, CEO

Modesto Convention & Visitors Bureau


Every cloud has a silver lining…but the last year for the hospitality industry was a hurricane of epic proportions. Thousands of hotels closed across the nation, restaurant closings are predicted to be almost 50% in the U.S. and the special event/theater side of tourism has been shuttered for a year. We are fortunate in Modesto that our local industries are essential (agriculture and manufacturing), helping to propel our community, and county, to weather this storm better than most cities in the nation.

While U.S. hotel occupancy finished 2020 at only 44%, Modesto hotels were able to achieve occupancy above 63% and Stanislaus County hotel results were just over 62% .[1] This displays the incredible resilience of our region when times are the toughest. Our restaurant partners scrambled to provide to-go orders in new packaging, created safe environments, expanded patios, bought heaters for outdoor dining and much more. The community repaid them with strong support and the majority of our favorite dining spots are still there for us to enjoy! Our hotel partners persevered the most unique period and clientele seen in many years while providing a healthy environment for guests and staff alike.


The new traveler is driving more, seeking destinations with unique amenities that are close to national parks and are less crowded than favorite city destinations prior to the pandemic. That puts Modesto, the heart of California, right at the center of the travel boom (now called revenge travel). To keep business travelers, drive tourists and other visitors thinking of us Visit Modesto is providing myriads of reasons for them to visit Modesto between ‘here and there’. Programs like the Almond Blossom Cruise brought in thousands of visitors for four weeks running. Our promotions are now featuring all the places you can take your dog to stay and eat, authentic Mexican restaurants and Taco Truck lists (just wait till we launch Taco Quest!) and we recently announced Graffiti Summer for August of this year. While drawing eyes to our social and digital media we share information about DoMo Walls and Modesto’s public murals, the outdoor amenities from disc golf to trail riding to birdwatching and even expanded information about all the farm stands and what is fresh every month to take back home.

Bottom line: Modesto has not only persevered through the toughest of tough times, but we are also building many new ways to attract and welcome visitors in the future. That means every one of us has a mission to do our part when we see a stranger (who may be from anywhere between Seattle and Sanibel Island); Smile, welcome them and make sure you share at least one reason you Love Modesto!

Go to for more information.


[1] STR data for 2020

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2020 Members Choice Award Winners



2020 Welcome Team Member of the Year – Bob Searls


2020 Ambassador of the Year – Madhu Singh 


2020 Non-Profit of the Year – United Way of Stanislaus County


 2020 Small Business of the Year – Pizzeria Halt


 2020 Green Business of the Year – Blue Diamond Growers


 2020 Distinguished Service Award – John Sanders


2020 Excellence in Education – Modesto Junior College School of Agriculture


2020 COVID Resiliency – Love Stanislaus County, Inc.


 2020 Chamber Member of the Year – Comcast


2020 Citizen of the Year – Brad Hawn

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Air quality issues and strategies in the San Joaquin Valley

By Anthony Presto, Outreach & Communications – San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

Air quality challenges in the San Joaquin Valley are unmatched by any other region in the nation. Due to its unique geography, topography, and meteorology, meeting federal health-based air quality standards is a daunting task.

Since 1992, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has implemented a variety of some of the most ambitious air pollution control strategies in the nation. A wide-range of measures, including regulations, public education and outreach, and robust incentive programs to deploy clean-air technologies have resulted in significant reductions of particulate matter emissions and ground-level ozone.

Despite many air quality improvements, we still have a long way to go in order to reach our clean-air goals.

As we continue to search for additional strategies to reduce emissions Valley-wide, we also continue to invest millions of dollars in grants and incentives where we do not have regulatory authority.

The Valley Air District offers grants to assist businesses, agricultural operators, public agencies and Valley residents to replace older, higher-polluting vehicles and other equipment, with new, clean technologies. Listed here are some of the programs currently offered:

Clean Green Yard Machines – Residential: Provides two flexible options for rebates to Valley residents. Replace an old gas-powered lawn mower with a new electric lawn mower or purchase new electric powered landscape equipment for your yard. Details:

Clean Green Yard Machines – Commercial: Provides incentives for up to 70 percent of the replacement cost of landscape maintenance equipment to lawn care providers, from gas/diesel equipment to electric. The program is open to public agencies and private landscaping businesses in the San Joaquin Valley. Details:

Drive Clean in the San Joaquin Rebate Program: Provides rebates to Valley residents and businesses of up to $3,000 on the purchase or lease of new, clean-air vehicles. Details:

Burn Cleaner Program: Helps reduce particulate matter from older wood-burning devices that contribute significantly to air pollution in the Valley during the Fall and Winter months. Burn Cleaner provides from $1,000 to $3,000 when upgrading from an open-hearth fireplace or older, non-certified wood stove to a certified wood/pellet or natural gas device. Details:

ChargeUp!: This Program provides funding for public agencies, businesses, and property owners of multi-unit dwellings, such as apartment complexes in the San Joaquin Valley, to install electric vehicle (EV) chargers to support existing EV owners and encourage the growth of clean technology in the Valley. The program provides up to $5,000 for single port, Level 2 chargers and as much as $50,000 for up to 10 charging ports. Details:

Truck Replacement Program: Provides assistance with the replacement of heavy duty diesel trucks with zero and near-zero emissions technology. Details:


For further information on these and other grants available from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, visit or call 559-230-5800.

Posted by & filed under Community, Education.


Written By: Brandon Schwartz of Boomajoom



2020 is behind us, but we can expect 2021 to be full of just as much change. There are three key trends that small business owners in the central valley need to pay attention to.

First, marketing is increasingly becoming transparent and traceable. There’s an old joke that half your marketing budget is wasted, but you don’t know which half. The last several years have begun to carve away at the truth behind the joke, and 2021 will likely accelerate the trend. As more and more marketing efforts become tied to the internet, small business owners have the opportunity to track which media are effective and which aren’t. Methods include dedicated call forwarding numbers, advanced analytics to track individual users across devices, and even tying actual transactions to marketing campaigns. 2021 will see tighter budgets with more emphasis on traceability.

Second, local businesses are reaching customers outside their immediate geography. In an era of shelter in place orders and social distancing, business owners are turning to the internet to sell. A tamale maker in Texas uses sophisticated online advertising programs to reach customers across the country. Because they have a commercial kitchen and have already passed health inspection, restaurants and food makers are in a prime position to sell nationwide with little barriers to entry. A shoe retailer local to the valley can likewise sell significant product on the East Coast. 2021 will see more local businesses taking their product nationwide.


Third, small businesses will expand their reliance on larger platforms to reach their audience. It is no longer enough to have a website. Business owners who sell product online are partnering with Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Google, Facebook, and others to increase their reach. It’s a love/hate relationship to be sure; Walmart and Amazon especially have placed a lot of competitive pressure on small businesses. Yet at the same time, small retailers can sell product to consumers through those websites. 2021 will see more businesses reluctantly partner with giants who have immediate reach to customers.


2020 has forced everyone’s hand; we have to think differently to survive. The traditional approaches don’t work. As Chamber members plan ahead, it will be very important to keep these trends in mind.

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We invite you to join us as we inspire the dreams of our future workforce. This is an opportunity for your business to impact youth in our community. We will record segments of a “day in the life” of your business to give students a first hand experience in the field of their individual interest, within one of the 15 sectors of business and industry.


We know when we spark the interest and dreams of a youth early in his or her educational path, we build a direct connection to opportunity that is right here in their own hometown. Research tells us, by the sixth grade, a student is already determining his or her future. If a student has something that is tangible and seen as a reward for hard work and effort, he or she is able to build a plan to get to their dreams.


The Inspire Youth Inspire Dream Event is only the start of paving the way for college or career training. There will be extension opportunities for each student in supporting them through high school with the focus on his or her identified interests. The final destination will be for each student to be prepared to move into a career training program and/or college to pursue their passion. 


Through the Inspire Youth Inspire Dreams Platform our goal is to facilitate each and every student who participates in recognizing his or her

interests and discovering the opportunity to build their future in Modesto, CA.


To register click here.