It’s not every day that you’re given a key to the city by the Mayor of Coronado. Just ask Donna Salof, who turned 70 yesterday.
A surprise birthday gathering at Feast and Fareway—orchestrated by good friends Alan and Lisa Kinzel, along with Amel Esposito—wasn’t the only unexpected occurrence.
As a singer crooned over her guitar, against a backdrop of the golf course and San Diego Coronado Bridge, a small group of mask-clad friends chatted over cocktails and appetizers. Then, a surprise guest weaved his way through the group.
It was Mayor Richard Bailey.
“I didn’t really know what a real community was until I moved to Coronado, and I didn’t really understand that it took a lot of special people to make a community a special place to live,” said Mayor Bailey, as he addressed the guests. “Donna Salof is certainly one of those individuals.”
Donna, who has said she prefers to “fly under the radar,” seemed flattered to find herself on the receiving end of such winsome words.
“Donna Salof’s love of the City of Coronado is second to none; now, therefore, on behalf of the City of Coronado, I do proclaim July 1, 2020, as Donna Salof Day,” said Mayor Bailey.
As the guests cheered, Mayor Bailey continued his address.
“Donna is the kind of person that is not only willing to write a big check to underwrite great causes, but she is also the kind of person who will roll up her sleeves, and do the little things that make the local events such a success,” said Mayor Richard Bailey. “So, because of your untiring commitment to the City of Coronado, it is an honor on behalf of the entire City Council to present to you a key to the city.”
Donna’s generous work in the Coronado Schools Foundation is well-documented, and she has chaired and presented numerous galas and charity events to benefit all the students of Coronado.
“Donna has dedicated many hours and days volunteering, with her sleeves rolled up, and helping others and various charitable organizations,” explained Mayor Bailey. “She is a nationally-respected philanthropist, and a selfless volunteer.”
Jeanmarie Bond, CEO of Coronado Schools Foundation, agrees that Donna is well-deserving of the recognition.
“Donna has been so generous to her community, and she has adopted Coronado as her home even though she is not from here,” says Jeanmarie. “She has embraced our children, she has embraced our schools, and we love her.”
You may be wondering, what is the “key to the city,” exactly? Well, it is an actual key…and a pretty one at that. But it’s much more than a trinket. For Donna, it’s a symbol of a tireless dedication to the community.
According to Brown University, the key symbolizes the freedom of the recipient to enter and leave the city at will, as a trusted friend of city residents. The idea dates back to medieval times, when the “key to the city” would actually function to unlock city gates.
Former recipients of the key to the city include USS Coronado Commanders Michael ‘Shawn’ Johnston and John Kochendorfer in 2014, as well as Hollywood actress Jane Russell in 2010. Oscar and Gary, a gay couple from Arizona who were heckled at their wedding, were also given keys, so they would know Coronado was sorry for their treatment, and they were always welcome back. Other past recipients include wounded warriors, musicians, and long-term city employees, according to former Mayor Casey Tanaka.
Donna’s longtime friend Amel Esposito also spoke at the ceremony.
“You are the most generous and gracious person, always supporting all of the charities that come to you,” said Amel. “And you are so generous with your time, and your friendship, and your talents, and we really appreciate you.”
Alan Kinzel, local realtor and good friend, had equally kind words.
“Donna is the most deserving person in the community that I know of,” said Alan. “Donna gives so much in the community, to the kids of Coronado, to the Coronado Schools Foundation, to Coronado’s Talent, to 92118 Day. So many people ask her for help, she is always stepping up to help make Coronado a better place.”