Families make up communities and communities make up the world. One local organization is dedicated to strengthening families and fortifying our communities. In celebration of its achievements, over the past 13 years, the organization held its third annual Signature Event on Sept. 26, at LeMont Restaurant.

AWARDEES—From left: The Hon. Dwayne D. Woodruff, Chairman’s Award; Diana Angela Bucco, Nonprofit Leadership Award; Orlana and Darnell Drewery, The Darkins Group & The Shyne Awards, Business Award; Candi Castleberry Singleton, Inclusion and Diversity Award; and Robert Hill, Public Affairs Award. (Photos by Rossano P. Stewart)

Small Seeds Development Inc. offers a broad range of social services needed by families and youth. The organization provides prevention services and works with individuals in crises situations throughout the Greater Pittsburgh area. The organization is known by families, communities and leaders in the region because of the Mother to Son, Family Group Decision Making and Inua Ubuntu Programs working to strengthen families and to improve communities.

Taking on the dual role of honorary chairs and mistress and master of ceremonies, Brenda J. Waters, reporter and anchor for KDKA/WPCW-TV, and Chris Moore, WQED, KDKA, and PCNC producer and host, facilitated the evening’s events.

Small Seeds honored those who have contributed significantly to the community and provided special support and assistance to the organization with an awards ceremony. Honorees included:

•Chairman’s Award: Honorable Dwayne D. Woodruff, Court of Common Pleas;

•Public Affairs Award: Robert Hill, vice chancellor for Public Affairs, University of Pittsburgh;

•Inclusion and Diversity Award: Candi Casselberry-Singleton, chief diversity officer, UPMC;

•Nonprofit Leadership Award: Diana Angela Bucco, president, The Forbes Funds;

•Business Award: Orlana Darkins Drewery and Darnell Drewery, The Darkins Group & Shyne Awards.

“In 2012 we faced many challenges to empower more families. We will keep planting seeds and bearing fruit because the family remains our greatest national treasure, said Andrew Cheeseboro, Small Seeds CEO. “There are more families to work with and communities that need our services expect positive outcomes in the preservation of families and youth.”

Through its three programs, Small Seeds is committed to resolving problems that weaken individuals, families and communities. The Family Group Decision Making empowers families to tap into extended family and community resources to address issues, make healthy decisions and meet challenges of raising children. Helping single mothers in the challenge of raising young males is the Mother to Son Program. With practical, preventive, and faith-based approaches, this program aims to keep young males in school and out of trouble. Lastly, Inua Ubuntu (Swahili and Bantu for Lift up, I am because we are) uses social service and community-based organizations to improve the quality of life of male children and young adults. The program is a culturally based intervention and child protection service aimed at keeping young African-American males safely in their homes and to reduce the rate of out-of-home placements.

To date, Small Seeds’ three programs have provided direct services to more than 1,800 families and 6,000 children. The organization plans to expand its programs, build new partnerships, and continue to collaborate with organizations that can step in and provide additional supports and services.

“Our programs do not only benefit the people we directly serve, but also the communities they live in. We educate families and expose youth to the arts, sciences and business world,” Cheeseboro said.

These programs additionally meet the needs of families by providing financial literacy, education, cultural and health activities, mother support groups, manhood training, parenting education and Council of Elders, and intervention services. “There are many nonprofits out there, but we meet the challenges of families and help them to address their issues using a strength-based approach in partnership with other community resources,” Cheeseboro said. “Small Seeds is an emerging organizations and establishing deep roots in a short period of time.”

The highlight of the evening was hearing Glen Almon, 12, and Keith Pennington, 11, two young products of Small Seeds, articulate how the program has enriched their lives. “Being in Small Seeds has taught me how to become a man,” said Almon. “I learned the seven R’s (Rights of Passage) and how to give back to the community.”

Pennington said he learned to believe in himself. He mastered a 30-foot pole climb during a trust building activity. “The organization has taught me how to live life to the fullest,” he said.

The organization helps to improve the academic performance of youth, helps families to remain intact, and enables individuals to accomplish personal goals.

“The event was a success because participants told their stories, we honored special community leaders, and welcomed new friends,” Cheeseboro said. “It was an evening to celebrate accomplishments for the year and to declare our efforts to become more effective.”

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