Readers' Poll BEST OF MONTEREY COUNTY® 2023 13 around town Best Volunteer Organization Meals on Wheels of the Monterey Peninsula 700 Jewell Ave., Pacific Grove (831) 375-4454, One of Steinbeck’s gripes was that government could do more to help its poorer citizens. In his time, there were just dribbles of aid from charities. But when the organization providing aid is Meals on Wheels of the Monterey Peninsula, you can be sure that help is on the way. Last years, its 250 volunteer drivers delivered 276,000 meals around their service area—meals prepared by a team of cooks, providing breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also offer group dining in the Community Center, as well as recreational and social activites—again through the support of volunteers. Steinbeck would have been impressed. Best Local Do-Gooder Elsa Rivera Seemingly wherever you go in Monterey County, Elsa Rivera is there. Mostly, she’s behind the scenes, orchestrating creative events that support charitable causes—things like the Big Sur Fashion Show (executive director) or Big Sur Food and Wine Festival (CFO and events director). Sometimes she’s on the stage as an emcee, a role the dancer has leaned into since a knee injury. “I love uplifting people’s talents,” she says. “Art is essential—we need it for our souls.” Other volunteer roles include serving on the boards of the Monterey Bay Jade Festival and GI Josie, where she introduced the Blue Water Project to support surf therapy for women recovering from PTSD. Rivera also helped grow pandemic relief efforts The Big Share and ALL-IN Monterey. In short, giving back is built into her daily life. “I believe we make time for anything we want to do,” she says. “I think not having time is a lame excuse. We can always make time for things we love.” Best Local Nonprofit Best Place to Take Visitors Monterey Bay Aquarium 886 Cannery Row, Monterey (831) 648-4800, montereybayaquarium. org Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck’s best friend and the model for the character Doc in Cannery Row, would be amazed that a neighbor to his famed Pacific Biological Laboratories—a compact wooden building where he stored and researched his marine animal finds from Monterey Bay and Pacific Ocean from 1936 until his untimely death in 1948—is today the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Aquarium takes the storage and study of those animals to a level beyond what Ricketts might have imagined. Since 1984 the Aquarium has been one of the top aquariums in the world, and along with its research arm, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, has been facilitating important discoveries and bringing them to millions of visitors. The newest exhibit, Into the Deep, was made possible using a remotely operated vehicle, named appropriately the ROV Doc Ricketts. If you and your visitors haven’t seen the exhibit, it’s a good reason to return. And with a mission to inspire conservation of the world’s oceans, the Aquarium remains one of the leading nonprofit organizations anywhere. Best Radio Station 101.7 FM, KCDu The Beach 80 Garden Court, Monterey (831) 658-6200, If a song is hot, The Beach has it on the playlist—“Minnie The Moocher,” “In the Mood,” Wabash Cannonba... Woops! Wrong era. Instead, think Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa, SZA, Harry Styles, Taylor Swift and all the current hits. On-air talents like JoJo Lopez, Tommy Del Rio, Fredo and Tino Cochino set the soundtrack of now, making every day lively. Plus, you can score some great concert tickets from their contests. Best Radio DJ Jeff White KRML, 94.7 FM 27300 Rancho San Carlos Road, Carmel (831) 620-7374, Between music, general wisdom and a devotion to surfing, the tides and the nonprofit organization Surfrider, Jeff White sets a unique tone that clearly resonates with listeners. Every morning on KRML he lays down information that is useful and helps people stay in the know. Best of all, best College Professor | Enid Ryce