Celebration of Rochester Neighbors Award Winners Announced
NeighborWorks® Rochester and the City of Rochester is thrilled to announce the winners of its Celebration of Rochester Neighbors Awards. The awards will be distributed on Monday, June 3rd from 5:00PM to 7:30PM at the City of Rochester Public Market. Like a city-wide block party, the event will feature live music, food and a chance to have fun with neighbors from throughout the city.
Northwest Quadrant Community Champion: Barb Ann Kupiec is a long-time resident of the Maplewood Neighborhood who has dedicated her retirement years to improving the neighborhood. As a Master Gardener, Barb Ann generously shares her expertise by leading a team of volunteers as Chair of the Maplewood Gardening team. Together they maintain public garden areas, planters and trees along Dewey Avenue. Additionally, Barb serves on the Maplewood Neighborhood Assoc. Board of Directors as Board Secretary. She has served on both the Maplewood Public Safety Committee and the Zoning Committee. Barb Ann is also involved with taking care of feral cats in the neighborhood. According to her nominator, Enrica Fleming, “Barb Ann invests most of her time, energy and talent to help improve the physical appearance of the neighborhood, helping to stabilize it and attract new property owners, when she could have chosen a leisurely retirement. She is truly a wonderful example of what each of us can do for our community.” Barb Ann also volunteers her time as a Master Gardener throughout the county, cultivating plantings and maintaining gardens at many county parks.
Southwest Quadrant Community Champion : John DeMott is described as very serious about the betterment of his community, and also very friendly and kindhearted. Some of his community involvement includes assisting with the weekly farmer’s market in the summer, and engaging residents, businesses and students to beautify the community with flowers and plantings along the street. He was also influential in the birth of the Brooks Landing development. As a musician, John often donates his time to provide music and entertainment to the community, including organizing an event called Beats @Brooks to provide music for residents of the Southwest neighborhoods. John is a firm believer in supporting local businesses, with a true desire to see them succeed. John was nominated by John Demps along with a long list of others, who stated, “John is proactive in getting things done in the neighborhood, is very dependable, easy to work with and passionate about the work he is doing. He has a strong belief in the character of his neighbors and neighborhood.”
Northeast Quadrant Community Champion: Vincent Russello, nominated by Carlos Torres of the Northeast Neighborhood Service Center, is the founder and president of the Vineyards Neighborhood Association. This enterprising resident is a true leader in his neighborhood, working tirelessly to resolve many community issues and working with the city to relay concerns. He is very creative in collaborating and working with other groups to improve the community. He has reached out to agencies to bring them into the neighborhood to assist those in need and regularly invites new ideas and input on projects. He’s a driver in obtaining funding for community improvement projects and is great at bringing people together for support, safety and promotion of the neighborhood. His nominator said of Vince, ”he’s consistent in reaching his goals, is a good communicator and never gives up on resolving community issues.”
Southeast Quadrant Community Champion: Joe DiFiore’s involvement and accomplishments are almost too many to list! This dedicated volunteer gives hours of his own time for the people and families of Beechwood and the City of Rochester. Some of the boards and organizations he serves include the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition, Peace Village Homeless Encampment, Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, and Little Flower Community. Joe is skilled at organizing groups to get projects done. He was instrumental in getting Play Streets established, which resulted in a policy developed for Healthi Kids Coalition and the City of Rochester Dept. of Recreation for more neighborhoods to take on Play Streets – where 2 weeks of the summer time is set aside to close the streets for children of the neighborhood to play. Another project he championed was to create a StoryWalk at #33 School, Ryan Center and Sully Library.
Joe’s other passion is affordable housing, as a Board member of City Roots Community Land Trust, he works to establish and promote permanently affordable, quality housing in our city. His vision includes:
- Vacant properties turned over to the Trust for community-led development, which will turn them into community-held assets
- Infrastructure and playful design elements that encourage people to walk and bike
- Utilizing vacant lots for pop-up events, community gardens and play spaces
His nominator, Nancy Johns Price, says of him, “Joe does so much for so many. He is truly a champion who understands hard work and commitment to make a community strong. He sees a need and gets people organized and works on solutions.”
Community Leader Award: The Community Leader Award recognizes volunteer leaders who spark change by engaging others in improving their community. Devon Reynolds, Sr. and Jovan Bradley, co-owners of the Brothers and Sisters Unisex Salon embody this in their everyday lives. According to nominator Kim Hare, the two “are father figures, counselors, advocates, role models, problem solvers, community change makers, and more.” The have addressed issues in their neighborhood, including the challenges that families face from lack of food, kids hanging on street corners at all hours, lack of job opportunities, and feelings of despair and hopelessness. Projects they have organized include:
- Starting a school supply give away to assist families
- Providing free haircuts in the schools during the school year
- Starting a food pantry – Sweet Ida’s Food Pantry – soliciting donations that include food and clothing.
- Holding events during Black History Month and providing free books to children
- Providing Thanksgiving dinners to those in need – more than 100 dinners in 2018!
- Organize an annual Father’s Day Celebration
- Collaborating with Trillium Health and Common Ground to host an event for HIV/STD testing and education, blood pressure screening and more
- Hosting Community Roundtables to provide a venue for the community to speak, express their thoughts and concerns
“Devon and Jovan are unique and crucial assets to the Maplewood Community. They see an issue…and roll up their sleeves and get to work.”