Mother’s Day Edition: Challenges Give Strength

Letti Sanchez – A Volunteer With Big Dream for Her Kids

Letti Sanchez_1

Mom’s Name: Letti Sanchez

Home City: Alamo, Texas

Organization affiliation: La Union del Pueblo Entero

Community participation: Education, Dream Act and legacy of Cesar Chavez

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Letti, a mother of three DREAMers, works diligently, selling used clothes, cutting grass, cleaning houses and other in-between jobs to make sure her children go to college. Letti is also a volunteer in her community, lending her landscaping skills and event planning wisdom to community festivals like the annual Cesar Chavez Memorial March.”

Nominated by: John-Michael Torres

This profile is part of Equal Voice News’ special edition honoring “Community Trailblazers” for Mother’s Day. They are women who work daily to improve their communities. These nominations were edited for clarity.

Leticia Parra – Supports Streetlights, Safety in Colonia

Mom’s Name: Leticia Parra

Home City: Edinburg, Texas

Organization affiliation: La Union del Pueblo Entero


Community participation: Public streetlights and drainage


Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Leticia Parra, a mother of five, has dedicated herself to fighting for improvements in her Edinburg, Texas-area colonia, Curry Estates.

She is most passionate about drainage improvements and streetlights, speaking up for her family and her neighbors at county meetings and with her precinct commissioner.”


Nominated by: John-Michael Torres


This profile is part of Equal Voice News’ special edition honoring “Community Trailblazers” for Mother’s Day. They are women who work daily to improve their communities. These nominations were edited for clarity.

Dasia Corado – ‘We can always count on Dasia’

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Mom’s Name: Dasia Corado

Home City: Chicago

Organization affiliation: Erie Neighborhood House

Community participation: Child care funding

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer:“Dasia Corado is a single mother who works extremely hard to make ends meet and put food on the table. Aside from working full-time and raising three children, Dasia is extremely involved in the lives of her children and in our community.

All three of Dasia’s children are participants in our program and Dasia volunteers and is very involved at our agency. As a board member for Erie Neighborhood House, Dasia advocates for the families that we serve. Dasia attends meetings and coordinates events for the agency as a whole.
In our youth department, Dasia is a member of our Parent Council and has actively contributed for the past two years.

In order for our youth to attend field trips, fundraisers are coordinated and Dasia has taken an active role in carrying out fundraisers for the past four years. During our ‘Tostada Sale’ fundraisers, Dasia donates food items, prepares food and helps serve food during the sale. After the fundraisers, Dasia always stays and helps clean-up.

Even if she had a long day at work and is tired, we know that we can always count on Dasia to help us raise money for the program.”

Nominated by: Wendy Viteri

This profile is part of Equal Voice News’ special edition honoring “Community Trailblazers” for Mother’s Day. They are women who work daily to improve their communities. These nominations were edited for clarity.

Xiomara Maldonado – Serves as Her Daughter’s Role Model

Mom’s Name: Xiomara Maldonado

Home City: Chicago

Organization affiliation: Erie Neighborhood House

Community participation: Children’s education and child care funding

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Xiomara is a single mom and she is her daughter’s role model. In addition to working a full time job, she recently returned to school focusing on the medical field.

She’s a very active advocate for children’s rights and education. She is on Erie’s parent council and Erie’s board. She has attended rallies in Springfield and meetings with the school principal.

She is involved in the community to better her own life and the life of her daughter, Xiana.”


Nominated by: Valery Sheppard



Mairyn Hernandez – ‘A Great Leader and Advocate’

Mom’s Name: Mairyn Hernandez

Home City: Chicago

Organization affiliation: Erie Neighborhood House

Community participation: Child care funding

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “I am nominating Mairyn Hernandez because she has evolved into a great leader and advocate for her child.

She first got involved by volunteering in her daughter’s classroom and when she saw the flyer posted asking parents to attend the Parent Policy Committee she decided to attend. Mairyn has been an active voice on the parent policy committee and has worked her way up to her current position of Parent Policy Committee President. She is also our representative on the Erie Board of Directors representing the Childcare Program.

Mairyn has emerged as a leader and has invested a lot of her time and energy which has helped to build a foundation for future success for her daughter and family. We want all of our parents to become actively involved and Mairyn is a great role model leading the way for others to follow.”


Nominated by: Karina Viteri

This profile is part of Equal Voice News’ special edition honoring “Community Trailblazers” for Mother’s Day. They are women who work daily to improve their communities. These nominations were edited for clarity.

June Lynn Strohlin – Supports Engaging Young People

Mom’s Name: June Lynn Strohlin

Home City: San Francisco

Organization affiliation: Parent Voices

Community participation: Child care and family economic security, education and health care

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “June Lynn, or Jewnbug as we all call her, is an amazing parent and advocate. She has transcended her struggles as a single parent, and despite her busy schedule, bringing up her two children, honor student Solomon 10 and charming Nyah 3 (who has mild cerebral palsy). She is able to manage her time to speak out and share her story to influence policies and create positive change that impacts families with young children.

She is also an avid recruiter of other parents to join Parent Voices. She is a spoken word artist, has her AA in Child Development and is a volunteer teacher for the youth in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. She teaches social studies, focusing on ‘community building’ and civic engagement, fueled by her conviction that we should start engaging the youth while they are still very curious and have open minds about the society they live in.

June is one of our Parent Voices Steering Committee members both in San Francisco and statewide. Her home is also a favorite hangout for the children of our other Parent Voices mamas. She is one of our unsung heroes.”


Nominated by: Maria Luz Torre


This profile is part of Equal Voice News’ special edition honoring “Community Trailblazers” for Mother’s Day. They are women who work daily to improve their communities. These nominations were edited for clarity.

Timaka James Jones – An ‘Organizer for Change’

Mom’s Name: Timaka James Jones

Home City: Belzoni, Miss.

Organization affiliation: Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights

Community participation: Housing and a living wage

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Timaka serves as the first African American and the first woman Circuit Clerk of Humphreys County in Belzoni, Mississippi. She has been serving in this position since 2003. Timaka also was the first woman to be elected as a Justice Court Judge in 1999.

Ms. James Jones is a powerful advocate and organizer for change in her community, the Mississippi Delta and the entire state of Mississippi. She is a longtime supporter of the Mississippi Workers’ Center and her efforts led to the passage of the Landlord Accountability Act in Belzoni.

This Act protects the rights of low income renters against unscrupulous landlords and owners. The Act was introduced as part of the Center’s ‘Housing as a Human Rights Campaign.’ She is a leader in our fight for workers and their families to have living wages and a more humane quality of life. She currently serves as Treasurer of the Center’s board.

But, the reason she is tapped for this tribute is because she is an extraordinary mother. Her two daughters, Gabby and Sylvia, are already walking in their mother’s footsteps as leaders in their own right. Happy Mother’s Day to Timaka and all the mothers who blaze the trail, break down barriers and demand justice for all.”


Nominated by: Jaribu Hill

Ericka Erickson – Making Marin a ‘More Equitable Place’

Mom’s Name: Ericka Erickson

Home City: San Rafael, Calif.

Organization affiliation: Marin Grassroots

Community participation: Transportation, women of color, civic leadership

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Ericka exemplifies what it means to ‘walk the walk.’ She has attended rallies both locally here in Marin and the Bay Area, as well as protests in Sacramento, for causes such as child care reform, immigration and other social justice causes.

Ericka, being both a wife and mother of a young child, has made tremendous sacrifices by working late during the week and through the weekend to help build or be a part of making Marin a more equitable place to live. It has become routine for her to navigate from one community meeting to another, pausing only to interact further with various community members to discuss other issues and concerns.

Standing side by side with the Latino community and other communities of concern, Ericka has been most impactful in lifting not only the voices, but the spirit, of Marin’s most underrepresented families. Ericka has dedicated countless hours mentoring members of the Spanish speaking community, serving as a positive role model while helping emerging leaders. Ericka’s passion about her work and the well being of the community has left a lasting impression on the policies being developed in our county and everyone she has come in contact with.

Ericka has facilitated the Equal Voice Leadership Academy (EVLA) for over six years, increasing the participants’ knowledge on community organizing and advocacy. Her participation in nurturing the Academy participants and alumni has led to an expansion of opportunities that has influenced public policy and has strengthened connections with allies working for and with working families to ensure long-term positive social change. Last year alone, the EVLA was instrumental in registering 583 new voters.

In 2012, Ericka made considerable change in the Marin community for the rights of the underserved. She was an instrumental part of passing a board of supervisors resolution on Sept. 25, 2012, asking the board to urge Jerry Brown to pass the TRUST Act. Additionally, she planned the first ever Women of Color Leadership Summit on Oct. 13, 2012, where about 80 local women of color were provided the opportunity to explore and reflect on the advancement as women of color leaders in the Bay Area and on the role for equity and justice that benefits our families and communities.

Ericka has more than 15 years of national and international experience in the areas of marketing, adult education, and organization development. She has been working for Marin Grassroots for the last 10 years and is serving the organization as the associate director. Besides serving on the Brazilian Alliance’s Advisory Board, Ericka also volunteers leading educational socio-political tours to Brazil, and serving on the board of directors of the Marin Institute and Violence Prevention Forum, as well as serving as commissioner for the Marin Women’s Commission, and most recently a Marin County Planning Commissioner.”


Nominated by: Jannicka Murphy


Dawn Peters – ‘A Sense of Purpose and Wholeness’

Dawn Peters_1

Mom’s Name: Dawn Peters

Home City: River Rouge, Mich.

Organization affiliation: The “Feed Da Streetz” Team, First Congregational UCC Church, Flat Rock, Mich. and First Congregational UCC of Gibraltar, Mich.

Community participation: Feeding and supporting her neighbors

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “We first met Dawn and her children at the First Congregational Church in Flat Rock when we started the community meal program in 2006.
She and her family were one of the first guests to come. With the severe economic decline in the area, and her hours reduced driving the school bus, Dawn said coming to the weekly community meal was the only way she could ‘take her kids out to eat.’ Over the years, we have seen Dawn struggle to support her family. We were pleased to be able to provide modest assistance through the Flat Rock Community Meal and the Gibraltar Food Pantry.

When her car broke down, she would walk the seven miles to work. When her youngest was 1 1/2 and not walking, she took her to all the specialists available through local Medicaid resources to get the necessary help. When she was not talking at age 3, she took her to different specialists. When her 10-year-old son was diagnosed with autism, she took on that challenge simultaneously dealing with her own health issues.

As a single mom, struggling to make ends meet, Dawn still found ways to count her blessings, and out of these blessings the means to help others.

Dawn and her children work as part of the ‘Feed Da Streetz’ Team in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods where they live. They seek out leftover produce and other food commodities and distribute them to neighbors.

They have now expanded this work to include harvesting salvageable items from homes slated for demolition and again disperse these items to neighbors in need. This past Christmas, when asked what gift we might purchase for the family they asked for a power tool and some work gloves to help their salvage work provide even more items for their neighbors in need.

There is not an ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ movie type ending to this story. Dawn still struggles to feed, clothe and house her family everyday. Multiple health issues abound, their home still gets extremely cold in the winter, that old decrepit truck still breaks down frequently and so miles and miles need to be walked by Mom and her kids alike.

But there is something more to this life than a fairy tale ending would provide. There is a sense of purpose and wholeness that derives its joy from the life action of ‘love of neighbor’ and this one family’s actions spills over into a life example for all of us.

This is the stuff of a way of life that the Gospel calls us to live.”

Nominated by: Rev. Dr. Terry and Sinclair Gallagher

This profile is part of Equal Voice News’ special edition honoring “Community Trailblazers” for Mother’s Day. They are women who work daily to improve their communities. These nominations were edited for clarity.



Princess Beverly Williams – A ‘Quiet Voice of Comfort’

Mom’s Name: Princess Beverly Williams

Home City: Oakland, Calif.

Organization affiliation: Causa Justa :: Just Cause

Community participation: Black and brown unity, gentrification.

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Princess Beverly Williams has worked for social justice for more than a decade in Oakland. A dedicated organizer who came up through the ranks of homeless organizing at Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, she has grown from a member to an outstanding leader at Causa Justa :: Just Cause.
She consistently recruits the most new members of anyone in her Oakland-based housing rights team. She builds bonds of friendship and mutual support with members she brings into the work. Princess Beverly provides a powerful example of working class Black leadership in a multiracial organization. She is always ready to go the extra mile for a friend or for the cause of justice, and her fiery agitation keeps people inspired.

At the end of 2012, Princess Beverly lost her son to gun violence in Oakland. The utter tragedy of suddenly losing her only son was profound for her, and all of us around her. We saw her incredible capacity for love as she engaged with other members and leaders who have also lost their sons to gun violence.

We saw her resilience when she refused to sit at home and succumb to depression, instead jumping back into serving others the very moment she was able. We saw her political vision, as we reflected on the relationship between gun violence and gentrification, and re-committed ourselves and our organization to building stable, healthy communities and confronting the way racism shortens the lives of those we love.

Princess Beverly is an inspiration to everyone at Causa Justa :: Just Cause. She can be the life of the party at social events, just as she can be a quiet voice of comfort to someone in need.

Even in the loss of her only son, Lorenzo Ward, she remains an inspiration as a mother of our movement.”

Nominated by: Maria Poblet


This profile is part of Equal Voice News’ special edition honoring “Community Trailblazers” for Mother’s Day. They are women who work daily to improve their communities. These nominations were edited for clarity.

Moms Coming Together, Giving Love to Kids

Mom’s Name: (These names refer to the group photo of moms to the right)

Carol Marshall, Tymara Perry, Mary Williams, Lesha Giles, Brenda Porter, Kajarvious Johnson, Kamiyah Johnson, Polly Anderson, Patricia Green, Nathaniel Green, Lisa Lee, Keverette Lee and Joyce Parker

Home City: Greenville (area), Miss.

Organization affiliation: Citizens for a Better Greenville

Community participation: Education and child care

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: (This nomination refers to this group of moms)

“I am nominating these moms for the unselfish work they have and still do for the children with disabilities in our community. They have come together to form a support group for families of children with disabilities to unite and be support for each other with a goal to improve the quality of life for those families while improving the quality of education and the way families receive services for them and their children. They meet on the second Tuesday of every month for the last nine years and are committed to this meeting no matter how many are in attendance. They believe that if a parent comes to the meeting they need information and encouragement. So they give it.

They have made changes in the school district that involve them meeting with the special education coordinator, superintendent, state Department of Education as well as attend numerous trainings and workshops. They have been able to get the district to hire additional case managers so that the level of accountability would be heightened and the needs of their children and others in the district would be met on a more timely bases, in which cases the ball would be dropped and children’s growth hindered. More than anything, these parents are a wealth of information and experience.

Transition is a real concern for any child and it must be done if the child is to experience real success. So after making this case over and over again the school board and the district administration agreed to hire a transition coordinator. These parents were concerned about how children with disabilities coexist in the community and have been instrumental in the creation of a camp for children with disabilities, the only one in the Mississippi Delta.

Because they know firsthand how important it is for the whole family to spend time together, so we started having breakfast and a movie the weekend of Thanksgiving and once during the Christmas holiday. The entire family is invited to attend and during the Christmas event we give educational gifts as a form of assistive technology that will support the learning process for the individual child.”

Nominated by: Joyce Parker


This profile is part of Equal Voice News’ special edition honoring “Community Trailblazers” for Mother’s Day. They are women who work daily to improve their communities. These nominations were edited for clarity.

Estala Vara – At ‘Forefront’ of ‘Immigrant Rights Struggle’

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Mom’s Name: Estala Vara

Home City: Illinois

Organization affiliation: Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Community participation: Immigrant rights

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Estela Vara is the board co-chair of PASO-West Suburban Action Project, a member organization of Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and one of the convening organizations for the Children’s March.
Estela is a mother of three and a fierce undocumented leader, at the forefront of the immigrant rights struggle in her community and working for social change.

Estela first became involved as a volunteer with PASO, helping fundraise for a national mobilization to Washington D.C. in support of immigration reform. That March, Estela led one of four buses that PASO organized to D.C., and helped raise over $16,000 for the costs of trip.

Returning energized from D.C., Estela continued her work locally, bringing attention to the increasing deportations affecting families. The next month, Estela helped organized a children-led march from one of the local churches to the Broadview Detention Center where she and her daughter stood in front of and publicly declared they were undocumented.

Estela continued developing her leadership and working for her community. That July, when the fight for the DREAM Act began, she began organizing with her daughter efforts to support it through their local churches and other churches. Estela helped lead call-in actions, organizing hundreds of calls after the masses. Her daughter, Arianna, took a leadership role in the struggle, publicly sharing her story.

Though the DREAM Act failed, Estela, her daughter and family continued organizing and fighting. The following year, PASO worked with ICIRR on the passage of the IL DREAM Act. Estela helped organized a lobby trip to Springfield with over 100 parents and youth to educate legislators on the importance of this legislation. Estela helped organize other mothers and parents, and motivated them to share their stories in support of their children. The IL DRAEM Act passed with overwhelming support, and both senators and all three state representatives in PASO’s districts voted in favor. Arianna was selected by her peers as keynote speaker at the May signing of the legislation by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Estela’s work did not end there. In 2012 she worked in support of the ‘Driver License for All’ campaign. Estela helped organize two of the five lobbying trips that PASO did to the state capitol. This time, Estela not only shared her testimony, she also mentioned new leaders to share theirs from a place of power and dignity. The driver licenses campaign passed, and PASO obtained bipartisan support.

That year, Estela returned to Broadview Detention Center, this time to lead a vigil to bring light to workplace raids that took place locally one week before Christmas. Estela led a vigil with religious leaders and the local mayor and trustee calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stop these attacks on families.

Estela has developed from a volunteer, to the organizations board co-chair, helping develop and mentor new leaders and fighting for social change along with her family. Not only is she a fearless leader, Estela is also a powerful mother, instilling in her children the spirit of struggle and the pride in raising their voices. In marches, actions or community meetings, Estela will often be with her children and husband, standing beside her in this struggle.

Estela is a strong example of the fortitude, fierceness and courage in immigrant women. Because of this, and much more, she is a true community trailblazer.”


Nominated by: Ahlam Jbara


This profile is part of Equal Voice News’ special edition honoring “Community Trailblazers” for Mother’s Day. They are women who work daily to improve their communities. These nominations were edited for clarity.

Katherine Moore – Using Knowledge to Restore Hope

Mom’s Name: Katherine Moore

Home City: Montgomery (area), Ala.

Organization affiliation: Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama

Community participation: Youth development

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: Katherine Moore is the mother of three and grandmother of eight.
“I have worked in the public sector for more than 25 years. Every day, I see situations where children are violated, mistreated, neglected and abused by their parents. Rather than become numb to those situations, I have resolved to do what I can to help those I can.

Working in the community has provided many opportunities for me to help others re-connect to themselves and their communities. Numerous unpleasant circumstances have caused many individuals of my community to withdraw and feel hopeless. By providing them the knowledge along with a suggested plan of action is why I work in the community. For me, it helps to restore hope. A renewed hope on the faces of individuals is what I have seen in the communities I have met with.”


Nominated by: Teumbay Barnes


This profile is part of Equal Voice News’ special edition honoring “Community Trailblazers” for Mother’s Day. They are women who work daily to improve their communities. These nominations were edited for clarity.

Carolina Rivera – A Parent Mentor who Backs Family Unity

Mom’s Name: Carolina Rivera

Home City: Chicago, Ill.

Organization affiliation: Southwest Organizing Project

Community participation: Education and immigration reform

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Carolina Rivera is a mother of three children, ages 20, 15 and 12 years old. Carolina came to the U.S. from Nayarit, Mexico 22 years ago with her husband and while pregnant with her first daughter. When Carolina’s children began school, she was a stay-at-home mother and barely involved in the education of her children.

All of this changed one day when she was invited to become a part of the Southwest Organizing Project’s (SWOP) Parent Mentor Program. Through the Parent Mentor Program, Carolina began volunteering in her children’s elementary school, helping pre-kindergarten students read and write.
When first starting the Parent Mentor program, Carolina was shy and did not speak during the group leadership training. After several months, Carolina began to build confidence and meet other Parent Mentors like herself who came from Mexico. She was not alone in being a recent immigrant to the community and discovered she had the power to act with other SWOP leaders around issues that matter to her.

From 2008 to 2011, Carolina fought tirelessly for her husband to stay in this country after being given a deportation order. Sadly, the court ruled against him and Carolina’s husband was sent back to Mexico. Now, a single mother, Carolina continues to fight for comprehensive immigration reform and stopping the separation of more families.

Furthermore, Carolina is now a lead Parent Mentor organizer with SWOP, training new parents in elementary schools and building new leadership in her community.”

Nominated by: Jeff Bartow

Lupe Gonzalo – A ‘Powerful Voice’ in Fields of Florida

Mom’s Name: Lupe Gonzalo

Home City: Immokalee, Fla.

Organization affiliation: Coalition of Immokalee Worker 

Community participation: Labor conditions and agriculture

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “One of the farmworker leaders of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), Lupe is a powerful voice for dignified wages and working conditions in the fields of Florida. Originally from Guatemala, Lupe spent over a decade in Immokalee, Fla. harvesting vegetables, often under some of the harshest conditions.

Today, because of the tireless work of mothers and workers like Lupe, we are witnessing a transformation of human rights in the U.S. agricultural industry, as a 20-year struggle gives birth to the Fair Food Program, a unique partnership between workers, growers and corporate buyers. Recently, the Fair Food Program was lifted up by the White House as ‘one of the most successful and innovative programs’ in the fight to uncover — and prevent — modern day slavery.

These days, when not caring for her family, Lupe works full time educating other workers on their newly won rights, chief among them the right to work free of sexual harassment.

While the struggle continues, we give thanks for the remarkable leadership and strength of such mothers and luchadoras, knowing that so long as they’re leading, the historic shift underway in Florida will only continue to grow.”

Nominated by: Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida

Martha Vega – ‘Inspiring’ With Voter Outreach

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Mom’s Name: Martha Vega

Home City: San Rafael, Calif.

Organization affiliation:

Community participation: Social equity, housing, immigration, transportation and community safety

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer:“Ms. Vega is a single mom of two teenagers who has been living in the Canal District of San Rafael for over 10 years. The Canal, as the neighborhood is called, has a population of approximately 13,000 people and is predominantly Hispanic, with many households residing in overcrowded apartment units, often an entire family per bedroom.

This community is distinct in our County, Marin, as it is populated almost exclusively by low-income persons of color as opposed to the surrounding population, which is largely Caucasian and affluent.
Ms. Vega has been consistently involved with different grassroots groups in the community. She and her family have also faced many personal battles related to discrimination and the lack of economic opportunities. These challenges only served to strengthen her drive to be a community leader and involve others in raising their voices to improve their lives and communities.

In 2008, she participated in local town hall meetings and community discussions related to the creation of the Equal Voice for America’s Families Platform. She was also engaged in inviting and motivating others to participate in the campaign.

Most recently, Martha participated in our 2012 Marin Equal Voice Leadership Academy, where she was actively engaged in registering and educating voters in the community. Together with other Academy participants, she registered more than 500 new voters in the 2008 presidential election season. She put in time and effort above what was expected of an Academy participant and was present in all workshops and events related to the program.

She also involved other community members as volunteers and has been a key person in raising the need to further immigrant voter education about the electoral process. By participating in the Academy, Martha fully embraced the Equal Voice Movement and felt even more motivated to develop her leadership in order to further engage and empower her community and other communities facing similar issues.

Ms. Vega is very personable, with great interpersonal skills and is easily understood by others. She also carries out every responsibility well and in a timely manner, inspiring others with her accountability.”

Nominated by: Jannicka Murphy

Callie Greer – Great-Grandmother who Opposes ‘Injustices’

Callie Greer_1

Mom’s Name: Callie Greer

Home City: Montgomery, Ala.

Organization affiliation: Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama

Community participation: Volunteering, youth development

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer:(Text submitted by the person)

“My name is Callie Greer. I am 53-years-old, happily married and the mother of five children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. I was delivered from drugs in May 1999.

Less than six weeks into my sobriety, my oldest son was shot and killed just a few feet away from our home. He was home from college for a visit. He passed away on Father’s Day 1999.

I can’t really explain how I felt, but I buried my son and when it was time to go to court I advocated for the court to take mercy on the young man that shot him. He was given a shorter sentence because of that, and I started to volunteer in my community with the young people. I attended lots of meetings of all kinds.

I was so angry to learn of the many injustices that were against people of color and low-wealth people. Since then, I have been very active and involved in my community.”

Note: In the group photograph above, Callie Greer is on the left.

Nominated by: Teumbay Barnes

Angelique Harris – ‘Brings People Together’

17-Angeligue Harris

Angelique Harris – ‘Brings People Together’

Mom’s Name: Angeligue Harris

Home City: Chicago

Organization affiliation: Centers for New Horizons

Community participation: Youth development, health and wellness

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Angelique Harris has worked with me for over 2 1/2 years. In that time, she has demonstrated a tireless energy and commitment to holding Chicago Public Schools and anyone else accountable to providing the best quality education possible. If there is a meeting or hearing on education in Bronzeville, Ms. Harris is there.

And she’s not someone who just talks loud and often, she provides intelligent input. She brings people together, while understanding various points of view. Furthermore, she has worked to establish health and wellness councils at schools throughout the Bronzeville Community.

All this while raising her own family of three daughters and a husband. In my opinion it is people like Angelique Harris that hold our community together.”

Nominated by: Johnnie L. Owens Jr.

MaryBeth Stover – A Drive to the Beach Brings Joy

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Mom’s Name: MaryBeth Stover

Home City: Marietta, Pa.

Organization affiliation: Lancaster County Council of Churches

Community participation: “A single mom, MarkBeth Stover worked hard to get off welfare and to overcome homelessness and poverty in her own life. Now, through her work, she is inspiring others to follow her lead.”

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Not only is MaryBeth a caring and devoted mother to her two children, but she inspires so many who are trying to build a better life for themselves and their families.

In her current job as a career counselor to the unemployed, this bubbly and vivacious woman works with people who are experiencing the desperation and poverty she herself faced three years ago. She encourages them to persist and to hold onto their dreams. ‘If I can crawl out of poverty,’ she often says, ‘you can, too.’

Only a few years ago, MaryBeth and her two children were living on public assistance in a tiny, one-bedroom apartment. At the time, she worked as a data entry clerk but her job was 14 miles from her home, and, she had no car. She depended on the one bus that came in the morning and the one that returned in the evening to get to and from home and work. But many times the bus came late, or she missed her bus connection while bringing her infant son to child care.

Though her supervisor warned her about lateness and told her she was in danger of losing her job, she saw no way to correct what she couldn’t control. No matter how early she rose in the morning she couldn’t change the bus schedule. Nor could she change her work schedule. While she knew she could lose her job, she didn’t see a solution. She didn’t have the money to buy a car, and the car she tried to borrow left her stranded and in tears.

She felt trapped until she learned about Wheels to Work, a Lancaster County Council of Churches program that sells dependable, used cars below cost to the underemployed. Through the Wheels to Work program, MaryBeth purchased a car. That first Friday night she owned her car, she drove her children the four hours to the Maryland shore. She wanted them to play in the sand, to feel the breeze, smell the salt air and watch the ocean waves roll onto the beach.

‘We arrived about midnight and went on the beach,’ she recalls, with tears rolling down her cheeks. ‘I didn’t have money to stay anywhere, so we all played on the beach for an hour or so. Then we drove home. We all had a wonderful time.’

Having this ability to give her children a trip to the beach, even a brief one, meant the world to MaryBeth, and this beach trip also marked the beginning of a new life for MaryBeth and her family.

MaryBeth’s personality and persistence, supported by an old, reliable Toyota, has changed everything. Now a star employee, MaryBeth has received three raises.

‘I’m making it,’ she exclaims. ‘I’m paying my bills. I bought a little house with a little garden out front. I love my job, because I get to see other people succeeding, too. I love being able to pay back by helping others, and I love being able to do more for my children.’

Please join us in wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to MaryBeth Stover and to hard-working mothers everywhere.” 

Nominated by: Marianne Clay

Sharon Bell – Works on Fresh Produce for Community

Mom’s Name: Sharon Bolling Bell

Home City: Montgomery (area), Ala.

Organization affiliation: Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama

Community participation: Healthy eating, fresh produce and government

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Sharon Bolling Bell has been a resident of Lowndes County for over 30 years, currently residing in the small town of Mosses where she was recently elected to the City Council. Sharon states, ‘This is indeed an honor and privilege as well as a chance for me to get to know new people in my community and surrounding areas. This is also a way for me to share my new found enjoyment.’

Sharon has always had a passion for helping others and learning new things. After attending a few agriculture seminars and workshops, Sharon became so impressed because she watched her mother farm when she was growing up as a child. She also discovered that gardening can be relaxing, educational, and fun, as well as a way to make money!

She saw a great need. So, she met and talked with other women and young women in her community about her vision to provide ways to have healthy lifestyles and ways to have access to fresh vegetables. Sharon formed the group, ‘SISTAS of Success,’ and they began to work with families in the community. She realized that she was actually helping to grow fresh produce in her local community and with the help of others the group began to market to local vendors, restaurants and grocery stores.

There first plantings were snap beans. They planted 13 rows in the high tunnel (hoop house) which was an estimate of 64 feet in length. ‘SISTAS of Success’ first harvest provided their local grocery store as well as people in the community with fresh locally grown beautiful snap beans. They planted 24 rows of collards that they are still harvesting. After the last snap bean harvest, turnips were planted and I am pleased to say we are producing very well.”

Nominated by: Teumbay Barnes

Maricela Garcia – ‘Ardent Advocate for Immigration’

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Mom’s Name: Maricela Garcia

Home City: Birmingham

Organization affiliation: Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama 

Community participation: Immigration reform

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Maricela is an amazing women. As a single mother she has stepped up in her community and has become and ardent advocate for immigration reform in Birmingham. She recently traveled to Washington D.C. to promote and advocate for reform.”

Nominated by: Arturo Burciaga

Minnie Jefferson – Whenever Needed, She is There

Mom’s Name: Minnie Jefferson

Home City: Chicago

Organization affiliation: Kenwood Oakland Community Organization

Community participation: Senior citizen issues, affordable housing and health 

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Ms. Minnie Jefferson has dedicated her life to serving others and making a difference in the community wherever she finds herself. She has been a leader in the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) for over five years. She epitomizes KOCO’s mission of developing multi-generational leaders who affect decision-making processes and public policies, improving the quality of life in our communities. She has been a consistent leader in the areas of equitable education, affordable housing and quality health.

A retired educator, she has educated children all over the world from Chicago, Illinois to Okinawa, Japan. She has been a key voice in our education work because of her decades of experience in educating youth. Ms. Jefferson has played a critical role in the development of a community-driven plan for sustainable school transformation and organizing against the privatization of education in the city of Chicago.
Ms. Jefferson has been a leader in the fight for quality affordable housing in the north Kenwood and Oakland communities on Chicago’s South Side. Embattled in the fight against gentrification for years, courageous leaders like Ms. Jefferson have struggled to ensure low-income and working families receive safe, decent housing. She recently worked with other senior leaders to expose a landlord.

Ms. Jefferson has been an ardent organizer of a monthly forum that provides fresh produce, health screenings, and diet and nutrition seminars for more than 100 community residents. The Mid-South Health Market started as a project of the Bronzeville Anti-hunger Network to address two pervasive issues: Food deserts and high incidents of chronic, preventable illnesses. Since Ms. Jefferson’s involvement, this initiative has grown tremendously, and she is currently working to expand this effort to other communities.

Ms. Jefferson has been the foundation for KOCO’s senior committee, ‘Involved Seniors for Justice.’ As their name denotes, ‘Involved Seniors for Justice’ works to develop a core group of seniors to ensure that our community gets the justice that it deserves on a variety of issues.

Ms. Jefferson exemplifies what it means to be an elder in a community. She remains a positive role model to youth, adults and other seniors. Whenever she is needed she is there, and whenever she sees a wrong, she tries to make it right. She embodies integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, respect, and cooperation.”

Nominated by: Jawanza Malone


Maria Gonzalez – ‘Challenges Gave Her the Strength’

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Mom’s Name: Maria Gonzalez

Home City: Chicago

Organization affiliation: Mujeres Latinas en Acción

Community participation: Citizenship, Latino health

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Maria Gonzalez is a single mother of three who immigrated to the U.S. 33 years ago, leaving her whole family behind. When she arrived, she did not have a stable home. She experienced financial constraints, she was unfamiliar with the culture and language and she didn’t comprehend the systems that govern this country. Years later, she lost her husband to cancer, leaving her alone to care for her children. Despite all the hardships, Maria persevered, raising her children to do well in school and give back to society. Today, she says that all these challenges gave her the strength to keep going and have inspired her to serve her community.

Now that her children have left home, Maria focuses her energies on improving the community around her. In her outreach to the community, she has become a role model and mother figure to many. When Maria arrived at Mujeres Latinas en Acción nearly 10 years ago, she was already active in speaking with her peers about the benefits of citizenship.

Maria’s participation in the community expanded when she began participating in Mujeres’ Latina Leadership Program. Since 2005, she has been assisting immigrants applying for citizenship through the New Americans Initiative. Maria spoke with her peers about the importance of becoming a citizen for its benefits and because she saw it as a way for the Latino community to achieve full integration into this society. She focused especially on women, motivating many to become citizens by sharing her own personal story about becoming a citizen and emphasizing how citizenship can improve the lives of women and their families.

Guided by her father’s motto, ‘el que no vive para servir no sirve para vivir,’ Maria has educated hundreds of women about breast and cervical cancer and referred them for screenings for early detection of these deadly conditions. Because of her extensive work with health, she was recently hired as the Lead Promotora de Salud for the Ventanilla de Salud program run by Mujeres and the Mexican Consulate in Chicago to provide information to Latinos about health services.

After a heart attack scare, Maria became a powerful voice in informing others about cardiovascular health. During her community workshops for the ‘Haga la llamada ¡No pierda tiempo!’ campaign, she emphasizes that mothers, daughters, and grandmothers can be saved through raising awareness among Latinas about the symptoms of heart attacks.”

Nominated by: Claire Denton-Spalding

Marilyn Escoe – Homelessness Prompted Her to Talk Policy

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Mom’s Name: Marilyn Escoe

Home City: Chicago

Organization affiliation: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Community participation: Education and homeless students

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer:“Marilyn Escoe and her children lived in their North Lawndale apartment for six years, happy to be living half a block from the children’s grade school.

But when Marilyn lost her job in 2011, the Chicago family soon lost their two-bedroom apartment. Marilyn sought help from Chicago’s 311 homeless assistance call center, managed by Catholic Charities. The family was placed in available beds in a shelter 16 miles away, in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

Being homeless for the first time turned life upside down, but the family coped and kept going. Over the coming months, Marilyn, 36, found a new, part-time job, took training to qualify for a full-time security job and the children continued in their same school.

Last summer, Marilyn decided to join Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) outreach efforts that help other students whose families are homeless.

‘I do it because I can get strength from other people who are struggling, because I didn’t know these things myself, and it’s good for my children to see that other people go through things. And just because we’re temporarily housed, you can still get a good education and know your rights,’ she explained.

Marilyn first got involved with CCH as a beneficiary of its outreach. Mary Baker, a speakers bureau leader at CCH, works at Good News Partners’ New Life Interim Housing, where Marilyn’s family lives. Mary arranged for organizer J.D. Klippenstein to run outreach on the educational rights of homeless children and teens.

During that June session, Marilyn related that her children had to get up before 5 a.m. to catch two trains to school. Marilyn also worried because with a new job as a school bus aide, she could no longer accompany the children back and forth to school.

Reluctantly, Marilyn was considering transferring her children to a new school. J.D. encouraged Marilyn to ask the CCH Law Project for help in talking with school officials about providing bus service, which must be made available by CPS in hardship cases. Bus service began last fall, allowing the children an extra hour of sleep before they’re picked up promptly at 6:22 a.m.

Working with CCH got Marilyn interested in joining its new education committee, organized by the speakers bureau to mobilize outreach by parents, students, and educators. The committee meets every six weeks, and Marilyn and her children are always there. In fact, it wasn’t long before Marilyn’s oldest, Kaleyah, 14, decided to join.

‘J.D. told me I could sit in,’ she explained. ‘I was sitting in the back. I liked the discussion on homeless education. So next time, I moved to the table and I spoke about how I’m a homeless student and how I try not to let it affect me.’

Marilyn and Kaleyah took their first trip to Springfield in early April, when CCH brought 125 parents, youth and service providers to talk to legislators about funding programs for homeless students and youth. ‘In social studies class, they always talk about Springfield, so I wanted to see it with my own eyes,’ Kaleyah said.
Marilyn and Kaleyah also participated in the speakers bureau’s April in-district meeting with State Rep. Lou Lang, where youth and school budget issues were discussed. The CCH Education Committee is stronger because of the leadership shown by a homeless mother like Marilyn Escoe.”

Nominated by: Anne Bowhay

Delia Bonilla – ‘Knew She had to get Involved’ With School

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Mom’s Name: Delia Bonilla

Home City: Chicago

Organization affiliation: Logan Square Neighborhood Association

Community participation: Education, including the Parent Mentor Program and Campaign for Community-Driven School Improvement Process at Ames Middle School

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “When Delia Bonilla heard rumors that Ames Middle School might be converted to a military middle and high school in a closed-door decision, she immediately knew she had to get involved to make sure parents had a voice in the future of their school. Delia tutors students daily as a parent mentor at Ames through Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA), and through this experience she knew the military model was not a ‘one size fits all’ model for students.
‘We, the parents, want a school that is part of the community, that includes the whole community,’ says Delia.

Along with a dedicated group of LSNA parent leaders, Delia organized a comprehensive campaign for the future of Ames. They went door to door, collecting 357 surveys. They held rallies and press conferences, they testified monthly at board of education meetings and they started working with district officials to craft a community-driven school transformation plan for Ames. The result?

The military school conversion is off the table, and the Chicago Board of Education is proposing a boundary change that would add students to Ames.” 

Nominated by: Bridget Murphy

Rhonda Case – Working to Transform Suffering to Healing

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Mom’s Name: Rhonda Case

Home City: Oregon City, Ore.

Organization affiliation: Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence (SAIV)

Community participation: “Issues of child protection from abusive parents, spousal and intimate partner abuse, and all related issues both in terms of protective services and public policy and training in the faith community.

Her volunteer leadership in 2012-13 led to the creation of a successful pilot project bringing together faith-based and community groups for strategic prevention and healing as a goal (and) seeking to eradicate intimate violence by transforming the societal structures from which it arises.

Rhonda has served as SAIV liasion, building communities of mutual support for strategic collaboration through ‘Portland: Communities Inspired to SAIV.’ This new collaborative has formed mutual partnerships to protect the human rights of women children and other oppressed groups whose rights continue to be trampled by violence that is economic, social and personal.

SAIV, Portland, offers a way of empowering those whose basic human rights have been violated through intentional connections of key community people engaged in preventing and stopping intimate violence.”

Why this Person is a Community Trailblazer: “Rhonda Case was an educator for more than 27 years. After more than a decade of struggle with legal and safety issues of protecting her own child from serious harm, she felt ‘called’ to act on her commitment to ‘bring the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence down to earth with a grassroots pilot project in Portland, Oregon as a way of transforming our family’s sorrow and suffering into healing for others by working to affect urgently needed social change.’

A colleague in Oregon, whose organization won a Gloria Award in May 2012, and has now become a part of Portland Communities Inspired to SAIV, wrote, ‘You are one of those people whose entire life is a contribution to the cause!’ Rhonda Case has become a key leader to stop intimate violence in collaboration with faith communities and related non-profits through her partnership with SAIV. She deserves affirmation for her bold leap of faith to risk all for the sake of her ‘call’ to do justice, kindness and walk humbly with her God.

We are grateful that she continues with energy, intelligence, imagination and love to reach out to those who can share in this work in ways that are effective and may possibly lead to actual employment in her new vocation (as the scarce personal resources she has garnered are tapped dry). Her resilient spirit inspires me to believe that this is indeed possible! Happy Mother’s Day to Rhonda Case.”

Nominated by: Karen Hessel

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