Esther Kenyon has become so entrenched in the Seal Beach Community there are few events in the city in which she does not have a hand. Although a resident of Hawaiian Gardens, Esther regards Seal Beach as her “hometown.” Actively involved in the community affairs of Seal Beach for the past 13 years, a friend recently said, “Esther, you sleep in Hawaiian Gardens, but you live in Seal Beach.”
In February of 2020, Esther will be honored as the Seal Beach Citizen of the Year at the Cypress College Americana Awards.
Esther spent 20 years as a professional fund raiser and event planner in Los Angeles, before retiring to Hawaiian Gardens in 2004. She discovered Seal Beach and recognized its welcoming small-town ambience, much like in her rural Iowa upbringing. She joined the Seal Beach Chamber of commerce in 2006 and immediately found fulfillment for her community spirit by volunteering for the Classic Car Show, the Health Expo, the Christmas Tree Lighting and various other committees, all geared to civic and business enhancement.
“Esther’s level of energy for service to her community is unmatched. Esther brought culture to the community through the Community Performing Arts Association which she runs single handedly and most recently, took charge of a Lions project to build a welcoming archway into Main Street,” Lions Club Member and Chairman, Americana Citizen of the Year Committee, Scott Newton said. “Esther is more than deserving of this recognition.”
She made a decision to come out of retirement in 2010 and accepted the position of CEO of the Chamber. During her tenure, she created a “Seal Beach Beautification and Culture Program,” working closely with the City Council to enhance Main Street with flower planters, new trees, new lighting, hanging light post flowerpots and a yearly U.S. flag display during the summer months.
She also founded the Ambassador program for the Chamber and also laid the groundwork for their Member-to-Member Discount Program. When she retired from this position in 2012, as recognition, she was given a Certificate of Appreciation for Civic Service, City Council of Seal Beach, a Certificate of Recognition for Seal Beach Chamber and City of Seal Beach Service and a Certificate of Recognition by the California Legislative Assembly.
In September 2018, Esther received the Seal Beach Chamber’s “Heart of the Community” award for her continuing volunteer service with the Chamber.
Equally important has been her community volunteer service as a member of the Seal Beach Lions Club. Now a seven-year member, she served on the Board of Directors for four years, volunteering for the Christmas Parade Committee, the annual Fish Fry event, and was media liaison for the 2016 Arts and Crafts Faire, helping create a record-breaking attendance of nearly 2000 people.
Esther was honored by being chosen the Grand Marshall of the 2018 Lions’ Christmas Parade and she is currently the Chairman of the Lions’ Legacy Project Committee whose dedication is to erect a “Welcome to Seal Beach” archway at Main Street and PCH. It is projected to be installed by October, 2020, to commemorate the 105th Anniversary of the City of Seal Beach.
For her devoted service to the Lions Club, Esther has received its highest award, The Melvin Jones Fellowship, and also the Harvey J. Aslan Fellowship, the Brian Van Dusen Fellowship, the Donald Ranney Fellowship and two Abul Service Recognitions. In June 2019, she was honored by receiving the first Seal Beach Lions’ “Heart of Service” award.
Current Chamber of Commerce President, Kori DeLeon said that Esther is willing to give of herself endlessly and that she challenges herself and others to continue to do that. As far as Esther’s long involvement in the Chamber over the years, DeLeon noted Esther’s shaping of its Ambassador’s program, which she said now mirrors Eshter’s personality. It is now the welcoming face of the chamber, out in the community, DeLeon said.
“I truly believe she is the most gracious person I have ever met” DeLeon said.
In 2014, perceiving a lack of a performing fine arts culture in Seal Beach, she drew on her considerable personal experience in the field of music and theater and established a non-profit organization, The Seal Beach Community Performing Arts Association, to bring live performance opportunities of orchestra concerts, dance, opera, drama, children’s theater, musicals and more to the citizens of Seal Beach.
The organization was launched in August 2014, with “Sunday in the Park with Shakespeare” featuring a, free to the public, performance of a Shakespeare play in Eisenhower Park. This event, attended each year by nearly 1,000, produced its 6th performance in 2019.
The 45th Annual Americana Awards, a Cypress College signature event, honoring “Citizens of Year” from the communities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, Garden Grove, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach and Stanton, will be held Feb. 29, 2020 at the Disneyland Hotel. Proceeds from this event support the work of the Cypress College Foundation which funds student scholarships and more.