Urban League Gala sets new fundraising record

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This year the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh set a new record when the organization raised $394,000 at the Ronald H. Brown Leadership Awards Gala at the Westin Convention Center Hotel on Dec. 7. The annual event recognizes individuals and organizations who have shown a commitment to improving the quality of life for African-Americans.

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GIVING THANKS—Esther Bush thanks everyone for coming. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

“The Urban League does a lot of things with the money you give us,” said Urban League President and CEO Esther Bush. “We must persevere for the sake of all our children.”

Eighty percent of the funds raised at the annual gala go directly toward supporting the Urban League’s programs, which include housing, employment and educations services. This year’s total raised at the gala far surpassed last year’s total of $326,000 and the gala’s previous record of $358,000.

Last year the Urban League served more than 2,300 people with their employment counseling and training programs. On average they serve approximate 28,000 people every year.

At the gala, the Urban League presented a special Lifetime Achievement Award to Tim Stevens, lifelong civil rights activist,and current chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project. Stevens also served as president of the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP for a decade, where he helped bring about the city’s first African-American cultural center and furthered opportunities for women and minority contractors.

“Some of us thought we won battles that we’re fighting again. But the fight continues on many fronts,” Stevens said. “I don’t need anymore acknowledgements. My acknowledgement would be if we got the problems fixed permanently.”

Recognized with the Corporate Leadership Award was Doris Carson Williams, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania, the second largest minority chamber in the country. Williams was also the first African-American female board chair of the Pittsburgh Urban League.

“I’m truly honored. I worked at the Urban League for many years in the 80s and 90s and this is the pinnacle of what you can receive,” Williams said. “The Urban League afforded me many opportunities in starting the African American Chamber of Commerce.”

Carnegie Mellon University President Jared Cohen was also recognized with a Corporate Leadership Award. During his tenure as president, Carnegie Mellon has seen the second largest increase in African-American graduation rates as well as additions in African-American faculty members.

“I’m delighted to be sharing (this award) with two heroes in the community. It’s an honor to be receiving it from the Urban League as well, an organization that means so much to this community. I’m so honored,” Cohen said. “I’m not in anyway satisfied with where Carnegie Mellon is with diversity and I’m happy to say my colleagues aren’t either. Being more diverse makes us better.”

Serving as honorary chairs of the gala were EQT and First Niagara. The event’s lead partners were Covelli Enterprises, Giant Eagle Inc., Howard Hanna, People’s Gas, PNC Bank, and UPMC.

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