Recognition plentiful at Valley NAACP fete
Accolades and gratitude were in abundance at the 47th annual Human Rights Banquet of the Monongahela Valley Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“We are very pleased with the turnout to recognize the distinguished honorees for their achievements and commitment to our goals and ideals,” said Gladys M. Foster, chairperson of the event at the Willow Room in Rostraver Township. “The accomplishments of this year’s awards recipients speak volumes about them.”
Foster also is first vice president of the organization.
Some 330 persons attended the event, which carried a Conscience of the Nation theme,to help pay tribute to the following:
â€¢ Ida Belle Minnie, Branch Merit Award — Minnie was recognized for her “many years of devoted service” to the NAACP on all levels, national, state and “especially to the Monongahela Valley Branch.” A native of Monessen now living in Powder Springs, Ga., she has been active with the NAACP for nearly 50 years. She is a Life Member and honorary Executive Board member of the Monongahela Valley Branch and served the unit in various capacities including membership chairman. In addition, she served the Pennsylvania NAACP as education chairperson and executive board member. She also was a speaker at the NAACP National Convention and participated in the historic March to Washington when the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in the nation’s capital. She retired after a 30-year teaching career in the Ringgold School District.
â€¢ Dana J. Keys-Frezzell, M.D., Humanitarian Award — Frezzell, a native of Monessen, is a board certified internist who recently owned and practiced with Valley Primary Care Associates in Monessen. She is now affiliated with Sentara Medical Group in Norfolk, Va. It was noted that she has been involved in medical programs outside of her practice including serving as medical director for Heartland Hospice and Home Health in Greensburg, staff physician and medical director for California University of Pennsylvania Health services and co-chair of the Health Affairs Committee for the NAACP. A former member of the Medical Staff at Monongahela Valley Hospital, she also has been active for many years in church-related and other community activities.
â€¢ Sue Ellen Byars Goodson, Appreciation Award — Goodson is the founder (in 1978) and senior partner of Children’s Paradise, a learning center in Finleyville. She was recognized for “dedicating her life to educating and caring for young children” and for having “an invaluable impact on her family, friends, surrounding community members and the lives of everyone with whom she has come in contact.” She also serves as minister of music at First Baptist Church in Finleyville, is a former member of Finleyville Borough Council and is active with numerous other community organizations.
â€¢ Doris P. Bass-Wade, Community Service Award — A graduate of Monessen High School, she received her bachelor’s degree in education (specializing in English) and master’s degree (reading specialist) from California University of Pennsylvania. She taught in the Ringgold School District for 33 years. She has been active in the church for many years and is currently Sunday School superintendent/teacher at Whole Truth Church of God in Christ in Donora. She also is a member of the Second Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania/Church of God in Christ. In addition, she is active in the community as a tutor to young people. The NAACP honored her for “serving her community through her work as a teacher and in her church and educating the public through her role as a public speaker.”
â€¢ Millie Thomas, Recognition Award — Thomas is the associate minister at Union Baptist Church in Monessen, where Vernon L. Dean Sr. is pastor. She is active with the church’s Clothing Ministry, which provides clothes to all persons in need, and a food program for those also in need. The NAACP emphasized that it recognized Thomas for her “talent and tireless work with the church, her warm and loving spirit and for making everyone she meets feel special.”
In addition, the Monongahela Valley Branch also honored several young people with Outstanding African American Student Award recognition. They are Shaina Rae Ramsey, Belle Vernon Area High School and the University of Pittsburgh; Alicia Campbell, Monessen High School and Seton Hill College; Aaron J. James, Ringgold High School and the University of Southern California; Michael C. Johns Jr., Ringgold High School, and Dock R. Harris, Bentworth High School and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Scholarship recipients John Bristol, a Charleroi Area High School graduate, and Ryan W. White, a Monessen High School graduate, were recognized as scholarship recipients. Both attend California University of Pennsylvania. They were introduced by Judith Woodson McNeil, scholarship chairperson.
Maxine Carter, assistant to the international president and director of the International Civil and Human Rights Department of the United Steelworkers of America, was the keynote speaker at the banquet.
Demetrius Ivory, WTAE-TV meteorologist, served as master of ceremonies and was introduced by Dale K. Simpson, second vice president of Monongahela Valley NAACP. The Rev. Clifford Carter, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Belle Vernon, led the group in signing “Life Every Voice And Sing” to open the program; Floyd Kizzie, chairman of the NAACP’s Veterans Affairs Committee, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Rev. Eleanor Williams, pastor of Wayman AME/Quinn Chapel AME Churches, offered invocation and benediction.
The Rev. Carter extended “deep gratitude” to the Rev. Jezreel Toliver, his predecessor as pastor at Antioch Baptist Church.
“He left a big pair of shoes to fill,” Carter said of Toliver, an honorary member of the group’s executive committee. “He has been a great mentor, a man who provided guidance to so many people.”
A special tribute also was extended to the late Edna Toliver, a longtime member of the Monongahela Valley Branch and a member of its executive committee for many years. It was emphasized that she “performed her duties tirelessly with intelligence, dedication, with a lively spirit and with loyalty to and a belief in the principles of freedom and equality held by the NAACP. Her work and memory will never die but live on in the history of the Monongahela Valley Branch and in the hearts and minds of her friends.”
George Burroughs Jr., president of the Mon Valley Branch, presented life memberships during the program.
Dorothy L. Moore-Wilson, a past president of the Mon Valley group, served as co-chairperson of the banquet committee, which also was composed of Izora Carson, Mary Ann Goff, Luenetta Mason, Rowena L. Mason, Betty M. McWilliams, Daniel Radcliff and Vra M. Stanley.
The Chuck Ramsey Trio provided music throughout the evening.