15 honored at sixth annual ‘Passion Meets The Road’ event

A PEACE OF MIND INC.—Co-Founders Erica Givner, second from left, and Felicia R. Robinson, second from right, with board members Carla Gathers, left, and Wanda Beasley, right.

by Renee P. Aldrich, For New Pittsburgh Courier

After six years of honoring men and women in the social services industry, Erica Givner is not even a little tired. “Actually, the more I do it, the more I see needs to be done,” said Givner, the owner and lead clinician of Visions Toward Peace Counseling Services. “This work is endless and many times, thankless.”

In this, the sixth year of the event, “Passion Meets The Road,” an audience of near 200 celebrated numerous honorees in categories such as “forerunners,” “entrepreneurs” and “roadrunners.”

The event was held Sept. 29 at Phipps Conservatory.

The seven “forerunners” honorees are leaders who implement public policy that will result in positive possibilities for individuals in need: Rev. Paul Abernathy, Director of FOCUS Pittsburgh, an Orthodox Christian non-profit focused on Trauma Informed Community Development in the Hill District; Emmai Alaquiva, an Emmy Award-winning film director and a distinct trailblazer in the area of creative arts; Rosa Davis, MSW, ACSW, chief executive officer of POWER, an organization whose mission is to help women recover from the disease of addiction; Wendy Pardee, PhD, President and CEO of The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh, dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, young people and their families; Jada Shirriel, Chief Executive Officer of Healthy Start Inc., a public health organization that focuses on improving maternal and child health and addressing the disparities that lead to infant mortality; Tiffany Sizemore, Assistant Clinical Professor at Duquesne University, where she developed and directs the Juvenile Defender Clinic and Education Law Clinic.; and Timothy L. Smith, Executive Director for Center of Life and pastor of the Keystone Church of Hazelwood. Center for Life is dedicated to empowering families and bringing economic revitalization to neighborhoods and communities.

There were four “entrepreneur” awardees, given to those who create pathways that lead to opportunities to serve others; Dr. Demarquis Clarke, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of the Center for Relational Change; Susan Coe, owner of Peace, Love and Zen, a holistic and wellness center located in the East End; Michele Montag and Lisa Nakamura, co-founders of Set Point, a martial arts and self-defense school where the art of self-defense is taught to women.

“Roadrunner” awards went to individuals who work and interact daily in lifting people up: Nathaniel Broadus, with Blackpacking Pittsburgh, an organization that takes groups on monthly hiking trips; he also works with men and women returning home from prison to help obtain work opportunities; Phyllis Jones, Westinghouse Girls Basketball Coach, who has served the school, community and girls basketball for many years; Michelle McMurray, Director of Grantmaking for Children, Youth and Families at the Pittsburgh Foundation; her work focuses on reducing barriers to physical and mental health care, and improving economic self-sufficiency for children, youth and families; and Alissa Whyte, MED, Program Coordinator for Youth Advocate Programs’ Truancy Prevention Service.

Other features during the event were the soul-filled sounds of Jacquea Mae, the emceeing abilities of 1 Hood Media co-founder Jasiri X, and words of encouragement from Charles Cook, a personal trainer and life coach, who said that “passion is the force that drives the mission. Passion is not acquired, it is developed and without it, the challenging work cannot be accomplished.”

Presenting the afternoon keynote was Dr. Andre Perry. A Pittsburgh native, Dr. Perry is a David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the metropolitan policy program at The Brookings Institution. His recent scholarship at Brookings analyzes majority-Black places and institutions in America, focusing on highlighting valuable assets worthy of increased investment. As such, he presented the audience with a conversation reminding them overall that “we as people of color do not need to be fixed, that we’ve been devalued by others, but the key is recognizing our own value.”


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