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THE HONOREES—Sitting, from left: Tammy Thompson, Terry Lynne Shields, Leslie Evans, Donielle Owen, Jessica N. Brown. Standing, from left: Marlon Ferguson, Tiffany Huff-Strothers, Anna E. Hollis, Dean Williams. (Photos by J.L. Martello)

Passion met the road for the fourth time on Saturday Sept. 30 at the Ace Hotel in East liberty. Before a packed room of upwards of 150 guests, Erica Upshaw-Givner hosted her annual event wherein she salutes individuals who work in the area of serving others—empowering and ushering people through their broken, wounded, or fractured lives.

The program was comprised of several opportunities for the audience to get a glimpse of the complexity of lives of even accomplished individuals, and to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of investing in improving the lives of others—and why people choose to do it.

This year, opening remarks came from noted author and educator Patrice Wade Johnson. Her comments came from a standpoint of her personal losses at an early age—and the value in learning early that in life there are times you’ll need help.


“I was 14 years old when my oldest brother was arrested for drugs, and as a family we were blindsided—we didn’t even know he was in any way involved in that life,” Wade Johnson said. “That same fall, my parents separated and we had never even heard them argue. By Christmas I was in Pittsburgh for the holiday, and had gone to the movies with friends. I came home to find our house surrounded by the police—my grandfather had been murdered.”

She goes on to explain: “These are the varying forms of trauma that kids come to school with every day, while yet trying to learn.” The need for help starts early, Wade Johnson said.

In a segment dubbed, “We are Not Exempted,” Brian Broome, a local award-winning writer, shared with the audience the story of his rise out of the dark places his alcoholism took him. His humor and candor made a direct hit with the audience. He stressed that needing help is not abnormal, and that seeking help actually shows strength—and that living in a better place makes us all a work in progress.

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