FAMILIES SERVED—Front, from left: Shelly Thompson,  Jacqueline Grace,  April Townsend, Darwin Dillard and Jaumair Garland. Back row, from left: Delrico Walker, Rochelle Felder, Troy Miles, Sharael Alston and Keisha Wise.

 In an evening of tribute, recognition, celebration and gratitude, The Small Seeds Development Inc. celebrated 14 years of empowering families and impacting communities.  The  banquet was held  on top of Mt. Washington at the LeMont Restaurant.  The room held the perfect ambiance, as the windows all around revealed the breathtaking view of picturesque downtown Pittsburgh. Attendees enjoyed a sumptuous meal of Crabcakes,  Medallions of beef, roasted potatoes, green beans garnished in lemon and a dessert of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.  



HONOREES—From left; Joseph Mertz, PhD; Dr. Jeannette E. South-Paul; Mark Lewis; Kathi Elliott, accepting for her late mother Gwendolyn J. Elliott; and Judith Mason.

 A celebrity tag team mistress and master of ceremonies, Anchor/Reporters, KDKA–TV, Brenda J. Waters and Harold Hayes, ushered the audience through the night which began with highlights  and presentations of the Small Seeds Programs.  First there was the Mother to Son Program, lead by Bonita Massie and Thomas E. Ramsey, assistant program manager.  Ramsey spoke of the texture of the program and what they tried to do for and with the young men.  Program participant Delrico Walker spoke of what being in the Mother to Son program meant to him and how it changed his life.  

The Family Group Decision Making program is headed by Tiffany Lumpkin.  She introduced program participant Rochelle Felder,  a mom who spoke of what it meant for her and her 16-year-old daughter to get into this program.  Felder, an aspiring artist shared that she and her daughter where beginning to have typical troubles that happen between mothers and teen daughters, and that she was beginning to feel a disconnect when she discovered the Family Group Decision Making Program. “It was the best thing that could have happened to us,” says Felder.   

The Inua Ubuntu (Swahili and Bantu meaning “Lift Up, I am because we are”) is a program designed to keep young African-American males-ages 0-18 safely in their homes and to reduce the rate of African-American male children requiring out of home placement.

Assistant Program Manager Eric Blackwell introduced a mother and her son, Troy Miles, who have gone through the program.  The mom said that she cannot say enough about how Blackwell worked with her sons. She added that she strongly felt that she was no longer connecting to her sons, and Blackwell worked very hard with them to get through this period.  

Following the presentations of Small Seeds programs, their staff and some participants, the M.C.s conducted the Community Service awards presentations.  Awards were given in the area of Community Service  to: Mark S. Lewis, president & CEO of the Poise Foundation, in nonprofit leadership; Judith Mason, assistant vice president for community development at Dollar Bank for Community Service in Business;  Joseph Mertz, PhD, associate teaching professor in H. John Heinz III College at Carnegie Mellon University, for Community Service in Technology; Dr. Jeannette E. South-Paul and Andrew W. Mathieson, UPMC Professor and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, for Community Service in Health; and the Chairman’s Award was presented posthumously to the late Gwendolyn J. Elliott, former Commander with the Pittsburgh Police Department and founder of Gwen’s Girls, an organization she started in 2002 with funds from Allegheny County’s Office of Children, Youth and Families to address the need for servicing at-risk girls between the ages of 8-18.  

Special acknowledgement was made to the late Elbert S. Hatley for his work as a champion for communities, an ambassador for people and man who was a great example of “servant leadership.”

The last special award of the night was presented to Dr. Marcia Sturdivant, who recently stepped down from her post as Deputy Director of the Department of Human Services Office of Children, Youth, and Families to take over the helm at NEED. Sturdivant was heralded by leaders of the organizations who drive the Inua Inbuntu Program, for her commitment to the preservation of African-American families.  Sturdivant was instrumental in implementing the Inua Program, housed in three agencies across the city- Small Seeds, Project Destiny on North Side and the Center for family Excellence in the Hill District.  In her remarks, Sturdivant urged the audience to recognize the valiant and important work being done by these organizations to “fight” for our families.

Small Seeds will continue its mission of empowering families.  In his written statement, CEO Andrew Cheeseboro shared information about plans for growth. “The organization will be soon launching a new initiative called Social Services and Employment Assistance Program, which will assist young workers and others with eliminating social barriers to employment.”

A silent auction, music by the Kevin Howard Duo, enough positive energy in the room to keep changing lives, awards and rewards and all, made for an enriching evening. 



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