The pathway through Phipps Conservatory through which guests had to walk to reach the Tropical Forest special events hall created the perfect backdrop for the fifth annual “Passion Meets The Road” event, an afternoon of celebration, honor and recognition.
Awards were bestowed in three categories: Forerunner honorees, Entrepreneur honorees and Roadrunner honorees. Those such as LouAnn Ross, Eileen Sharbaugh, Lynee Williams and Tammy Murdock were Forerunner honorees for their work in co-founding Jeremiah’s Place, Pittsburgh’s only crisis nursery in East Liberty. Other honorees in the category were Giselle Fetterman and Leah Lizarondo of 4-1-2 Food Rescue, Brettney Duck of G.O Girls, and Ciora Thomas of SisTers Pittsburgh.
In the Entrepreneur category, honorees included Tyian Battle, founder of ACH Clear Pathways, Julius Boatwright Steel, Keysha Gomez of H.O.P.E. for Tomorrow (West End), Nikkia Ingram of Cultivating Resilience in Youth, and Leonard Hammonds II of Hammonds Initiative.
The Roadrunner honorees included Roy Blankenship of Hilltop Alliance, Richard Garland with the Department of Community Health Sciences (University of Pittsburgh), Doug Spencer with Allegheny County Department of Human Services, and Shanon Williams, the founder of Self Care Housekeeping.
“I started Passion Meets The Road because I’d never seen any recognition for social workers,” Erica Givner, LCSW, said. “Individuals I felt who not only truly deserved it, but I felt the public should have a clearer understanding of what it is to do work on behalf of families. So it stayed on my heart to identify some of these people and host and event honoring them.”
Speakers during the Sept. 30 event included Terri Minor-Spencer, who spoke of “mountains moving” for her—at one time, she was involved in the sale of illegal drugs, then had struggles with addiction, then was incarcerated. But the shift occurred when “mountains” were moved and she told the powerful story of gaining employment at the Poise Foundation for 12 years. She’s now the outreach coordinator at Amachi Pittsburgh, as well as leader of her own nonprofit organization, P.O.W.E.R. (Providing Opportunities With Effective Resources).
There was also a proclamation presented by Wilkinsburg Mayor Marita Garrett.
Halima Tammy Thompson served as keynote speaker for the event, and she had her own personal testimony—experiencing hunger and homelessness. Thompson, the executive director of Circles Greater Pittsburgh, discussed the depth of the trials of individuals living in poverty, who are disenfranchised, and who have an entirely different culture they must create because of the minimal income.
She shared that each person being recognized was a person whose service she could have used when she was a 22-year-old mom with children. She discussed the importance of social services providers whose work is intended to help navigate families out of poverty, understanding that poverty is far more than just about not having money, that those living in low-economic status believe themselves to be invisible, and are in a “Dark Place” because of that.
Thompson, whose keynote speech was indeed titled “Dark Place,” told the audience that their work should be directing them to the light, which is their potential to live full productive lives as equal members of society.
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