SISTER SUSAN WELSH GOOD NEIGHBOR AWARD—McAuley Ministries Executive Director Michele Rone Cooper presents the 2019 Sister Susan Welsh Good Neighbor Award to Hill District resident Ms. Edna Council. (Photo by E.A. Smith for CREW Productions LLC)
by Tina Harper, For New Pittsburgh Courier
The first recipient of the Sister Susan Welsh Good Neighbor Award is Edna Council, a lifelong resident of the Hill District, who was nominated by Carol Hardeman, co-director of the Hill District Consensus Group, and Terri Baltimore, vice president of Neighborhood Development at the Hill House Association. The award was presented July 22 by the McAuley Ministries Board of Directors during a celebration breakfast held at Carlow University Commons in West Oakland.
McAuley Ministries Executive Director Michele Rone Cooper introduced the new award and presented it to Ms. Edna. Her daughter, Janicee Williams, and son-in-law, Irvin Williams, granddaughter Janai Smith with husband, Lee Smith, and grandson Jann Council were on hand to mark the occasion. Hardeman and Baltimore were also in attendance.
The Good Neighbor Award was created to honor the legacy of Sister Susan Welsh, RSM, retired president and CEO of Pittsburgh Mercy, and current board chairperson and founding board member of McAuley Ministries Foundation. Sister Susan has been a compassionate, helpful, and willing volunteer, beyond the scope of her leadership responsibilities. In honor of Sister Susan’s service to Pittsburgh Mercy and her continued works of mercy, the Sister Susan Welsh Good Neighbor Award was born.
The award recognizes a resident of the Hill District, Uptown, or West Oakland, the neighborhoods served by McAuley Ministries, who exemplifies the ideals of a “good neighbor”—someone who is compassionate, friendly, helpful, a willing volunteer, an organizer of neighborhood events, and willing to devote time, talents and resources to make their neighborhood a better place in which to live. The award celebrates an individual resident who is working at the grassroots level to make a positive difference for his or her neighbors and community, beyond their day-to-day work responsibilities.
“Ms. Edna is a servant leader, a devoted volunteer, and leads others on a journey of healing, seeking, and community transformation,” according to Hardeman’s nomination. “Ms. Edna is a social change leader, focusing on strengthening the Hill District by encouraging residents to work together to find solutions to make change within their community.”
Hardeman affirms, “Ms. Edna has a proven track record and is a prime example of what a good neighbor should be.”
Baltimore experienced firsthand the compassion of the woman affectionately known as “Ms. Edna.” When Baltimore became director of the Hill District Community Collaborative in 1992, Ms. Edna took Baltimore under her wing. “Ms. Edna’s patience helped me to find my way—as a woman and as a leader. Her knowledge of the neighborhood helped me to understand the relationships, community politics, and its history.”
Ms. Edna was an original volunteer for the Children’s Art And Talk Group (CHAAT), which Baltimore initiated at the Collaborative. Ms. Edna was the grandparent figure that so many of the children did not have. She was the authority who never wavered and who lovingly took on her tasks. She was the boundary keeper, and her recitation of the ground rules came with a gravitas that none of the rest of the staff had. She created and maintained a safe and mutually respectful environment. Her role was critical to the success of the program. Over the years, her role has been taken up by different elders in the community.
Ms. Edna uplifts spirits and sees value in the community beautification projects that she leads, such as hanging flower baskets and holiday banners displayed along Centre and Herron avenues. Ms. Edna wrote the initial letter seeking grant funding for the project and coordinated with the Hill District Consensus Group to secure ongoing funding.
Ms. Edna is a tireless volunteer, caring for children who need a home, providing them shelter and support. She would purchase a coat or shoes for anyone who was in need.
Rone Cooper marveled, “Ms. Edna is a visible presence in the Hill District. When I see her, I automatically think of her tenacity and passion for the community.”
Upon receiving the award, Ms. Edna humbly stated, “I didn’t do any of these things for recognition. I did them because I wanted to.”
“We’d like to thank the McAuley Ministries Foundation for this award and for selecting Ms. Edna as the charter recipient,” said Irvin Williams, Ms. Edna’s son-in-law, speaking on behalf of Ms. Edna and her family.
Ms. Edna also volunteers as treasurer for the Hill District Consensus Group and serves as a member of the Center for Family Excellence steering committee to help close achievement gaps in support of people of color. She is a member of Macedonia Church of Pittsburgh in the Hill District.
Professionally, Ms. Edna has worked within several nonprofit organizations committed to serving underrepresented communities.
Baltimore proclaimed, “Every community needs a Ms. Edna—a person who will be a fighter, protector, and champion for the places she loves.”
(Editor’s note: Know a good neighbor in the Hill District, Uptown, or West Oakland whose neighborly deeds are worthy of recognition? McAuley Ministries will accept nominations for the next Sister Susan Welsh Good Neighbor Award, Oct. 1, 2019 through March 30, 2020. For more information about the award and to download the nomination form, please visit http://mcauleyministries.org/what-we-fund/special-initiatives/. For a printed copy of the form, call 412-578-6675.)
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