The Dignity & Respect Council of Greater Pittsburgh


The > Dignity & Respect Campaign endeavors to recognize community members that embrace, embody, and demonstrate the values of dignity and respect; who have championed and supported the cause. A Dignity & Respect Champion is chosen each month; featured in our newsletter and on the website; and honored annually at the Salute to Dignity & Respect Champions Breakfast leading up to Dignity & Respect Month in October.


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”It’s Just a Bad Day, Not a Bad Life”

Lifelong Illnesses Inspires Woman to Help Others


Julie Cerrone was in 5th grade when she had her first knee surgery. Now, at the age of 30, Cerrone has had five different surgeries and has been diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis, Avascular Necrosis, and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome among many other conditions. After two decades of being in and out of hospitals with no answers, Cerrone decided to take her health into her own hands.


Cerrone graduated from West Virginia University in 2008 with a degree in management information systems. During her time in college, for the first time since she was a child, she had very mild medical issues. She graduated and began working for Deloitte in Pittsburgh, then New York City where she stayed for five years until she was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition that forced her to go on disability.


For the next three and a half years, Cerrone was on crutches and still had no answers for all of her medical problems. Cerrone began reading blogs of people going through similar medical issues which inspired her to start her own blog, “Starting my own blog was the best thing I ever did. Connecting with other patients and sharing my story has not only helped me, but has helped other people going through similar struggles.” Cerrone said.


Cerrone decided to completely change her lifestyle. She changed her eating habits, became a certified Health and Wellness Coach, began doing yoga and her whole attitude turned around.


With lifestyle changes, along with receiving stem cell treatments to regrow her bones, Cerrone got off her crutches and went from taking 10-12 medications a day to none. “Changing my lifestyle and spending my time helping others has changed my life. I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been, and for the first time in four years, I’m not in constant pain.” Cerrone explained.


Cerrone teaches health and wellness classes that help people make sustainable changes in their lives to improve health and happiness. “I listen to what people want and I create individualized programs for them.” Cerrone said. Not only does she help people change their diet but she also helps them change their mental outlook to live a more positive life.


Krista Peckyno, a past Dignity & Respect Champion, nominated Cerrone saying, “Despite spending two decades in and out of the hospital, fighting diagnosis of all sizes and having more doctor visits than most of us will have in a lifetime, Julie has came through with the strongest most incredible view on life while also helping others in the process.”


In addition to her blog and teaching health and wellness classes, Cerrone is an advocate for all patients experiencing health problems. Cerrone has traveled to Harrisburg several times to meet with senators and state representatives to discuss bills that can help patients have better access to care.


Cerrone is a mentor at the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), where she helps newly diagnosed patients adjust to their new life. She also helps the NPF fundraise and is part of its blogger program. Cerrone also volunteers for WEGO Health, an online health community where patients drive the conversations, and she participates on patient panels to help raise awareness and spread the patient voice at medical conferences.


Cerrone hopes to be off disability by the end of the year and plans to get into patient centered-care while still continuing her blog on health and wellness. Cerrone never thought this is how her life would turn out, but said, “Being sick really changed my path in life and brought up passions I didn’t know I had. Helping myself and helping others has made me the happiest I’ve have ever been.”


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. A Dignity & Respect Champion is someone ― nominated by a co-worker, family member, or friend ― who embraces diversity, embodies compassion, and demonstrates mutual respect. For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit or to nominate a Champion visit


Two Deaf Children Inspire Priest to Learn Sign Language

Father Walt becomes a Dignity & Respect Champion


When Father Walt Rydzon was the pastor at St. Anthony’s in Monongahela, he was inspired to learn sign language so he could speak to the deaf children of two of his parishioners. He thought, if church could be boring for hearing children, how must it be for young deaf children?


The first week after joining a signing class, Father Walt signed to the children asking how school was that week. “If you would have seen their faces you wouldn’t have believed their excitement,” Father Walt explained. From that moment on, Father Walt knew he wanted to do more for the deaf community.


Father Walt has been ordained 42 years serving in parishes in Washington County and Pittsburgh. In 1993 the pastor of the deaf community was retiring because of health issues and asked Father Walt if he would be interested being his replacement. At first Father Walt refused, but as he said, “Catholic guilt is a tough thing.” The deaf community was moved from the South Side to the hearing parish of St. Justin on Mt. Washington and that parish became a bi-lingual parish of deaf and hearing, staying there for nineteen years.


Father Walt was at St. Justin until it merged with St. Mary of the Mount, which is now the parish for the deaf. He is assistant pastor there, and he continues to sign mass every Sunday, blending the hearing and the deaf communities seamlessly.


St. Mary of the Mount is not only a place for the deaf community to come for mass but has become a second home for them, as well. Because deaf Catholics come from all around the Pittsburgh area, this is their only opportunity to gather. They usually stay after mass for a couple of hours and have become a support system for each other, which provides a constant reminder to Father Walt of what going to church means to some people.


Father Walt tells a story of a man who came into mass late every Sunday carrying bird cages and other wooden things. Being deaf, he had no idea the noise he made getting to his seat. One day after mass, Father Walt spoke with him and discovered he lived in Altoona. It took this man more than four hours to get to church, taking two buses and the incline. He made the trip because it was the closest deaf mass. He also used the support of the deaf community at St. Mary of the Mount to help him sell his homemade wooden items that helped pay for his long commute to church. When asked how many bird cages Father Walt had, he chuckled and said “Guess what all my friends and family got for Christmas last year.”


Father Walt was nominated as a Dignity & Respect Champion by 2014 Champion Cynthia Stevans. Father Walt was the pastor of St. Justin when Stevans joined the Parish. Stevans said, “He was always spiritually uplifting and looking at life with a sharp sense of humor. He raises people up making them see their special qualities. He has a talent for relating on a personal level to all he meets.”


Father Walt said, “I never thought my second language would be sign language and it wasn’t easy at first. The first deaf wedding I officiated, the bride and groom giggled throughout the entire ceremony. It wasn’t until after the service that the best man told me I signed ‘hamburger’ instead of ‘wedding’ the whole ceremony. Now, I have been doing it for the past 22 years and it has opened up a whole new world for me.”


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. A Dignity & Respect Champion is someone ― nominated by a co-worker, family member, or friend ― who embraces diversity, embodies compassion, and demonstrates mutual respect. For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit or to nominate a Champion visit


Woman’s Stroke Strengthens Her Commitment to the Community

Advocate Leigh-Anne Weiss is a Dignity & Respect Champion

Leigh Headshot2

At the age of 34, Leigh-Anne Weiss was the happy new mother of her second child and the Community Service Director of Gateway School District. One day while talking on the phone with her husband, she suffered a stroke that would change her life forever.


“At first my husband thought I was having a heart attack. It was his knowledge of the signs and symptoms of having a stroke that is the reason I am still here today.” Weiss said. There was no explanation for her stroke. After a month of recovery, Weiss was able to return to work. Weiss was lucky to make a full recovery and added another item to the list of causes she supported.


From a young age, Weiss knew that being involved in the community was what she wanted to do with her life. As a student at Gateway High School, a teacher encouraged her to apply to the AmeriCorps program. She took his advice and became part of AmeriCorps in its inaugural year, 1993, as a member of the Pennsylvania Service Corp, which was one of the demonstration models for the program nationwide.


Weiss’ service placement was at her alma mater, Gateway High School, where she developed its community service program. After two years as a volunteer, Weiss knew what she wanted to do in her career. “I knew that getting involved in the community and being able to give back was my dream job.” Weiss explained.


Weiss was hired by the Gateway School District upon completion of her AmeriCorps service, and spent the next 18 years as its community service director. Her focus was on diversity training for incoming freshmen and creating opportunities for students to participate in service projects around the community. The program paired incoming freshmen students with upperclassmen to teach them about respecting each other while gaining team building skills.


After recovering from her stroke, Weiss traveled several times to Harrisburg to lobby state lawmakers for additional funding for congenital heart defects (CHD) and stroke research dollars. She has become part of many organizations, such as Jamison’s Army, where she volunteers her time to bring awareness and fundraise for children and their families who have CHD.


Wendy McCabe, a neighbor and close friend of Weiss, nominated her to be a Dignity & Respect Champion because, “Leigh-Anne is involved in many, many organizations and truly is a difference-maker in the Pittsburgh region. She is willing to stand up and speak out for any injustice she sees and will roll up her sleeves to help.”


Weiss currently lives in Regency Park area of Plum Borough with her husband, David, and their two children. In 1999 Weiss and her husband opened their own business, Airheads Balloon Art. Even through their business they are committed to engaging in community service and philanthropy. They take special pride in making displays for many non-profit organizations to help with their fundraising and awareness efforts.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. A Dignity & Respect Champion is someone ― nominated by a co-worker, family member, or friend ― who embraces diversity, embodies compassion, and demonstrates mutual respect. For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit or to nominate a Champion visit


Local Attorney Helps Military Families Lighten the Process

Krista L. Peckyno Named Dignity & Respect Champion



Krista L. Peckyno saw firsthand how difficult it was for her veteran grandfather to receive benefits when he moved into assisted living. As an attorney, Peckyno was able to help ease his way through the maze of forms and procedures, and then realized she could make a difference for other veterans and activity military, also.


Peckyno has been a volunteer in recognition for members of the armed services almost her entire life. As a young girl, she would attend veteran events with her grandfather to sing the National Anthem. Now as an adult, she is putting her education to work to help on a larger scale.

Peckyno is a member of the American Bar Association’s Military Pro Bono Project where she provides free legal services to active duty military personnel and their families. She is also a volunteer attorney with the Veteran’s Claims Assistance Network, which assists veterans in filing and contesting their benefit claims with the VA and works to reduce the backlog of VA claims.


“Having two grandfathers who served in WWII—one in the US Army and one in the US Air Force—and now being engaged to someone who served in the US Navy for six years, I see the daily struggles of people in the military. I try to reduce some of those struggles for them and their families.” Peckyno said.


In addition to her efforts with military families, Peckyno volunteers at her alma mater, Bethel Park High School, as a Mock Trial Team Coach. She also recently became a mentor for Strong Women Strong Girls, an organization that strives to foster leadership skills and a sense of female community.


Teryna Brown, a former coworker of Peckyno, nominated her as a Dignity & Respect Champion. “Krista puts her heart into everything she does and gives unselfishly to everyone she meets. While her professional accomplishments are impressive, it is both her passion for service and compassion for others that sets her apart.”


Peckyno graduated from the University of Central Florida where she earned a B.S. in Pre-Law and a Masters of Nonprofit Management. She received her J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law. Currently, Peckyno works as an attorney for commercial transactions at GENCO, a FedEx Company. Peckyno recently moved back to Pittsburgh from New York City and lives with her fiancé in Bethel Park.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. A Dignity & Respect Champion is someone ― nominated by a co-worker, family member, or friend ― who embraces diversity, embodies compassion, and demonstrates mutual respect. For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit or to nominate a Champion visit


HR Professional Learned Importance of Mentorship from Sixth Grade Teacher

Inez Colon Named Dignity & Respect Champion


Inez Colon Knows How Support and Encouragement Can Break Down Barriers to a Success.


Pittsburgh, PA (July 17, 2015) — Inez Colon’s path wasn’t clear until she walked into Jacqueline Dendy’s PS 59 sixth grade classroom. Colon grew up in Brooklyn experiencing the pressures of growing up poor in New York City. Her only goal was to get out.


“Ms. Dendy was the turning point in my life. She showed me how bright I was and that I could do whatever I wanted. She encouraged me to pursue education and see it as my way out of the challenges of the inner city,” said Colon. The support and mentorship shown by her teacher formed the foundation of Colon’s career in human resources and her dedication to mentoring.


Inez Colon, currently the director of employment and development for the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT), has been selected as a Dignity & Respect Champion for her commitment to creating a more diverse workplace by providing access to women and minorities trying to create a better life for themselves.


Robyn Taylor, a colleague of Colon’s at PAT, nominated her. Taylor wrote, “Inez treats each employee and each applicant with the same courtesy and care. Her underlying motivation in life is the desire to do the right thing in every situation.”


Colon’s commitment to helping others build life and job skills is not limited to her workplace. Colon is a volunteer and mentor for the Maikuru Project, a program that provides support to teen mothers. Colon has been a part of the program for four years. She meets with the moms and provides guidance on employment issues, as well as general life topics and skills.


“The Maikuru Project is really important because these young mothers have the potential to create stable lives for themselves and their children, but sometimes don’t have the resources to do so. I want to help them take away barriers that prevent them from moving up in the world,” said Colon.


Prior to joining PAT, Colon worked for USAirways where she and her team made aviation history by hiring the most diverse workforce. As a result, Colon and her team were awarded “Setting World-Class Standards for Diversity in Pilot Hiring.


Other awards Colon has received are the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials’ (COMTO) Best Grass Roots Activities award, County Council Certificate of


Minister Makes a Difference for Families in the East End by Promoting Social Justice Through Homeownership

Michael Stanton Named Dignity & Respect Champion


Garfield resident Michael Stanton helps families make the transition from renting properties to owning their own homes as a way of empowering the community. Open Hand Ministries, an organization co-founded by Stanton in 2008, is dedicated to educating individuals on the importance of home ownership. It also turns abandoned houses in Garfield and East Liberty into livable, family homes.


Since starting Open Hand Ministries, Stanton and his staff, along with hundreds of volunteers, have made it possible for 11 families to go from renting to homeownership. Out of these families, eight single mothers have been able to purchase a home and create a more safe and stable life for themselves and their children. Open Hand Ministries works closely with the Bartko Foundation, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that works towards helping single minority mothers become self-sufficient.


“I am very honored to be named a Champion of Dignity and Respect” Stanton said. “OHM is a member driven rather than a board driven nonprofit organization so treating people with respect and consideration is a foundation of our work.”


After graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Occupational Safety and Health, Stanton went on to work for Purdue Farms in Virginia, Delaware and Maryland. Stanton later became an ordained minister through the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. In 2005, Stanton purchased a house in Garfield with his family. It was through his connections with different organizations and individuals in the neighborhood, that Stanton was able to create Open Hand Ministries.


Open Hand Ministries is a collective of four churches from the Garfield and East
Liberty communities including, East Liberty Presbyterian Church, East Minster Presbyterian Church, Valley View Presbyterian Church, and Open Door Presbyterian Church. Committed to working with local families by offering education in debt reduction, budgeting, saving and investing, Open Hand Ministries has succeeded in providing the appropriate guidance to families who are having trouble qualifying for mortgages.


Rev. Dr. Randy Bush of East Liberty Presbyterian Church, former Dignity & Respect Champion, nominated Stanton saying, “Michael is a visionary leader as well as the primary contractor and home renovator. He does this work with passion, dedication, respect and sacrificial care.” Stanton joins 66 other members of the community who have been named Dignity & Respect Champions since the first champion in 2010.


Stanton lives in Garfield with his wife, three teenage daughters and 7–year-old son. He plans to add more staff to Open Hands Ministries in the upcoming year in order to expand their efforts to restore houses and provide family homes for those in need.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. A Dignity & Respect Champion is someone ― nominated by a co-worker, family member, or friend ― who embraces diversity, embodies compassion, and demonstrates mutual respect. For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit or to nominate a Champion visit


Branden Ballard, 30, lost his mother at a young age. He believes that tragedy helped him become the man he is today.

Branden Ballard Named Dignity & Respect Champion

Branden Ballard headshot

Raised by his grandmother in Detroit, Ballard immersed himself in many after school programs, such as basketball, football and track. Through these activities, Ballard saw first-hand the impact a volunteer can have on a child. “I was around men who poured their time into me when they didn’t have to. I knew some day I wanted to do the same,” Ballard explained.


After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2006 with a degree in Social Sciences, Ballard stayed in Pittsburgh and has been giving back to the community and making a difference to many young people in the area ever since.


Ballard is a manager for the Pittsburgh Public Schools “We Promise Program,” which provides resources to African-American male students to ensure that they are prepared and eligible to receive a scholarship from The Pittsburgh Promise. When Ballard started with the program in 2013, 18% of African American male students were eligible for The Pittsburgh Promise. Just a year later, that number rose to 30%.


Looking back at his childhood, Ballard believes that if he had not had mentors and strong men to guide him as a child, he doesn’t know where he would be in life today.
Ballard “pays it forward” by spending most of his free time as a volunteer and mentor. Ballard was a mentor at Amachi Pittsburgh for five years, and continues to have weekly calls with his mentee, even though the mentee aged out of the program. He also has been a NFL Youth Flag Football coach for boys aged 10 to 12 for the past three years. Ballard models himself after the many men who mentored him as a child, hoping to make the that kind of difference in the next generation.


In addition to being a mentor and coach, Ballard is the president of the Urban League of Young Professionals Pittsburgh (YPP), which brings together Pittsburgh area professionals between the ages of 21 and 39 who are committed to volunteering, philanthropy and membership development. Ballard has been a part of YPP for the past eight years. “Being a part of the Urban League’s program gives me the opportunity to give back to the community and build networks with like-minded people,” Ballard said.


Ballard had enjoyed getting to know Pittsburgh. He has “sampled” many of its communities and neighborhoods as a resident, including Manchester, South Oakland, Lawrenceville, and Highland Park.


Ashley Brooks nominated Ballard, her former coach at Public Allies Pittsburgh, to be a Dignity & Respect Champion. Brooks says, “Branden is selfless in both his work and his personal life. He cultivates an inclusive environment anywhere he goes. Regardless of a person’s race, religion or gender, he creates a respectful and judgment free zone. He is a role model for me and many other young people in Pittsburgh. ”


Ballard hopes to pass the torch and inspire as many people as he possibly can. Branden Ballard exemplifies Dignity & Respect Tip 27, “Become a mentor.”


Uncle’s Death from AIDS Determines Future for Local Infectious Disease Physician

Dr. Stacy Lane Named Dignity & Respect Champion


Pittsburgh, PA (April 8, 2014)—Growing up in a middle class blue-collar family in Crafton Heights, Stacy Lane never imagined she would one day become one of the most significant infectious disease doctors in Pittsburgh. That changed for Dr. Lane after her uncle was diagnosed with AIDS in 1992.


As a sophomore at Langley High School, Dr. Lane saw first hand the devastation that an AIDS diagnosis caused her uncle and his family and friends. Since he wasn’t out as a gay man, doctors had a hard time diagnosing him. Once diagnosed, he felt he even had to lie to his family at first and told them he had cancer.


After her uncle lost his battle to AIDS in 1995, Dr. Lane was already well on her way to changing the lives of people who were HIV positive or had AIDS. Lane studied at Washington and Jefferson College, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and then went to the University of Maryland for her infectious disease fellowship.


Her first job as the medical director of Allegheny General Hospital’s HIV program brought Lane back to Pittsburgh in 2007. Now working part-time at Ohio Valley General Hospital and part-time in primary care/HIV at the West End Health Center, Lane still feels there is more that needs to be done for outlier patients.


According to Lane, most of her patients with HIV don’t fit in the box of a traditional doctor’s office. Many are transgender and have limited resources available to them. “A lot of my patients are involved in high risk situations like buying hormones on the street. I’ve come to realize that they are going to put themselves in danger or I have to find a different way for them. I find that different way.” Lane explained.


Dr. Lane currently has more than 300 patients that are HIV positive and more than 50 transgender patients. Lane goes above and beyond for every single one of them, even if that means taking a nontraditional approach. Dr. Lane has become known as the doctor that people aren’t afraid to talk to. “A lot of my patients, especially the younger ones, text me or message me on Facebook when they are too afraid to go into a doctor’s office.” Lane said.


Former Dignity & Respect Champion, Christine Bryan, nominated Lane because “she is a huge advocate for the transgender community and is one of the few medical doctors who treats these patients in our community.” Bryan knows that many people have been shunned by the health care system because of the lack of understanding and care that is available to them and knows the tremendous impact that Dr. Lane has had on HIV patients in Pittsburgh.


Because of the lack of proper care and knowledge, and the fear that these patients have about their disease, Dr. Lane is in the process of opening her own practice so she can focus on what most practices don’t want to deal with. Dr. Lane is partnering with Rev. Clifford Foster who is the founder of the Central Outreach Resource and Referral Center in the North Side that specializes in minority HIV prevention intervention, Drug and Alcohol referral services, and HIV testing.


Together they plan to open the Central Outreach and Wellness Center in the North Side and focus on HIV and IV drug users. By having her own practice, Dr. Lane can break the traditional mold of a doctor’s office and meet her patients where they are in their lives.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. A Dignity & Respect Champion is someone ― nominated by a co-worker, family member, or friend ― who embraces diversity, embodies compassion, and demonstrates mutual respect. For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit or to nominate a Champion visit


Educator Brings His Values to Vo-Tech Staff and Students.

Kevin Rice Named March 2015 Dignity & Respect Champion


PITTSBURGH, PA (March 13, 2015)— At this year’s 54th Annual World of Wheels Car Show at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, local high school students took first place with their 1966 Ford Mustang over professionals from all around the Pittsburgh region. These students are part of the Collision Repair program at the Steel Center for Career and Technical Education in Jefferson Hills. The students who attend Steel Center can attribute some of their success to Executive Director, Kevin Rice who was just named the March 2015 Dignity and Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh. 


Rice grew up in Washington County where his values and attitude toward education and empowerment were formed by his parents and five siblings. Rice was raised in a very modest family but was always taught the importance of giving back to the community and helping others. Rice attributes a lot of his values to his father who is disabled. Rice was taught a lot by watching his father never let his disability affect him. Rice learned through his father that “some people own their adversity and others have their adversity own them.”


A graduate himself of a vocational-technical high school, Rice went on to earn a Master of Education in Counseling from California University of Pennsylvania and a second Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Penn State University. He knows the importance of education even if it’s not done through the traditional school systems. More than 600 high school students attend Steel Center for Career and Technical Education from 11 school districts in Allegheny County, and more than 500 adults attend to learn new job skills or to develop previous skills.


Rice is also dedicated to creating a diverse workforce within his staff. Rice wants to ensure that everyone from the board members to the custodians bring something different to the Steel Center. “I want to have a staff that comes from all walks of life and reflects the diverse students that we have” Rice explained.


Melody Cater-Frye, a colleague of Rice’s, nominated him and described him as a servant leader. “He believes in equality and empowerment of others and believes that everyone is important in the workplace.”


Pastor Works to Unite LGBT and Faith Communities.

The Rev. Shanea Leonard Named February 2015 Dignity & Respect Champion


Pittsburgh, PA (February 11, 2014)— At 15 years old, Shanea Leonard heard the name Judah, which means praiseworthy, through her prayers. From that point on she knew she would someday form a congregation for the most praiseworthy—the disenfranchised—and name the church Judah.

The Rev. Leonard grew up in Philadelphia where her beliefs and values were formed by her family and her faith. Along the way she developed a strong sense of herself and her purpose: to be a voice when others are silent. After attending the University of Pittsburgh, where she majored in religious studies and political science, the Rev. Leonard stayed in Pittsburgh. That was 15 years ago.


“I don’t feel like our time on this earth is worth anything unless we are helping to make it better, said the Rev. Leonard.


One of the ways the Rev. Leonard helps to make the world a better place is through her support for LGBT issues. She is the W. PA regional organizer for Equality PA, which is a statewide LGBT advocacy organization. She is also active in the New Pride Alliance in Erie.


The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh’s Christine Bryan, a former Champion herself, nominated the Rev. Leonard because of all the work she does for the LGBT community, “Shanea Leonard has been a vital part in breaking down walls of bigotry, intolerance and hatred in the Pittsburgh area. “


After several years as an ordained clergy, the Rev. Leonard started the Judah Fellowship Christian Church in October 2011. She welcomes all to her church on the North Side, regardless of their circumstances.


Judah Fellowship Christian Church and the Rev. Leonard, along with other community sponsors including, Chatham University, Pittsburgh Presbytery, First Methodist Church, East Liberty Pres. Church, and New Voices Pittsburgh, are hosting the second “Healing the Hurt Conference: Dancing with Broken Bones” on Saturday, September 26, 2015 at Chatham University. The goal of the conference is to create a forum to facilitate dialogue and bridge-building reconciliation among the LGBT population and the faith community.


The Rev. Leonard explains, “As the acceptance of homosexuality is a defining status of our generation and a point of contention within many denominations, it is important for the faith community to speak to an issue that is directly impacting its congregants.”


In addition to her other work, the Rev. Leonard is the board chair for New Voices Pittsburgh, a nonprofit dedicated to affirming women and girls of color; founded the Pittsburgh Faith Consortium; and is active in We Change Pittsburgh.


When asked how she felt about being nominated as a Champion of Dignity and Respect, the Rev. Leonard said, “I have devoted my life to serving and advocating for those who feel broken and lost. I am honored and humbled to be recognized as a Champion.”


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. A Dignity & Respect Champion is someone ― nominated by a co-worker, family member, or friend ― who embraces diversity, embodies compassion, and demonstrates mutual respect. For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit or to nominate a Champion visit


Dignity & Respect Champion Builds Commitment to Education and Community Engagement Throughout His Lifetime.

Pitt School of Social Work’s John Wallace Is January 2015 Champion


Head Start—the federal program that promotes the school
readiness of young children—began in 1965, the same year John Wallace was born.  When his parents enrolled him in the nascent program two years later, it was the beginning of his life-long involvement with education and community outreach to low-income children and families.  Student John Wallace went from Head Start, to Trinity Christian School, then all the way to the University of Chicago. 


Today, John Wallace, Ph.D. is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh where he holds the Phillip Hallen Chair in Community Health and Social Justice in the School of Social Work.  He returned to Pittsburgh and his Homewood roots in 2004 after sixteen years at the University of Michigan. Dr. Wallace strives to pass along his commitment to economic and racial justice, and has helped to educate and train postdoctoral, graduate, undergraduate and high school students, community residents and regional leaders.


Dr. Wallace’s passion to help others is rooted in the values of hard work, commitment to education, and the spiritual upbringing he received during his childhood.  His parents and grandparents lived within 100 yards of each other in Homewood, and the presence of both his father and grandfather helped form Dr. Wallace’s belief in the importance of men as role models.


These principles continue to be evident in the work Dr. Wallace does both in his professional and personal lives.  He co-founded the Homewood Children’s Village in 2008 as a child-centered, comprehensive community initiative whose mission is to improve the lives of Homewood’s children and to reweave the fabric of the community in which they live.  Inspired by the Harlem Children’s Zone, Dr. Wallace, the board and the staff of the organization have worked for almost six years to make the Homewood Children’s Village a reality.


Dr. Wallace has engaged students–from Pitt’s School of Social Work, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and the Deitrich School of Arts and Sciences as well as Carnegie Mellon University architectural students and the Heinz School–out of the classroom and into Homewood where they have received hands-on experience to help advance the work of the Homewood Children’s Village by assisting in research that benefits children and their families.


“Poverty is a tremendous inhibitor to success so it is extremely important to instill a strong education foundation in the children in our communities,” explains Dr. Wallace. “We connect with individual children but do not replace their families.  Our work is to help children and their families remove non-academic barriers to academic success.”  


Dr. Wallace has created partnerships with the Pittsburgh Police Department, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, local neighborhood organizations, and others around individual children and their families to deliver high quality, evidence-based services and programs.  Local foundations such as the Richard King Mellon Foundation and The Heinz Endowments, as well as national funding sources such as the National Institutes of Health, generously support Dr. Wallace’s work at the Homewood Children’s Village.


Carrying on the tradition of his grandfather who started the church in 1956, Dr. Wallace is senior pastor of Bible Center Church in Homewood where he recently launched a social entrepreneurial program called the Oasis Project.  The project encourages community development with a focus on youth being the drivers of their own economic development, giving them the opportunity to learn how to start their own businesses. 


In addition to his selection as a Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh, Dr. Wallace’s work was recognized by Urban Affairs Association and SAGE publications, which honored him with the 2013 Marilyn J. Gittel Activist Scholar Award.


When asked how he felt about being a Champion of Dignity & Respect, Dr. Wallace said, “It is a huge honor because it is consistent with my personal values. God created us and loves us and we therefore have a responsibility to treat people how they want to be treated.” 


Penn State Nutrition Adviser Says
it’s Her Students That Feed Her Soul

Cynthia Stevans Named Dignity & Respect Champion

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Cynthia Stevans spends her days working in the community reaching out to some of the hardest to reach people. She strives to educate them on issues of good nutrition, food safety, and how to make the most of very small budgets.


Cynthia works as a nutrition education adviser at Penn State Extension, which is part of The Penn State Center Pittsburgh. In her role, she conducts education programs that are sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture as a community service. Many of the people she works with each day are either homeless families, people with mental disabilities, people who have been formerly incarcerated, immigrants, or recovering addicts. She says, “We all have preconceived notions about drug users, ex-offenders, and mental illness. Most likely we are very wrong.” Listening to people’s stories and learning about them as individuals is something Cynthia absolutely loves to do, because it gives her new understanding and expands her compassion. According to Cynthia, “We all need to have more compassion in the world today.”


Being blessed with two children with special needs has helped Cynthia develop a lot of patience, kindness, a good sense of humor, three things she thinks are critical not just in her work, but in life as a whole. Cynthia has twins who are now young adults. Her son has autism and her daughter was diagnosed with diabetes at three years old. “I watched my children struggle to demand acceptance and understanding in their lives, so I know how important it is to acknowledge differences and include everyone.”


When her daughter was beginning Kindergarten, AIDS was still a very scary thing to most people. The private school she was attending didn’t want to let her in, because she had to prick her finger three times a day to test her blood sugar. The morning Cynthia arrived at the school to explain to the principal that it was not a risk to the staff or students, another kid was in the office with a nose-bleed. “There was blood everywhere—floor, desk, chair, walls—and I simply pointed out that nobody was wearing a haz-mat suit, or even just gloves.” Cynthia continued, “My daughter started school there and that’s when I realized that life is funny with many twists and turns. We just have to try and find the humor in it all.”


Cynthia says some folks are just uncomfortable around people they don’t relate to. A child with autism can be quirky and socially awkward. A lot of people, especially twenty years ago, are uneasy around someone with autism because they don’t understand their unique differences. Cynthia continues, “Unease is not disrespect, it’s just the lack of knowledge and experience. Some people just have questions and we have to leave the space for them to learn about all of our differences. That’s where respect lives, in that space to learn about each other.” Cynthia explains, “My son does have peculiar social behaviors, but he also taught himself classical piano and writes his own music. Someone has to take the time to learn all the really great stuff about him. They have to take the time to get past the social awkwardness.”


Every time Cynthia walks into another community organization to deliver her program, she knows some of the strangest things will come up, something crazy will happen, and she has to be ready for it all. “I like being out of my comfort zone. I had to learn to be comfortable in that space, because if not I would ‘stay stuck’ in my own life and experiences and we can’t learn about others if we are stuck in our own space.”
Maureen Hogan, assistant director of The Penn State Center Pittsburgh, nominated Cynthia for this honor saying that, “It is a blessing to know Cindy and I am always in awe of the special way she approaches her work and students.” When asked how she felt about receiving this honor Cynthia replied, “I thought ‘Who, me?’, because the work isn’t about me. It’s about all the amazing people I meet everyday. Some people may think they’re strange, but I love hearing their stories. I love learning about their differences. It fuels me and I love them all.”


Brighton Heights Attorney Hosts Thanksgiving Dinner for Homeless Youth

Erin Springer Named November Dignity & Respect Champion


After reading an inspirational story about the struggles of youth transitioning out of foster care, Brighton Heights resident Erin Springer took action by organizing an annual Thanksgiving Dinner at Familylinks Downtown Outreach Center and Shelter, which serves homeless youth ages 18 to 21.


Erin was nominated to be a Dignity & Respect Champion by Stephanie Rex, who works at Familylinks and sees Erin’s dedication and enthusiasm for her project. “She embodies what it means to be a champion of dignity and respect,” said Rex. “She serves a wide range of people in need.”


After graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Criminology, Erin received her Juris Doctor from University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She currently works at EQT Corporation as a Title Specialist II, where she oversees property ownership. During the holidays, she spends her free time organizing the annual Thanksgiving Dinner. “It really hit me that these kids sometimes have no one to help out or fall back on,” said Erin. “Everyone needs someone to support them, and I wanted to do what I could in some small way.”


The dinner planned for this November is her most successful undertaking yet. Forty-five families are providing food, transport, or simply some of their time for the day of the event. Erin said families use this opportunity to involve and teach their kids, and show them that Thanksgiving is about wholehearted kindness and paying it forward.


“We wanted to show kids that not everybody lives with their mom and dad, and that’s not strange—and that’s not bad—there’s still people that care about them and love them,” said Erin. During the dinner last year, she and her husband were amazed and humbled by the kid’s reactions.


“They were so gracious and helpful, carrying things in and asking if they could help in any way. After we left, we were quiet for awhile, because it hit us so hard that we were on our way to a dinner with family that we take for granted every year and these kids wouldn’t have had anything special otherwise. That sealed it, and we’re vowing to do this every year.”


There are short term and long term hopes for the future. Erin stated that if she continues to receive such amazing support, she plans to expand the Thanksgiving dinner to another, long-term outreach center. Her experiences at Familylinks have inspired her to consider becoming a mentor for the kids, and also changed her perspective on becoming a parent. Erin and her husband never felt strongly about having a baby, but they decided if they ever wanted a family—it would probably be through fostering or adopting a child.


Washington County Woman Brings Passion and
Commitment for Positive Change to Her Volunteerism

Monda Williams Named a Greater Pittsburgh
Dignity & Respect Champion


Washington County native Monda Williams has a passion for positive, creative change in communities, and it shows through her volunteer work. She has been an active member of her community for nearly a decade working with various causes to help others reach their fulfillment.


Monda was nominated by Bracken Burns, chair of the Greater Pittsburgh Dignity & Respect Campaign and former Washington County Commissioner. “Monda has proven to be a recognized leader who embraces diversity, and is also known to have a charismatic and influential personality,” said Commissioner Burns.


Since returning to Washington County in 2006 Monda has coordinated events, facilitated classes, and volunteered for numerous community organizations in and around Washington County. As a part of her commitment to community service, she volunteered for The Civic Leadership Institute of Greater Washington, Highland Ridge Community Development Corporation and Community Garden, Community Action Southwest, the N.A.A.C.P, Community Voices Against Violence, The Adult Literacy Council, The Washington Literacy Council, the Washington County Housing Authority, and the neighborhood Drug Awareness Corporation.


Monda joined the military in 1995. During her training experience, she learned the importance of personal discipline, structure, and daily routine. “I learned what it meant to actually respect others—the way that we’re trained in the military is how to embrace other people no matter where they come from, because you may end up side by side with that person,” said Monda.


After receiving an honorable discharge, she attended Ohio State University and began working at Ohio State Medical Center as a medical assistant. However, she recognized she wasn’t utilizing all of her natural talents. “I realized one day that I wasn’t really working on my purpose. I was always taught and told along the way to get involved, be the leader that you are—volunteer,” she said.


Monda completed a series of Professional Life Coach training courses in March of 2014 in order to follow her passions. To achieve her ultimate goal of helping underserved populations in the Greater Washington area, she began an education plan and received a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies from California University of PA in 2009 and a Master’s of Science in Organizational Leadership from Robert Morris University in 2012. As a certified Life Coach, she will use her passion about positive, creative change in communities to aid in the personal growth and development of others.


Homewood Native Changes Lives through Health Empowerment

Pitt Graduate Student Marcus Poindexter Honored as Dignity & Respect Champion


University of Pittsburgh graduate student Marcus Poindexter did not know he was going to get involved in the field of social work. What he did know was that he wanted to connect people to services, advocate for people who were voiceless—and make it his passion to help people that others consider irreparable or replaceable.


Marcus is currently a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh completing a master’s in public health while simultaneously working on a PhD in Social Work. By the end of his doctorate, Marcus hopes to help local community members navigate through the health care system and connect them to resources they need in order to maintain good health.


He currently works with the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health as a researcher on two projects—the POWER initiative and the Violence Prevention Program. The POWER initiative aims to lower the transmission of HIV in African American males, while the Violence Prevention Program aspires to lower incidences of gun violence that occur in at-risk, vulnerable communities throughout Allegheny County. Further, he is heavily involved in the Bible Center in Homewood, which keeps kids immersed in education after school and on weekends.


Marcus believes the POWER initiative and the Violence Prevention Program are the first stepping stones to making a larger impact on his neighborhood of Homewood, where he grew up seeing the problems his family and neighbors faced.
Previously, Marcus worked with the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, where he served as a health advocate helping community members overcome long-held negative opinions regarding health research studies and educating them to make better health choices. He knows that in order to advance health research in minority populations, participation in health research studies is critical. Marcus is combining his education in public health and social work to overcome these barriers to good health.


Jennifer Jones, who nominated Marcus for the Dignity & Respect Champion award, said, “he has a passion for this city, and works diligently at eliminating health disparities and connecting persons with healthcare and resources…he has such a heart for people—anyone that knows Marcus will be able to tell you that.”


To him, life could be so much better if he learned how to motivate others to transform themselves for the greater good of their community. He wants to understand their struggles, help fight their battles, and be with them through their hardship—to be the example he wants to see in Homewood so he can show “younger folks” that working hard and being a good neighbor is vital to the fabric that Homewood was built on.


“There’s no other way to be—everyone deserves to be treated with dignity because they are human, despite whatever differences lie between us,” said Marcus. “People deserve respect because they were created to be our brothers and sisters and assist us in our life journey. They add color to our otherwise lifeless world.”


Downtown Teen Lends a Hand by Helping Others

Kathleen Horner Honored as Dignity & Respect Champion


Kathleen “Katie” Horner just started her junior year of high school at Oakland Catholic. She is beginning to think about college and still not sure what she wants to study when she gets there. But, she does know one thing that is very important to her: helping others. Community service and giving back to others is a big part of who she is, having volunteered nearly 400 hours in less than two years.


Katie, who lives downtown with her parents Lorraine and John, serves as a tutor for the Homeless Children’s Education Fund. Each Monday after school, she goes to Mom’s House in East Liberty where she works with elementary aged kids helping them with their reading, doing science projects, and playing educational games. Katie says, “I love working with younger children and seeing them grow. It makes me feel so good when I walk in and they are excited to see me. I’m just as excited to see them each week and help them learn.”


When asked what traits she finds most admirable in others, Katie responded, “When people think of others more than themselves. We all need to realize that it’s not all about me, me, me. We must have respect for everyone and exclude no one,” she continued, “That’s what my parents have instilled in me and I’m grateful they did.” Katie and her parents participated in the D&R Campaign’s Ceramic Tile Quilt project, where members of the community came together to paint individual ceramic tiles that an artist then constructed into a large “quilt.” The project’s purpose was to raise awareness of domestic violence and the finished quilt has been installed at the Women’s Center and Shelter of Pittsburgh.


Additionally, Katie volunteers at the Squirrel Hill Community Food Bank stocking shelves and filling grocery bags to be delivered to homebound senior citizens in need; at Marion Manor where she escorts the elderly residents to religious services, plans birthday parties, and helps them participate in social activities; served as a volunteer camp counselor at the Shadyside Academy Children’s Summer Camp; and participated in Oakland Catholic service trip to Washington, DC during her spring break last year.


Katie was nominated by Sister Michele Bisbey of La Roche College who says, “Katie is an exceptional young woman who is bright, cheerful, and very poised. Her most outstanding trait is her dedication to caring for and helping others. She has made community service a priority, even skipping lacrosse practice, so as not to disappoint the young kids she mentors.”


Indiana Woman Builds Bridges for Awareness
& Inclusion for People with Disabilities

Executive Director of The Arc of Indiana County Honored as Dignity & Respect Champion


Barbara Telthorster is the executive director of The Arc of Indiana County where she works to include all children and adults with disabilities in every community. Barbara began her career as a nurse, and during her training, was exposed to state institutions that housed people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She saw first-hand that there was a problem with excluding these people from society and that, laws and policies needed changing.


A little while later, her daughter was born prematurely with a disability. The experience of caring for a child with special needs and knowing the challenges her daughter would face led her to a career advocating for all people with disabilities. Today, she has two grandchildren with disabilities and wants her work to assure they can live a full life, the life they want with the greatest quality possible. .


Barbara knows that a major factor in living with independence is having a job. More than eighty percent of people with disabilities are not participating in the labor force and Barbara wants to improve that statistic. She created the Youth Employment Expo, an annual seminar that brings together schools, businesses, and community leaders to help disabled youth and young adults learn about job skills and network with local employers.


Many of the employers who participate in the Expo have little or no experience interacting with people with disabilities, so it helps them gain a new perspective as well. She says a good way to demonstrate dignity and respect is, “To talk to someone face-to-face, engage them in a conversation directly.”


Following an incident with police that escalated unnecessarily and ended with an autistic teenager being arrested, Barbara created the Community Disability Awareness Workgroup. The workgroup brings together members of the community along with the sheriff, state police, county district attorney, and others in order to learn about various disabilities and figure out the best ways to resolve difficult situations involving people with disabilities.


“When you treat someone with dignity and respect, you’ll end up with a friend and we could all use another friend in this world,” Barbara continued, “You also see that we all have abilities and disabilities and treating each other the way they want to be treated helps us gain that understanding.”


The most rewarding part of her job, Barbara says, “Is when I see a person with a disability working at the local grocery story, or shopping somewhere, or at a community event I know that person is living the life they want, an independent life with dignity. That gives me great joy.”


Indiana County Commissioner Patricia Evanko nominated Barbara for this honor, saying, “Barbara is one of the most caring and dedicated people I know. She treats all people, no matter their situation in life, the same. She helps everyone and builds partnerships throughout the community to promote legislation for people with disabilities.”



Pastors of East Liberty Presbyterian Church
Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

Church Opens Doors, Hearts, and Minds for All People to Live and Grow by Faith.


East Liberty Presbyterian Church has long been called the “Cathedral of Hope” and its pastors strive to be a beacon of compassion and hospitality to all people. The Reverend Dr. Randy Bush serves as senior pastor of the church. Pastor Randy, along with his fellow pastors – Rev. Patrice Fowler-Searcey, Rev. Heather Schoenwolf, and Rev. Mary Lynn Callahan – endeavors to create an environment where everyone is welcomed and valued regardless of race, culture, ability, socioeconomic status, gender identity, or sexual orientation.


East Liberty is a vibrant neighborhood in the midst of redevelopment and change, adding to its mix of people from all backgrounds. This change is not new to the neighborhood, as it’s been happening for decades. During the late 1960’s moving forward into the 1970’s, urban renewal pushed East Liberty into transition and decay leaving the community divided and searching for hope. However, throughout these chaotic years, East Liberty Presbyterian Church remained as a force for good in the community. The church became an anchor of support by providing the community with soup kitchens, homeless shelters, educational programs, and services open to people from all faiths and backgrounds.


As the years progressed into the new millennium, the church began to take an even more proactive stance in the community, as the pastors do not shy away from advocating for issues of equity, equality, social justice, and peace. In the midst of the current redevelopment in the neighborhood, the pastors have taken on leadership roles in the community to be sure the community plan was implemented and to stave off gentrification.


East Liberty Presbyterian Church has opened their arms for all to worship including, the LGBTQ community. Pastor Randy and his colleagues have been supporters of the community and advocates for full marriage equality. Additionally the church has also done a lot of outreach into the small, but growing Latino community, even conducting portions of the services in Spanish. At last year’s Christmas service, special accommodations were made for a child, who is unable to speak, to participate in the children’s concert using a special computer that generates his “voice” for him. The pastors take their mission of welcoming all people and celebrating their differences very seriously. This mission is lived out loud, not just spoken.


When asked what we can do better as a society to assure all people are included and differences are valued, Pastor Randy states, “Every church billboard may say ‘all are welcome’ but that isn’t always apparent in the actions of the congregation. We rejoice in welcoming all people here at ELPC.”


Nicole Molinaro Karaczun, who nominated the pastors for this honor said, “The pastors at East Liberty Presbyterian Church don’t just say the words inclusion and diversity; they breathe life into them with behavior and action. The church consistently works to advance issues around social and economic justice, making sure all people are included and cared for. I love attending a church that welcomes everybody and advocates for all people to live with equality, justice, and love.”


Mary C. Parker Facilitates ‘Tough Talk’ to Open Minds

Coro Pittsburgh Staffer Named Dignity & Respect Champion


Mary C. Parker, manager of training and learning partnerships at Coro Pittsburgh, is a dedicated to expanding inclusive dialogue in order to provide equal opportunity for all throughout the greater Pittsburgh area. Born and raised in Georgia, Mary was both subject to the shadows of racial discrimination and exposed to civil rights advocates. These aspects inspired Mary to build her career around social justice issues in communities and in the work force. While an undergraduate student at Emory University, Mary became involved with Emory’s campus relations by monitoring community dialogue regarding Emory’s race history. She continued this work after college while working for City Year, a program that strives to provide a proper education to high poverty communities. Mary worked to audit dialogue, educate, train, and inspire individuals on issues of racial inclusion in Atlanta, Seattle, and Boston.


After relocating to Pittsburgh, Mary started working at Coro Pittsburgh, where she trains NEXT leaders as well as facilitates the Women in Leadership program. Mary strives to change a community by welcoming the opportunity to discard behaviors that exclude others based on race, gender, orientation, ethnicity, or religion. Growing up as an African-American in the south, Mary uses her personal experience as a foreground to her training method. During her monthly leadership programs and discussion groups, Mary takes participants through a process of introspection and self-reflection. The goal is to understand who they are as individuals and determine how they want to be treated based on this new understanding of self. Then, she challenges them to apply this new understanding and open-mindedness to other people they interact with in their community and in the workplace. Mary believes, “Social justice is more than an idea, it is a way of life. Working toward social justice comes from within.” Mary believes that humbleness can provide improvement for the greater good and help a community move forward.


When asked how it feels to be recognized for her efforts of treating people with dignity and respect, Mary responded by saying, “You never know who is watching you and who you might inspire. It reminds me that the work is important and has value in Pittsburgh. I’m honored that someone thought enough of my work to nominate me.”


Molly Burke Allwein, who nominated Mary for this honor, said, “Mary believes that diverse perspectives are vital to innovation. She fosters connection and collaboration among the diverse women in our group and she has led us to be more thoughtful, empathetic, and collaborative leaders who are successful at adapting and thriving in a rapidly changing world. As a group we discuss important and sometimes divisive issues such as the glass ceiling, LGBTQ identities and barriers, the many effects of race and ethnicity on women, and many other important topics. Mary flawlessly facilitates the discussion of tough issues and has dealt with conflict and differing opinions in a way that makes everyone’s voice and perspectives heard, valid, and important.”


Sister Janice Vanderneck Welcomes
Latino Immigrants to the Region

Dignity & Respect Champion Uses Her Faith to Overcome Intolerance

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Sister Janice Vanderneck, the Director of Casa San Jose and a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Baden, PA, works hard to create a more inclusive community for everyone. The Beaver County native joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph at the age of 17 and has dedicated her life to serving others. Sister Janice relates her faith to her outlook on life and how she treats others. “Everyone has something to contribute,” she says, regardless of their nation of origin. Sister Janice has been working with the Latino immigrant population in the region for more than 11 years. As a former Spanish teacher at Mount Gallitzin Academy in Baden, PA, she began this work as a social service minister with the Diocese of Pittsburgh and her passion for the work has steadily grown over the years.


For more than a decade she has devoted herself to the service of the Latino community by teaching English as a Second Language classes, providing translation assistance, mentoring young immigrants through Goodwill of South Western Pennsylvania, and advocating on their behalf for equality and inclusion. She loves working with people and helping them achieve their personal goals, no matter how small or how large. Some of her favorite moments include seeing the smile on people’s faces after they receive their driver’s license or having a child hug her to say thank-you.


“Through Sister Janice’s visionary leadership, she has helped make Pittsburgh a more welcoming place for immigrants,” says Dr. Diego Chaves-Gnecco, Program Director and Founder, SALUD PARA NIÑOS, who nominated Sister Janice as a Dignity & Respect Champion. In August 2013, using a successful program from Philadelphia as a model, Sister Janice and the Sisters of Saint Joseph opened the Casa San Jose located in the St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in the Beechview neighborhood. Casa San Jose is a community organization focused on serving the low income, Latino population in Pittsburgh. Casa San Jose provides connections to service providers to welcome immigrants and to help them integrate more easily. “Everyone is welcome and deserves to be treated with compassion and respect,” says Sister Janice.


She believes that intolerance is an emotional response due to fear and that her faith can break through fear. As an advocate for immigration reform and the needs of the immigrant community, Sister Janice uses her faith and an abundance of compassion to make sure immigrants feel welcome, included, and feel like they are a part of the region. When asked how she felt about being named a Dignity & Respect Champion, she said, “There’s nothing better than being called a champion of dignity and respect. It’s worthy of being put on my tombstone.”


Samuel Black helps others understand
the history and culture of African Americans

D&R Champion has more than 22 years experience in museum & historical society institutions.


Samuel Black has more than 22 years experience in museum and historical society institutions. His life’s work is to help others understand the history and culture of African Americans. He has served as manuscript curator for some of the most important historical resources in African American history.


Since 2002, Sam has been in Pittsburgh at the Senator John Heinz Regional History Center. He is project director for From Slavery to Freedom, a $2 million multimedia project that includes an exhibition, publications, a film series, craft programs, visual journaling workshop, research, collections, and lectures. From Slavery to Freedom is dedicated to historian John Hope Franklin and presents groundbreaking research, thematic museum installations, rare artifacts, and historical profiles that offer new ways of integrating historical documents, art, and research into a museum exhibition.


Sam was nominated as a Champion of Dignity & Respect by Inez Miles, a vice president at Citizens Bank. “Sam works collaboratively with individual and institutions across the country to enhance the quality of information and appreciation of the impact that the African American experience has had on the fabric of American history…we cannot effectively move forward if we don’t know where we have been,” said Inez.


An award winning curator, writer, editor, lecturer, and researcher Sam has numerous publications in peer review journals, encyclopedias, books, magazines, newspapers, and has published three books, Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era (editor); Through the Lens of Allen E. Cole: A Photographic History of African Americans in Cleveland, Ohio (co-author), and The Civil War in Pennsylvania: The African American Experience (editor).


Sam says, “The African American story is not exclusively African American. It includes the white abolitionists, like Charles Avery, who worked alongside the black abolitionists to help bring slaves to freedom.” He continues, “Regarding the civil rights movement, it involved whites, Latinos, and Native Americans, not just black folks. These all were multi-racial movements. No matter who comes to see one of my exhibits – no matter the race or background – I want them to feel connected to it, to see their own history in the stories of African American history. It really is all of our history.”


Sam serves as the President of the Association of African American Museums and has been a member since 1992. He has also served on the executive council of Association for the Study of African American Life & History (ASALH); and is currently vice president of the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch of ASALH in Pittsburgh. He is a member of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society of Pittsburgh.


Pamela Golden Recognized for Her Life-Long Commitment to Serving Others

Dignity & Respect Champion Lives by “Do One Good Deed Every Day”


Pamela Golden, executive director of the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation, grew up with a strong commitment to helping others and engaging all members of the community. Pam, a life-long Pittsburgh resident, remembers her parents instilling in her a responsibility to give back and be a proactive member of the community. Some of her earliest childhood memories are of volunteer projects cleaning up trash in the neighborhood and stuffing envelopes for a healthcare charity fundraiser.


Pam Golden believes, “Everyone has something to contribute, and is of value to the community,” and she hopes to exhibit that belief daily. Pam not only believes that everyone has something to contribute, but she is always quick to acknowledge the good deeds of others. In fact, Pam has encouraged the nominations of several other Dignity & Respect Champions to help promote their efforts in the community. With the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation, Pam strives to bring awareness to issues affecting the development of Allegheny County’s youth, as well as providing them with assistance through direct action programs. She has enjoyed a long career as a marketing communications and strategic planning professional working with some of the region’s marquee organizations, including WQED TV, Magee Women’s Hospital, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.


“Pam deserves to join the ranks of the Dignity & Respect Champions of Greater Pittsburgh. In the more than three decades that I have known Pam, she has been a master at finding time for what’s important in life,” says Judy Kelly, who nominated her for the award. In addition to Pam’s position with the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation, she also finds the time to volunteer for a number of worthy organizations. She is a volunteer with Heartland Hospice where she spends time providing companionship and comfort to people reaching the end stages of life and who may not have family able to be with them. Additionally, she serves as the President for the Aurora Reading Club of Pittsburgh, one of the nation’s oldest African American arts and cultural organizations and is vice chair of The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh. She formerly served on the City of Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission.


“I know a few of the past champions and I’m pleased to join them and continue to encourage and develop dignity and respect. A quote from Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s visit last fall has really stuck with me, ‘Do one good deed every day,’” says Pam. When asked how she has been able to master doing good deeds, Pam responded that she just simply does the things that she would want people to do for her. She continued, “I don’t think I do anything extraordinary. I don’t do anything above and beyond what many other people do. I genuinely enjoy helping. Contributing to others and my community really does give me great joy.” Through community engagement Pam hopes to help build a better and stronger community for the present and for the future.


Laura Kelly Uses Her Ability to Help Others

D&R Champion Promotes Good Causes, Raises Money, and Explains Living with Spina Bifida


Laura Kelly recently started her new career with Innovation Works— an early-stage investment firm, as the Digital Communications Coordinator. Laura, age 26, grew up in Altoona preparing to lend a helping hand to others. Her parents made significant efforts to insure that their children recognized the needs of others. The family often hosted inner-city children on the family farm to expand their learning opportunities and get a chance to see other parts of the state. Laura has Spina Bifida, a congenital disease affecting her spine, which causes her pain almost constantly. She appreciated the opportunity to teach others about the disease without them feeling uncomfortable about asking questions. Both the Kelly family and the children that stayed with them had a lot to learn from each as well as a lot to teach each other.


Ian Rosenberger, himself a past Dignity & Respect Champion, nominated Laura, saying, “Laura is the definition of treating other people the way they want to be treated. When people need help, whether it’s to honor a teacher in the community who’s been loved and lost, raise money for a girl who’s out of options, or drop what’s she’s doing to help a friend move, Laura sticks.”


One of Laura’s fundraising efforts, a cabaret night, celebrated a much loved teacher’s life and legacy and her effect on a community. The event brought together many of the students, families, and friends of Mrs. Folge, Laura’s 10th grade English teacher. The event was so successful that it has become an annual event, celebrating the life of Mrs. Folge for the second time in 2013.


Laura has jumped at the chance to help others since moving to the North Side neighborhood of Brighton Heights, helping develop several events, then using her marketing and social media background to spread the word. Laura helped raise money for Team Tassy, Tickets for Kids, and several other non-profits. She is willing to step up and get her hands dirty without a second thought, regardless of the situation. Laura is ready to jump in wherever she is needed and is happy to be able to help others.
The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. A Dignity & Respect Champion is someone―nominated by a co-worker, family member, or friend―who embraces diversity, embodies compassion, and demonstrates mutual respect. For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit


Producing Director of Kelly Strayhorn Theater
Uses Art as a Tool for Social Activism

Dignity & Respect Champion Creates “Space” for LGBTQ People of Color in City


Joseph Hall is an openly gay African American man who relocated to Pittsburgh from New York to work at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, where he serves as the producing director. Joseph, age 30, is the son of a pastor and describes himself as both, “theatrical and direct,” which he says are key factors to being a successful producer. Growing up in the church as a pastor’s son helped prepare him for his work, since every Sunday is a full production that needs to be “performed” for hundreds of church-goers.


Joseph was the driving force behind the creation of “My People,” an annual film and performance series that explores the experience of LGBTQ people of color and seeks to affirm underserved and underrepresented groups and help identify strong, active, and vibrant communities. Joseph was inspired by Billy Strayhorn, half of the namesake of the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, who lived as an openly gay man of color in the 1950’s and 60’s. Joseph recognizes how courageous that was during those times and that there are still challenges today for LGBTQ people of color. He says, “At first, ‘My People’ was about connecting communities and deepening understanding, but after three years it has become about creating a much-needed space for people to come together to share and discuss their life experiences. We found viewing the film or performance creates a feeling of comfort and understanding, so when the discussion after turns to the audience, people really start opening up and speaking candidly. Spaces like these can’t always be found in Pittsburgh.”


When asked why treating everyone with dignity and respect is important in his daily life, Joseph responded by saying, “Treating everyone with dignity and respect helps build meaningful connections. These connections multiply and strengthen communities. I feel this every day in my community where dignity, respect, and love are abundant.”
Staycee Pearl, who nominated Joseph for this honor, said, “Joseph is a quiet, unassuming, and thoughtful person. I don’t think he set out to be a change maker, but that is exactly what he is by using his passion for the arts for social action.”


Point Park Volleyball Coach Inspires On and Off the Court

Dignity & Respect Champion Raises Awareness and Funds for Special Needs Kids


Michael Bruno is a father on a mission, not just for his daughter, but for all kids with special needs. Michael’s daughter Cassie, age 8, was born with vision impairment and is living with autism. Earlier this year he decided to spend some time walking in her shoes by running the Pittsburgh Marathon blindfolded in order to raise awareness of vision impairment. Michael, who is the head volleyball coach at Point Park University, enlisted the help of his colleague and cross-country coach, Jim Irvine, to serve as his guide during the training and for the 26.2 mile run.


Michael says that he is a father and husband first and earns a living as a volleyball coach. The skills of coaching—setting goals, staying focused, overcoming adversity—are clearly ingrained in him and coaching is a passion. Michael inspires the women he coaches at Point Park University to be successful in what he calls the 3C’s – classroom, court, and community. He and the members of the women’s volleyball team have created Volley for Vision, an annual volleyball tournament, to raise money for the Vision Research ROPARD Foundation, which conducts retinal research for children and adults.


Jamie Scarano, who nominated Michael for this honor, stated that “he is someone who lives the Dignity &Respect Campaign’s Tip #21—get someone else’s point of view—in that he wanted to gain understanding of her [his daughter’s] perspective. He is a role model for parents and others in the community.” Michael sees the community of parents with special needs kids as a fraternity, of sorts. He feels blessed to have his wife and family who do so much to care for Cassie, because he knows it takes a lot. Michael says he is amazed by the strength and courage of single parents doing it on their own. He hopes his efforts also highlight the strength and dedication of the people that care for these children each day.


Michael is honored to be recognized as a Dignity & Respect Champion. “As a parent of a special needs child I truly appreciate how important it is to treat people the way you want to be treated, to give each person the dignity and respect they deserve”, he said. Michael continued, “we should always try to gain an understanding of what other people may be going through and show compassion. Every day all of us are dealing with some issue or challenge, but making sure we do something as simple and easy as saying ‘hello’, acknowledging someone’s presence, can make all the difference to them.”


Jonas Chaney Uses His Platform to
Shine a Light on Those Who Need It

Dignity & Respect Champion Gives Voice to the City’s Unheard Stories


Growing up in Chicago, Jonas Chaney found himself bit by the radio bug at the young age of 12. “I heard the announcer, and I thought, ‘I could do that. That’s what I want’,” remembers Jonas. It took him just five years to get there. He started in radio at 17, while still in high school. Soon his passion for communications, bolstered by his Masters in Journalism, branched out to include television. It was there that Jonas hit his stride and it appears his calling as well. As the Public Affairs Director at WPXI he produces two shows, Impact and Talking Pittsburgh, both of which discuss issues of importance in the various diverse communities of Greater Pittsburgh.


“I have a very rewarding job. A lot of the stations in the country do not have a public affairs director. I’m happy to have the Position,” Jonas says. He continues, “I can delve into areas that highlight non-profits and feature stories from people who aren’t always heard from. I can tell people’s stories that otherwise wouldn’t be out there. Sometimes the news department will pick up stories I have on the public affairs shows and do further reporting on them, exposing these people and nonprofits to an even wider audience.” Impact has featured shows on such varied topics as Muslim faith in Pittsburgh and POISE, an African American foundation focused on building sustainable black communities. Talking Pittsburgh has given voice to Community Options, an employment service for people with disabilities.


Carole Cohen was a coworker of Chaney’s at INROADS/Pittsburgh, a former local affiliate of the organization that trains and develops African-American, Latino, Native Americans and other minorities for corporate careers. She nominated Chaney as a Dignity & Respect Champion. While working at INROADS, Jonas lent his talents as a producer and editor for many projects. Carole says, “He lent his talents for these projects on his personal time. He also connected people to his vast network, helping them to further their causes. He still does that. As an advocate for many, he makes Pittsburgh a better, stronger place for all its residents. He achieves this by dispelling stereotypes, introducing people from diverse communities and showcasing the best the region has to offer.”


When asked how he feels about being recognized as a Dignity & Respect Champion, Jonas says he is “Very happy, I didn’t expect it. I recognize the importance of treating people well. It is the first step in opening people’s eyes to the need to be more inclusive, and that can only make life better for everyone. We should all see what we can do to give help and a voice to those who need it.”


Architect of Events that Build Acceptance

Dignity & Respect Champion Uses His Talents to Bring Communities Together

Richard Parsakian Head Shot # 2 9.12.13

Long before Pittsburgh started charting high on those desirable cities lists, some visitors were aware of its potential charms. Thirty-five years ago, Richard Parsakian came to Pittsburgh from his native Latham, New York as a Vista Volunteer in its architect’s workshop. He came to provide architectural services for low income families and nonprofits. “The idea that I could contribute and help, this was very important to me in terms of my volunteerism,” Richard emphasizes. Richard decided to stay, and now he uses his study of architecture to provide event designs for nonprofits.


“I believe in the organizations I do work for. I believe in trying to help those organizations survive. They need funding and I have a talent that can help with that funding. I use the resources I have to help people,” Richard explains. A former board member of Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, he still does work for them on a project by project basis. Other organizations that have benefitted from Richard’s vision include PrideFest, Pittsburgh Dance Council, Persad Center, Pittsburgh Glass Center, Dance Alloy, Attack Theater, Quantum Theater, Planned Parenthood, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, and the Ellsworth Avenue Street Fair.


Larry Leahy, DDS, a friend who nominated Richard for this award, says, “Richard is truly inspirational and is a tremendous asset to the city. He works endlessly for the betterment of all communities in Pittsburgh. He is tireless in his organization of countless benefits and fundraisers.”


The self-described “center of my universe” is Richard’s vintage fashion store, Eons. He says, “It seems that everything I do emanates from the store. There I meet the people from nonprofit organizations when they stop in for clothes and costumes for an event. It starts with that and I’m glad to supply further help.”


“I am moved to receive the Dignity & Respect Champion award,” Richard says. He continues, “It’s an unexpected honor. It parallels my thinking in how I treat people and how I want to be treated. I like to think of myself as a supportive person for people who don’t have a strong voice. As an openly gay man, I have always been there as a voice for the LGBT community. Now I’m also acknowledged as an advocate for women who need access to healthcare, kids who are coming out, and the arts community.”


Richard believes that treating people with esteem can help bring communities together, regardless how separate their subcultures might seem. He describes how he saw a manifestation of this at his popular “Divas of Drag” event, “I looked out into a mixed audience and saw performers whose talents had been hidden in bars interacting with a new audience. There was a community of people having a great time in a non-threatening environment, a wonderful atmosphere of performance and acceptance between gay and straight cultures.”


Believing in the Power of Art to Find Common Ground

Dignity & Respect Champion Informs Art with Socially Conscious Themes


Not many people realize their mission in life during their childhood years. The transformative power of art is a concept that Janet McCall grasped early in life. “The power of art enabled me to make sense of the world, deal with stress, process emotion, experience joy, and figure out who I was,” Janet explains. “As I got older I saw that so few of the other kids had that orientation. It became obvious to me that art is a birthright we should all have access to. My goal is to use my communication skills to make more people aware of the importance of this.”


As the Executive Director of the Society for Contemporary Craft, Janet strives to bring her inclusive view of art to people of all walks of life by exhibiting the work of artists from all different backgrounds. She says, “The purpose is to bring together a group of people to respond to the works of art and initiate a dialogue.” In her time as director, Contemporary Craft has had installations dealing with gender identity and bullying, a Latino exhibition that emphasized art as a shared language, and an Alzheimer’s themed exhibition. The upcoming exhibition Enough Violence : Artists Speak Out is slated for September.


Sarah Ceuvorst, a co worker at Contemporary Craft , who nominated Janet McCall, says, “Janet strives to encourage diversity of opinions and perspectives. Borders are crossed and preconceived notions and stigmas are overcome through the universal power of artistic expression under her leadership. “


“Receiving this award is an honor,” Janet states. She furthers, “I try to get people thinking how much of our artistic heritage has been informed by many different cultures and is a product of their shared journeys. This reflects a belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”


Keeping the Dream of Activism Alive

Dignity & Respect Champion Partners Students with Communities for the Benefit of Both


Sixties youth culture possessed so much political awareness that at the time it looked like everyone under eighteen was committed to a populist cause. Once the sea changed there were some people who maintained their idealism and continued their work in this area. Tracy Soska is one of these people. He is currently an Assistant Professor and Director of Continuing Education in the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh.


As a teenager Tracy marched against hunger and was an antiwar activist. He went to Pitt but dropped out to become a VISTA volunteer. When his tenure there ended, he went back to Pitt for social work study and realized then that he could make a career out of his passion—helping people and communities achieve their best. Tracy recalls, “I couldn’t believe I could actually get a degree in something I enjoyed doing”.


Today, he is still doing it. He is involved in community organizing, social administration, workforce development, collaboration and coalition building, and university-community relations and partnerships. At the University of Pittsburgh he heads a program on Living Learning Communities. There students get hands on experience in community development. They can apply what they learn in an academic setting to real world issues the neighboring communities are facing, while employing respect and consideration for these communities.


Tracy explains the mutual benefits for the students and the community, “Too often a university can be criticized because we come in as experts, we do our studies and then leave. That’s changing. The community has knowledge. We can partner effectively with them and build long term relationships.” He continues, “Students are learning and developing skills, and communities are learning from us. Simultaneously, students are getting that sense of partnership and collaboration. They are respectful of the expertise that the community has. We teach our students that and hopefully that’s the way my work is perceived in the community.”


Tracy was nominated as a Dignity & Respect Champion by Dr. Larry E. Davis who in his endorsement of Tracy states, “Tracy Soska is not content to keep his work purely academic. He is more than just a scholar, he is an active member and a driving force of many neighborhood organizations. Tracy’s hands-on approach not only demonstrates his commitment to the ideals he teaches, it inspires the students to look into community work themselves.”


When asked how he feels being recognized as a Dignity and Respect Champion, Tracy says, “Trying to emulate dignity and respect is one of the primary tenets of social work. I do that as a professor, but I also think I try to live that as a person.”


Ian Rosenberger Uses Trash to Fight Poverty

Dignity & Respect Champion Empowers the Poor by Employing Them


Ian Rosenberger is the founder and CEO of Team Tassy and Thread. Both of these organizations were founded in 2010 in the aftermath of the Port-au-Prince earthquake where Ian, who was a volunteer at the time, had an epiphany that working with the poor will be his life’s work. Ian met Tassy Filsaime in Haiti. Tassy had survived the earthquake but was dying of an operable tumor on his face.
Ian formed Team Tassy, and after successful fundraising, brought Tassy to Pittsburgh for life-saving surgery. The Team Tassy non-profit organization continues in its mission to realize the inherent power in every person to help end global poverty.
A second organization founded by Ian, Thread, takes trash from poor neighborhoods and turns it into useful products while creating jobs. Ian says, “I’ve been all over the world, and the two things I see most are poverty and trash.” Thread is a for-profit business.


The two organizations Ian Rosenberger founded work in tandem, operating under the same core philosophy: the biggest problem we face as a species is multidimensional poverty and ending it is entirely possible in our lifetime. To do this, we need to invest in the poor to create as many dignified, sustainable jobs as we possibly can. Team Tassy prepares people for employment. Thread processes recycled plastic, which will be turned into finished goods and, in turn, creates jobs for Team Tassy families.


Vivien Luk, Ian’s co-worker who nominated him as a Dignity & Respect Champion, says, “Ian sees the potential in training and employing the poor. He sees the possibilities for recycling waste, what people would never deem as an asset.” Ian, in turn, feels humbled to work with the poor people of Haiti. He says, “The most satisfying part of my work here is giving someone the chance to stand up and be employed, especially someone who was down for a long time.” Ian feels he is “morally accountable to pursue a course of action to help the poor.” He explains, “Once you see poverty like this and acknowledge it, you have a responsibility to try and help eradicate it.”


When asked how he feels being recognized as a Champion of Dignity & Respect, Ian says, “I am very moved. I feel it’s a very cool thing and I appreciate people looking out for the work that we do. It isn’t what you do that counts, it’s the impact that you have that matters.”


Recognizing a Trailblazer of Diversity in the Financial Services

Marsha Jones is a Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh


When Marsha Jones, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at PNC, started her career as a woman of color in financial services three decades ago, she was a trailblazer.


Every one of Marsha’s sales management executive positions have been a milestone for African American women in the financial services industry. “There are countless experiences throughout my career where you notice that something needs to be changed, you ask why it is the way it is, and how you can make it better. You then proceed on a path to do that,” Marsha explains.


Marsha Jones was recruited for her position at PNC three years ago from Merrill Lynch in her native New York where she was involved in multicultural business development and recruiting. She was ready to take her hard earned life lessons and apply them to a new organization where she could make the climb a little easier for both the employees and the organization. “Timing has a lot to do with everything, she said. “We are now on the brink of the impact demographics are going to have, it was natural for me to assume this position and take advantage of the opportunity to make a difference.” Marsha continues, “I had the ability to initiate a program from the foundation up and connect it across the entire enterprise, to connect the dots within the organization.”


Vibrant Pittsburgh CEO Melanie Harrington, who nominated Marsha, said, “It’s not easy to come to a new city, new organization, and a new role to lead a change management initiative. Marsha has done that and in doing so she is positioning her organization as a workplace that constantly strives to treat its employees in an exemplary manner.”


The program that Marsha promoted is an educational focus called “Creating a Culture of Inclusion”. This training program increases awareness of cultural differences and promotes an environment where employees can appreciate contributions from a diverse group. “The bank is experiencing generational challenges and this program in diversity training has helped the workforce to better understand its constituents.” Marsha says. She continues, “We also recognize that in order to be successful we have to be able to develop relationships with those in emerging demographics, to demonstrate how we can be a good business partner for them and be able to meet their needs as customers .“


Marsha spent 28 years at Merrill Lynch, and when she started there weren’t many role models. Jones says, “I was the only woman, the only African American woman. I asked myself, if not you then who? What can I do to make a difference and be able to change that? My success demonstrated that women and people of color can be successful in a financial institution and that success was a result of the inclusive environment that was created in every position.”


Appreciation and regard for others is a way of life that’s been ingrained in Marsha Jones early in her professional life. She explains, “The ability to treat individuals with consideration has enabled me to be that much more successful in developing relationships with a wide range of individuals. An inclusive environment breeds innovation among other benefits. You are encouraging employees to give their best, and they feel an obligation toward the successful outcome of the organization. They are part of it. They have a stake in its success.”


When asked how she feels being recognized as a Dignity & Respect Champion, Marsha says she is “Quite pleased, recognition is always nice on behalf of the work, it is gratifying.”


Senior Scientist Jenifer Warner-Locke is Straight Ally for LGBT Colleagues

Dignity & Respect Champion Advocates for Equality
in the Workplace at Alcoa


Jenifer Warner-Locke, Ph.D. is a senior scientist at Alcoa, leading research projects related to stress corrosion cracking due to fatigue. “I always have a lot of goals I want to accomplish for my work. When I feel I am succeeding in that area, I look toward committing even more to the things outside of science that I strongly believe in,” Jenifer says. She led research in the chemical field and also is dedicated to leading solutions in the workplace by launching programs that will expand inclusion and awareness.


As a straight ally to the lesbian/gay/bi-sexual/transgender (LGBT) workforce, Jenifer saw the opportunity to initiate a new chapter of Alcoa’s equality program at the Alcoa Technical Center (ATC) offices in New Kensington, where she is employed. Her role as an advocate started in high school where she was involved in a Gay-Straight Alliance program.


“I grew up in Northeast Ohio around people who were not of strong economic means. They still managed to have that ‘you can accomplish anything you want’ philosophy. That is where I realized everyone should be treated equally. Everyone should get the same chance, the same shot. I saw that this was not always true for LGBT people.”


“The ATC is more of a research hub, and is different from the Pittsburgh chapter, which is more of a corporate culture. If you’re not bringing your whole self to work and you’re distracted, it’s not a safe working environment. I want to work in a productive, safe environment that I can be proud of,” Jenifer says. She was nominated as a Champion of Dignity & Respect by her husband Landon Locke, who says, “Jenifer is a valued scientist at Alcoa, who is equally passionate about her mission of creating a more respectful and friendly work environment for current and future scientists to thrive.”


ALCOA has an LGBT equality program called EAGLE (Employees at Alcoa for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Equality), which is an active network of LGBT employees, allies, and friends. Alcoa believes that in order to attract the best and broadest pool of job applicants, pulling from the LGBT community is essential. They take pride in being the only metals and mining company to score 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Quality Index. “I’m proud to be working for an organization that values all people and supports everyone achieving their full human and career potential,” Jenifer emphasizes.


Jenifer co-led the launch of the ATC chapter of EAGLE in May 2012. In its first year, the chapter hosted site-wide broadcasting of workshops about transgender awareness and the role of allies in the workplace. The ATC chapter also participated in Pittsburgh’s first Diversity Job Fair and made their presence known with a booth at Pittsburgh’s PRIDE celebration. Jenifer attended the OSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) national meeting, serving as a panelist for the session “Allies in the STEM Workplace”.


When asked how she felt about being recognized as a Champion of Dignity & Respect, Jenifer says she finds it both humbling and motivating. She explains, “It’s humbling to be recognized for the work I do to be supportive and respectful of others, and it’s motivating in making me push myself harder to continue to uphold that responsibility.”


A Steadfast Advocate for the Displaced & the Invisible

Claire Walker Gave a Voice to the Children Who Are Not Seen and Not Heard


Women’s History Month recognizes and pays tribute to the commitment of women who worked hard to make change for the better. Dr. Claire Walker, recently retired executive director at the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation (PCGF), continues this tradition of commitment and is being recognized as a Dignity & Respect Champion for it.


Her history as an advocate started with her early work as a social planner for the Reading Model Cities Agency. There Claire learned of a problem where people went to jail simply because they couldn’t afford bail. After organizing a mock trial and helping residents to learn the facts, a new program to assist those in need grew from her efforts.


During her tenure as the Research Director at Health and Welfare Planning Association in Pittsburgh, she developed the first day care voucher program for children with parents on welfare that allowed them to integrate with those not in the program. Helping children in situations like this to become less invisible sparked a calling for Claire Walker.


“My passion comes from the recognition that we all start as children and everything important happens there,” Claire said. “What happens to children affects their adult lives and too often their voices are quiet and unheard.”


As a policy director for the state Department of Public Welfare Office of Children, Youth and Families, she led the initiative to national compliance with welfare regulations. Due to changes, Pennsylvania children were on the verge of losing money unless the Commonwealth created new standards. Claire worked to rewrite these rules to complement the new regulations and safeguard that the department upheld the very best way they knew how to treat the children. She then created the services to do that. To ensure these rules became reality, Claire became the executive director of Family Resources.


This position led to her time at the Child Guidance Foundation as executive director. Her task involved discovering the issues that no one discussed about the children of incarcerated parents in Allegheny County and being the children’s voice in these issues. Between 12 and 15 percent of Allegheny County children will grow up with a parent in jail during their young lives. Approximately 8,500 of these children currently live separated from one or both of their parents due to incarceration.


“At a time when people were not talking about how hard it is to grow up when your parent is in jail and you are alone—Claire found a calling to rally the world around. For the past ten years, she worked tirelessly to identify potential solutions that would ultimately change lives in Allegheny County,” said Charlotte Brown PhD., President of Board of Trustees of PCGF, who nominated Claire as a Dignity & Respect Champion. “Claire has dedicated her professional life to advocating for children.”


As their advocate, Claire worked to change the system by examining how the losses affected them and then gave the research to those most poised to assist.


“The greatest joy I have is seeing those in the legal system honor their words and respond by working to help the children,” Claire said.


Charlotte Brown comments, “Claire is a special person. She is a listener, a learner, a wise person who makes a difference by taking action and making things happen. Thanks to her dedication and vision, thousands of children in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and ultimately the nation have the promise of a brighter future.”


Reflecting on her prestigious career as a voice for the displaced and invisible children of incarcerated parents Claire states her belief that, “We’re fellow pilgrims on this planet. Everything I’ve done, even that which was most serendipitous, is an accomplishment. At each point I’ve said that I’m so privileged to be able to do this.”


Dispelling Myths & Triumphing Over Fear

Lisa Strother Upsher Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh


Lisa Strother Upsher Is Recognized as a Dignity & Respect Champion for Using Community Education to Defeat the Negative Myths of Being an Organ Donor.


Lisa Strother Upsher, the Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program Director at the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE), is faced with lots of opposition, everyday. It’s her job to inform and persuade, and eventually sway this opposition.


Paula K. Davis, herself a Dignity & Respect Champion for her work with diversity recruitment at the University of Pittsburgh says this about Lisa Strother Upsher, ”Lisa must navigate people’s faith, tradition, beliefs about their very being, and their perceptions of death and dying in outlining why they should consider registering as donors.”


“People can’t see past the misperceptions of being an organ donor,” Lisa states. She quells these fears and raises awareness by conducting ongoing community- based education presentations. Some people need to be approached six or seven times through presentations at work, school, community, and even church before they understand the value of being an organ donor. Lisa Upsher has the persistence to do this, and she developed it early on.


She was born in West Virginia, the baby of 13 children, seven other girls and five boys, where you had to be persistent, just to be heard. A self proclaimed “minister’s kid”, she grew up in a small but diverse area of Italian, Polish and African-American ancestry. Lisa feels that growing up in a small community where “everyone knows everyone”, provided her with a safety zone to develop into who she is.


She has always worked in jobs related to health disparity in the multi-cultural community. She spent 15 years as a field manager for Healthy Start, Inc., another non-profit, where she developed and trained community outreach workers. Lisa has been working at CORE for five years, where she finds her work not only rewarding, but challenging in her everyday interactions with people.


“When you treat others the way they want to be treated, then you make people feel valued and respected and you can change everything for the greater good”, Lisa states. She continues, “A greater diversity of donors can increase access to transplantation for everyone.” Although people of different races frequently match one another; compatible blood types and tissue markers that are critical qualities for matching, are more likely to be found among members of the same ethnicity.


Paula K. Davis, who nominated Lisa as a Dignity & Respect Champion says, ”Under-represented individuals suffer disproportionately from illness that may result in the need for transplantation. Discussion of what may happen to our bodies after dying is very uncomfortable. Lisa must discuss the benefit to the living while respecting the individual.”


Lisa Strother Upsher does this as she communicates to people the importance of being an organ donor and as she educates people against the myths and misperceptions of organ donation. “The number one negative myth is that if you put ‘Organ Donor’ on your license, people are going to let you die,” Lisa states. “The public needs to be made aware that this is an irrational. Sometimes they need to hear it numerous times from institutions they respect, and places they trust, before they realize this,” she adds. Lisa’s job is to educate people how untrue this myth is. And she will do just that, no matter how many times it takes.


From Infants to Seniors, Marc Cherna Is Dedicated to Allegheny County Residents

Director of Department of Human Services recognized as Dignity & Respect Champion


If every interaction presents an opportunity to treat someone with consideration and each day provides a new chance to change someone’s life with your own behavior, then this month’s Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh–Marc Cherna– is in the position to change more than 200,000 lives, every day.


As the Director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Cherna literally deals with residents from infancy (Children, Youth and Families) to their golden years (Area Agency on Aging). With the welfare of an entire county on his shoulder, his motivation stems from the difference he can make in the lives of the residents.

“We’ve made a lot of strides in how we deliver services to a lot more folks in the area,” Cherna said. “My favorite part of the job is hearing about the positive difference we make in their lives.”


At one time there were five separate offices: Aging, Behavioral Health, Children, Youth and Families, Community Services, and Intellectual Disability. Cherna integrated them under one umbrella, forming a human services department that was better equipped to suiting the needs of the individuals they serve.


Cherna’s career in human services began as a youth worker more than 35 years ago. Growing up in the Bronx borough of New York City, Cherna worked for his father’s construction company. He started in human services at the suggestion of his former wife, a social worker. When asked why he switched fields he said, ”You feel that you’re making a difference, that you’re leaving the world in a little bit better place.”


He served four years as the Director of Planning, Allocations and Agency Relations with United Way of Union County in New Jersey. He spent 13 years as an Assistant Director with the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Service in the New Jersey Department of Human Services. Cherna was appointed Director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services in 1997.


Cherna personifies the vision and guiding principles of the Department of Human Services through his dedication to respectful and empowering treatment of all Allegheny County residents. As the director, he understands the importance of setting the tone of the department regarding interactions with the populace.


“We provide services to many different people, and it’s important to put yourself into their shoes,” Cherna said. “We think about how we would like to be treated when we need help. If you treat people with awareness and concern, they feel better and respond better.”


Cherna was nominated as Dignity & Respect Champion by Bernadette Turner, M.S., Leadership Executive Director of Addison Behavioral Care. Although he has received many awards for giving back, Cherna values being recognized as a Champion as a personal accomplishment.


“It’s unique because I’m being acknowledged for how I treat people, which to me is very important,” he said. “I’m very honored.”


Going Beyond Filing and Dialing

Gail Whitehead Sets Her Own Course While Guiding Adults with Academic Problems


An employment title represents the work expected at a job, but not the limitations of the position. For some, a receptionist’s duties may completely revolve around administrative tasks and assistance where needed. Gail Whitehead, receptionist turned Student Support Coordinator for the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council (GPLC), doesn’t stop there.


Whitehead’s commitment to going above and beyond received recognition when she became a Dignity & Respect Campaign Champion of Greater Pittsburgh. The Campaign honors members of the community who live the mission of treating all with dignity and respect in their day to day interactions.


“Gail’s contributions are not bound by the title of ‘receptionist,’” coworker Robin Ballard said. “Her gifts of respect and love permeate the very fabric of how GPLC’s Downtown Center conducts business around students.”


The GPLC serves adults with varied past academic problems, including lack of high school or English language training. Joining the staff in 2004, Whitehead became the heart of the organization. According to Ballard, she sets the first impression of the GPLC for prospective students and acts as the first step toward improving their lives.


Whitehead attributes her desire to give back to the peoples she serves, citing them as gifts in her life. “At GPLC we are here to help you achieve the best,” Whitehead said. “You can only do that with peace, love, and trust. All other barriers must come subject to our atmosphere, which is peaceful. We set the tone up front when individuals walk in our door.”


Early in her employment, a student believed graduating the program wasn’t impressive. Whitehead responded by explaining for it to be important, the student must feel that it’s special. As a result, she created the graduation ceremony for students to help them feel the full impact of their accomplishment. “Every significant achievement is recognized by Gail,” Ballard said. “This creates a wave of congratulations through the organization for the student. She is careful to let everyone know when a student gets a job, becomes a citizen, earns a promotion, or is accepted in college or a vocational training program.”


Whitehead believes everyone has the power to influence good through the right attitude, and that this influence becomes exponential. By showing each other dignity and respect, communities can be changed. Through compassion and acceptance, the world can become more inclusive.


“When you set the tone of treating everyone right, and live by it, nothing else is accepted. People will emulate it. It becomes a way of life,” Whitehead said.


Laurie MacDonald Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

Breaking Taboos and Making Progress


Laurie MacDonald Brings Community Resources to the Casualties of Abuse.


Laurie MacDonald was named the Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh. She worked at Womansplace, a domestic violence center, for 10 years before the organization merged with the Center for Victims of Violence and Crime, this past July.


Nominated for the award by coworker Nicolas J. Hartman, MacDonald has spent more than a decade working tirelessly toward the betterment of a diverse community.


“Through Laurie’s commitment to acknowledging the diversity of crime and victims of crime, we now have an agency providing services in a comprehensive fashion while appreciating and respecting the diversity of the victims it serves,” Hartman wrote in his nomination letter.


“Laurie also has a personal approach to working with her employees, never shy to say hello and ask about our well being,” Hartman wrote. “Laurie truly wants her staff to feel appreciated and enjoy the work that we do.”


MacDonald said the most rewarding aspect of her work is getting to know so many different people. As a daughter of an Arab immigrant, she remembers her upbringing in McKeesport (she grew up two blocks from where Womansplace was established) as one marked by gender and racial discrimination.


“I learned a lot about discrimination and prejudice,” she said. “Female suppression was huge. You were expected to graduate high school and become a secretary.”


That atmosphere has changed, MacDonald said, even if society still has a ways to go. As MacDonald knows, people are still hurting one another.


During the past 10 years, MacDonald admits, she can’t say she’s seen even a modest decrease in the number of women seeking shelter from violence. But she has watched the population she’s served—first through Womansplace and now through the Center for Victims—become more diverse.


Abused women aren’t hiding in the shadows—at least not as often.


“Domestic violence happens to everyone, but the way it’s dealt with in the community is different,” MacDonald said, adding that in some cultures, traditionally, women are more reluctant to use community resources. “It’s not as taboo to seek help [now].”


Womansplace, based in McKeesport, helped reach an underserved community that was less likely to access resources based in the city, MacDonald said. Center for Victims casts the net wider, offering women and men in Allegheny County a 24-hour help line for “victim advocacy, crisis intervention, counseling, and community education programs to those impacted by all forms of violence and crime including, but not limited to: adult and child sexual assault; physical assault; child and elder abuse; homicide; robbery; and burglary,” according to the group’s website.


“It’s good for our clients,” she said. “It’s more of a one-stop shop.”


MacDonald’s optimism baffles some, she said. It’s not that she doesn’t see, first-hand, the casualties of abuse—indications that the values of dignity and respect haven’t taken hold in all of us.


Friends sometimes ask MacDonald how she can do the work she does without being depressed all the time. Her response is simple.


“If you think you’re not making progress—you are.”


Frederick A. Massey, Jr. Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

Mentoring Initiative Grows from a Single Act of Kindness


Frederick A. Massey, Jr. CEO of Familylinks, Inc. is Recognized for his Work Strengthening Families and Communities


(PITTSBURGH, PA) When Frederick A. Massey, Jr. was growing up in Braddock, it was a depressed, tough community. His father worked two jobs, a salesman by day and a convenience store clerk by evening, where he was held at gun-point, even “pistol-whipped.”
Eventually, the family saved up enough to move to the Monroeville suburb. When Massey was in grade school, he would spend summer days with his mother at a Sears department store, where she worked as a security guard. The family couldn’t afford daycare, he said. “I saw love; I saw responsibility; I saw work,” Massey remembers. Now the CEO of Familylinks, Inc., Massey’s work has been recognized by the Dignity & Respect Campaign, which recently named him a Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh.


Familylinks is a Pittsburgh-based human services agency that provides programs such as family treatment centers, supportive housing and outpatient alcohol and other drug programs. Its downtown Outreach Center and Shelter, located in Uptown neighborhood, is the only such center in the city dedicated to homeless youths ages 18-21. Massey, who sees youth mentorship as a civic responsibility, said it’s important for people to extend their warmth outward into the community. “Yes, we love our immediate families,” he said. “But at the same time, the larger community is also family.”


For Fred Massey, life must be lived actively. Speaking by phone earlier this month, Massey said he’d just returned from North Carolina, where he was helping a young woman he mentored move into a new apartment. He met Kaylah when she was 18. She was transitioning out of the foster-care system and unsure about her future. She wanted to go to college, but she didn’t have much guidance in the process. In fact, he said, she didn’t even have her birth certificate. She hadn’t seen her case worker in years. “I asked her: Why do you want my help? Why do you want to go to college?” He recalled her response: “ ‘I grew up in an environment that’s depressed … I don’t want to grow up and get pregnant and not do anything with my life.’ ”


Fred took Kaylah under his wing, helping her get into and afford courses at Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina. He continued acting as a mentor, helping her with questions about her major. She eventually reconnected with blood relatives in North Carolina and met her biological mother for the first time shortly before graduating. “I saw how she totally changed her life through a few interventions … and care and love,” Massey said. Afterward, Massey put the gears into motion for a new program at Familylinks. The Mentoring Initiative Program, which pairs mentors with children transitioning from foster care to adulthood, is expected to fully launch this coming January. “Any child who is displaced is our child,” he said. “There’s the over-used cliche: ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ But it’s true. It’s absolutely true.”


A CPA with a degree from Duquesne University, Massey has been at Familylinks for 10 years, initially serving as chief financial officer before serving as CEO for the past five years. Additionally, he serves as the supervisory chairperson for the Hill District Federal Credit Union, assists with Point Park University’s B.O.L.D. Mentoring Program, and is a minister at The Life Church. Stephanie Rex, the communications director at Familylinks who nominated him for the Champion designation, said his life is one based on action. “Fred truly lives by his values in both his personal life and his work life. Through his own personal commitment to mentoring Kaylah, an entire program that will reach so many kids was born.”


Massey said he was shocked and honored to have received the designation. As someone who is non-judgmental by constitution, treating others with dignity and respect is something of a default-mode for him. “You can’t look and judge people by where they’re at,” he said. “Everyone is equal as they come through the door to us.”


Paula K. Davis Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

Pitt Diversity Stalwart ‘Walks the Talk’


(PITTSBURGH, PA) If you’ve ever taken a bus through Oakland, you know the student population at the University of Pittsburgh is anything but homogenous.


So does Paula K. Davis, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences Diversity for the University of Pittsburgh’s Schools of the Health Sciences. As such, Davis works with diversity recruitment of future health professionals and oversees cultural competency initiatives. Part of her job brings her in touch with students—some of whom may not be used to such a multi-faceted community.


Davis’ work has earned her recognition as a Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh. In addition to her diversity and cultural competency efforts, Davis also leads anti-bullying classes for staff and faculty at Pitt and has volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh.


Davis said it is especially important for future health professionals to see the world through the eyes of others. One reason is that patients may have widely differing cultural experiences, and it is vital to understand their situations and concerns.


“You don’t know who’s going to be sitting on the exam table when you walk into the room,” Davis said. Another reason is that health professionals occupy authoritative, powerful roles in society, she said. And, as Voltaire said, with great power comes great responsibility.


“Our hope is that students will carry that ability to appreciate others not just into the clinical setting,” Davis said. “They often times have a louder voice than the rest of us in the community setting.”
“The beauty in life is in getting to know other people,” Davis said. “Take the time to talk with individuals around you and get to know them. I think you’ll be surprised.”


According to Mario C. Browne and Quinten Brown, who work alongside Davis at Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences and nominated her for the designation, she is tireless in her efforts .


“She champions inclusion through multiculturalism and a respect of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation,” they wrote in their nomination form. “Whether it is through teaching cultural competence to faculty and students, or anti-bullying professional development classes, or volunteering in public schools, she ‘walks the talk’ when it comes to personifying the principles of the campaign.”


A Pittsburgh native who grew up in a North Side public housing community before moving to Monroeville, where she attended Gateway High School, Davis currently lives in Stanton Heights. She has been at Pitt for 18 years and also completed undergraduate studies in English and graduate studies in communication there. “We have a really wonderful community here,” Davis said.


Richard Allison Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

With Creativity and Panache, Richard Allison’s
Volunteer Efforts Raised Almost $500,000 Over 15 Years


(PITTSBURGH, PA) Growing up in a small town and working at the same place for thirty years might seem the height of convention. Rick Allison shatters that notion. Allison, who has worked at Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) for thirty years, grew up in Derry, Pennsylvania, a Westmoreland County community of less than 3,000 residents. He now lives in Point Breeze and helps organize a monthly bingo night in Oakland that is anything but traditional. “I’ve been very out and gay at the college for all my professional career,” Allison said. “I’m out in everything that I do. I think that you have to lead by example and give people an opportunity to know you and trust you and understand.” Allison was recently named a Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh in recognition of his support of the local lesbian and gay community. In addition to supporting gay-straight alliances at CCAC’s Boyce Campus, where he serves as Dean of Academic Affairs and Coordinating Dean of Allied Health, Allison has volunteered for the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, the Shepherd Wellness Community, and the Gay and Lesbian Community Center (GLCC), where he formerly served as the board chair.


Regarding the bingo night—OUTrageous Bingo, which is held monthly at Rodef Shalom in Oakland—Allison said “it ain’t your grandmother’s bingo.” The event, which features drag queen performances and other twists, draws nearly 500 people each month and has helped to raise almost half a million dollars for GLCC and Shepherd Wellness Community over the past 15 years. “The interesting thing about it is that over the years it’s become so mainstream that almost half of our audience is straight people,” Allison said. “It’s really kind of neat, because people are comfortable on both sides.” For Allison, the values of dignity and respect are ingrained in his work. As an academic administrator with a background in health care, and as a member of the gay community, Allison is keenly aware of the need for openness and inclusion in social environments. “I think that’s the most important part—whether it’s my students or it’s a kid at the community center or somebody who’s going through an acknowledgement of their sexual orientation —just to know that there are other people like them and people that are willing to listen.”


People active in the local lesbian and gay community, such as Alan Jones of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, have praised Allison’s dedication. “He has done everything from cleaning and painting to fundraising for the [GLCC],” said Jones, who nominated Allison to be recognized as a Dignity & Respect Champion. “He has also personally donated money and needed items to the center … he is the greatest!” Under Allison’s leadership, the GLCC was able to raise an additional $100,000 to move the center to the current location at 210 Grant Street providing more usable space, accessibility, better proximity to public transportation and public visibility downtown Pittsburgh. Allison, humbling himself, said he could think of plenty others more deserving of the award. He’s just happy to play a small part in a movement toward social acceptance for lesbian and gay people. “It’s gotten better,” Allison said, “but we still have a long way to go. We still see bullying in the schools, but we also see adults who are bullying lesbian and gay kids. It’s just great to see that everybody seems to be pulling together to try to work against that now. “I can’t help but be optimistic and think it’s going to get better.”


Gwen Watkins Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

Pitt Coordinator ‘Privileged’ to Support Others


(PITTSBURGH, PA) At first, Gwen Watkins wasn’t clear on why she should be collecting pet food donations for people who might not be feeding themselves.


People for Pets, a University of Pittsburgh program Watkins helps coordinate, does just that. And while Watkins may have struggled with the concept at the start, thinking it more important to feed the people themselves, she has a different perspective now—more than 4,000 pounds of pet food later.


“When you think about it, sometimes people will go out of their way to buy food for their pet, and they’ll go without,” Watkins said. “And why do they do that? That pet may be their source of protection … their source of companionship.


“You learn to care about the dignity of a person that’s in need and be respectful of them. And I think it’s an honor to be asked to do that.”


Watkins, who serves as the events coordinator for community service in Pitt’s Office of Community and Governmental Affairs, was named a Dignity & Respect Champion this month. In her work at Pitt, she develops partnerships with community food banks, clothing drives and other initiatives such as People for Pets, mobilizing more than 400 university volunteers.


Even with such a large volunteer base, she always sees the need for an extra pair of hands.


“The projects that I’ve had the privilege and the opportunity to coordinate and work with—I don’t just coordinate them. I physically go and do it,” Watkins said. “I can talk about people being hungry. But unless I actually go down to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank and serve, then I really don’t get an understanding of what people [are going through.]”


According to Anne Franks, a coworker who nominated Watkins, she works tirelessly for the good of the community.


“She is dedicated to helping others in our community who need support,” Franks said. “Gwen shows her care and respect for others in everything she does, and encourages us to do the same.”


Watkins has been at Pitt for nearly 42 years. A Pittsburgh native, she currently lives in Penn Hills. She credits her Christian faith as the bedrock of her community sensibility.


“I really count it a privilege that God used me in any way to help people,” she said, “and I count it a joy, too.”


Beyond privilege and joy, Watkins said helping others is also a duty—something she feels compelled to do as one among many.


“You can look away, if you want,” she said. “But when you don’t look away—and you look and really see the need that people have, it should do something to you. It should stir something up inside of us to help other people who are in need.”


Jesse McLean Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

Every Child, Inc., Director Works to Develop & Strengthen Family Relationships


(PITTSBURGH, PA) (June 21, 2012)—Jesse McLean isn’t exactly a globetrotter. He has spent the bulk of his life in Philadelphia, where he grew up, and Pittsburgh, where he now lives. But as the executive director of Every Child, Inc., McLean understands how to navigate different cultures. “Every time we go into a family’s home, we go into another culture,” said McLean, whose organization works to develop and strengthen family relationships. “That’s why our job is so difficult and so amazing, because we’re going into homes where the culture isn’t predictable.”


McLean was nominated to be a Dignity & Respect Champion by Jada Shirriel, Every Child’s director of marketing and development. With Every Child, McLean offers a variety of services for birth, foster and adoptive families, as well as children with special needs. One such program arranges supervised visits between birth parents and children placed in foster homes.

“Imagine the shame, fear, guilt, and regret that a parent may feel when he or she loses custody of a child,” Shirriel said. “Mr. McLean ensures that birth parents utilizing Every Child’s family visit space are treated with the dignity and respect that they need to gain, restore, or model positive parenting interaction with their child.”


McLean says understanding others’ differences is essential to his work. It’s important not to impose one’s values on others, he said, especially when doing so can be hurtful or disrespectful. In his work he tries to foster communication that leads to stronger relationships based on mutual appreciation. “If everybody treats everyone with kindness and consideration, then no one would have to touch the stove to realize it’s hot,” McLean said. “Everybody would think about things before they actually do them.”


While McLean has been with Every Child since November 2009, that wasn’t the start of his work with youth. In 1999, McLean helped create the VULCAN summer program at California University of Pennsylvania, his alma mater. The program—whose acronym stands for vision, understanding, leadership, civility, academics, and nutrition—offers college preparation to sixth-graders. McLean said it’s best to work with kids when they’re young to build a solid future. The program has sent more than 125 students to CAL U and covered their tuition. The graduation rate—100 percent.


“You need time for these kids to engage with you,” he said. “Once middle-school kids engage with you, they’ll follow you to the end of earth. Growing up in Philadelphia, McLean said, was what caused him to go into his line of work.


“I saw a lot of unfortunately negative things,” he said. “I always knew that whenever I got older I wanted to create life-impacting experiences for kids, because I knew that I wasn’t seeing that where I came from. I knew what was missing. So I said, ‘Wherever I go, wherever I wind up, whatever community I’m in, I’m going to make life-impacting experiences for kids.’ ”


A Penn Hills resident with a son who serves in the military, McLean said dignity and respect guide his actions both at work and in every day life. He credited his dedicated staff with helping to create an inclusive workplace. “Sometimes the little things—just to say thank you, just to say ‘I appreciate what you’ve done’—are what creates a positive culture,” he said.


Pittsburgh Steeler Charlie Batch Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

Quarterback Honored for Continuous Work in the Community


(PITTSBURGH, PA) May 17, 2012– When he’s not on the football field, Pittsburgh Steeler Charlie Batch can be found working with his non-profit, Best of the Batch Foundation, and attending and helping out with community events and activities.


Charlie feels that “treating each other with dignity and respect is a part of everyday life,” and if we all treated each other equally, “violence levels would be down, and it would help our communication with each other.”


Nominated by his teammate, Pittsburgh Steeler Safety Ryan Mundy, Charlie was selected as the May Dignity & Respect Champion for his tireless work to give back to his and surrounding communities.


“As a philanthropist at heart, Charlie is very hands-on in his non-profit organization the Best of the Batch Foundation. His generosity and commitment to the community make him an exemplary human being. We’ve played together for four years, and he is always attending and supporting numerous community events and activities. Within minutes of talking with him, you know that it is natural for Charlie for feel as if he has a responsibility to help others in need. He is a true advocate for treating others with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Ryan said.


The work Charlie does in the community is limitless. In November, Charlie joined Ryan and the Dignity & Respect Campaign at the Thanksgiving Turkey Fixings Giveaway, where they donated dinner fixings to 100 families in Rankin, Pennsylvania. Also, Charlie was a secret Santa and delivered toys and household items to 30 families this past Christmas Eve.


Along with two Superbowl Championships, Charlie has received numerous awards including the first Jerome Bettis Award for Humanity and Community Service in 2006, the Schramm-McCracken Prize in 2002, and the Walter Payton Man of The Year Award, also in 2006. Among those great achievements, he feels that the Champion award is unique.


“When you receive an award such as this, it’s special because people are recognizing and acknowledging what you are doing to make our communities better,” Charlie said.


Dr. Magi Berger and Clairton Elementary School Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

School Principal Honored for Inspiring Kindness in Students, Faculty, and Staff


(PITTSBURGH, PA) April 26, 2012– Every morning at Clairton Elementary, students listen to five of their peers state over the loud speaker how they are going to practice dignity and respect that day. After just one year as principal, Dr. Magi Berger has instilled the values of inclusion into the school, and they are reflected all day, every day.


“From bully behavior, to poverty, to abuse and neglect, and many other trials that life is full of for our students, it becomes even more important to role-model dignity and respect. We as educators are positioned to influence so many lives. Each time we take such opportunity we are that much more likely to be the special person in their lives that they remember long after schooling. We may be that voice in their minds pushing them toward greatness or helping them make it to college, trade school, or beyond,” said Dr. Berger.


Nominated by Winifred Torbert, Dr. Magi Berger was selected as the April Dignity & Respect Champion. “Dr. Berger defines the term “change agent” throughout the greater Pittsburgh region. Students are held accountable for their actions and reminded that kindness is the way, as enforced by all staff and administration. She has a passion for children that is unparalleled and truly inspirational,” said Winifred.


As a resident of the North Hills, Dr. Berger came to Clairton Elementary after working at Pittsburgh Public Schools. Since becoming principal, Dr. Berger, staff, and faculty have adopted “Dignity & Respect for Everyone and Everything” as the school’s theme, and promote it on report cards and newsletters. Through contests and ceremonies the students are rewarded for good behavior and grades with cupcake parties and t-shirts.


Recognizing the significance of simple acts of kindness, Dr. Berger offers a helping hand whenever she sees the opportunity. She believes that these actions begin with an individual and extends to others as a pay-it-forward deed.


“Treating others with respect reminds me I am human and it humbles me in my interactions with people from all walks of life, especially in my profession as an educator. It means going out of my way or not so far out of my way to help others, support my students, staff and families, pick up debris in my community and in Clairton, and simply act in ways that exemplify caring,” she said.


Dr. Berger feels that if everyone showed value and recognition toward each other, we can bring communities together, resulting in a more vibrant and positive home for everyone.


“If we all embrace these concepts, a community would move beyond the mundane blameful mindset to a change-agent mindset. For if we, as a community, embrace each other for who we are, how we can contribute, and what we stand for in a non-judgmental and open way, then we will affirm how we all are alike despite our many differences. A community would flourish and thus, be positioned to encourage other communities to do the same.”


For more information and to take the Dignity & Respect Pledge, visit


Mayor Dwan Walker Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

First Aliquippa African-American Mayor Honored for Making Hometown a Respectful Place


(PITTSBURGH, PA) March 23, 2012– When his sister, Deidre Walker, was killed in 2009, Dwan Walker knew he had to do something to make Aliquippa safe and welcoming for all people, no matter who they are. Before she died, Deidre gave him the encouragement to take a stand, and with that, Dwan and his twin brother Donald both ran for city government and won; Dwan as Mayor, and Donald as a City Council member.


Nominated by Bernadette Turner, co-chair of the Greater Pittsburgh Dignity & Respect Council, Dwan was selected as the March 2012 Dignity & Respect Champion.


“When I read Dwan’s story about how his life was impacted by tragedy and he wanted to become personally involved by running for Mayor, I thought, ‘now that is Transformational Leadership. That level of commitment personifies dignity and respect,” says Bernadette.


Dwan took office on January 3rd and is determined to revitalize the city. He is continuously out in the town taking requests, suggestions, and concerns of the city’s residents.


“I say there’s no idea or no dream that is too small. If someone makes a suggestion about the city, I respect anything they say and work with them to find a solution together. A lot of people aren’t treated that way, and it is a breath of fresh air when they come into my office,” he said


Dwan feels that treating each other consideration and value can make a positive impact in a community and that Aliquippa is a prime example. He notices that since he took office, people are more open about sharing their ideas, hopes, and wishes, because they actually have a say in how the town is run. Dwan makes sure he shows the utmost respect to everyone.


“We have some crimes like any other city does, but there is a different atmosphere in the air. Violent crimes are on the decline. You know there is a difference when you come to this town. ”


Currently an account executive at Fedex, Dwan has two daughters and has lived in Aliquippa his entire life. Among this honor, Dwan has received other awards including the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the 2011 50 Men of Excellence award. He is humbled by being selected as a Champion and attributes his parents for instilling in him the value of all people at an early age.


“I’m truly honored to receive the award. I always try to pride myself on being courteous because that is how I was raised. This award is more of a testimony to my mom and dad for teaching me those traits,” Dwan said.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Rosemary Anderson Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

Local Woman Recognized for Helping to Educate Inmates Around the Country


Rosemary Anderson “believes in kindness” and has dedicated the past five years to writing cards and buying books with some of her own money as a disabled Air Force veteran to send to lonely prisoners around the United States.


Spring Grass Book’em is a books-to-prisoners program that mails books to inmates nationwide. Currently, it is not yet tax-deductible, but all donations received go toward postage, packing tape, books, and more. The program works to help imprisoned people who have been abandoned by their families, don’t have access to the library, or anyone incarcerated who wants to learn any subject or skill. The volunteers at Spring Grass Book’em urge that books can change lives and minds, and can therefore change society for the better.


“I love sharing books, and prisoners are the most receptive groups to books. Many of the books are donated, but I also buy some at thrift stores. Inmates request every subject there is, from anthropology to a lot of history, English and vocabulary, GED, trade skills such as carpentry and plumbing, etc. We’ll also send magazines, with National Geographic and the Smithsonian being favorite requests,” Rosemary says.


Nominated by an inmate in Beaumont Penitentiary in Texas, Rosemary was selected as the February 2012 Dignity & Respect Champion.


“Rosemary finds time to write to lonely inmates like me, even though her books-to-prisoners ministry is without funding, a van, or an adequate office space. She helps thousands of us inmates to keep our sanity and to educate ourselves, especially when we are in solitary or not allowed to go to the prison library. She also finds people at her church and in her community to be pen pals to some inmates, many who never hear from their families at all,” says Rosemary’s nominator.


The work of Rosemary and her organization has been recognized and recommended by many around the area including the Mayor of Forest Hills, the director of Veterans Against the War, and the head of the Human Rights Coalition/FedUp project.


“I am impressed with the focus, determination, and effort [Rosemary] has expended to provide the imprisoned with the power of reading materials,” says Marty O’Malley, Mayor of Forest Hills, Pennsylvania. “It was a wonderful experience for me to see [her] demonstrate the work skills and determination to serve those most in need of help from others.”


Rosemary feels many people in society disrespect themselves and each other, especially the prisoners. She believes that treating each other with dignity and respect is healing and it helps everyone expand in new directions.


“I believe that all people as human beings deserve dignity and respect. Our imprisoned fellow citizens, are in an environment where they are not only deprived of so much that we take for granted, they are also often subject to bad things including brutality and civil rights violations. They tell me that half the prisoners are into reading, and that books are often the only good thing in their lives,” Rosemary says.


Rosemary, a resident of Pittsburgh’s North Side, not only sends books to prisons, but also writes to about 50 inmates herself.


“During the holidays, a homeless woman and I wrote notes to go with many Christmas cards to inmates in solitary or whose orders we haven’t gotten to yet. They are so very grateful to hear from someone on the outside and to know that they’re not forgotten, because we communicate with them respectfully. A letter or book acknowledges their humanity.”


Ranny and Jay Ferguson Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

Husband and Wife Partner in Commitment to Give Back to Community


Both strong advocates for the community, Ranny and Jay Ferguson work tirelessly to spread the notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect. They believe that an individual must value themselves, in order to value others.


“If we don’t give value, dignity, and respect to children across all ethnicities, races, or economic background, and if they don’t feel they have that kind of respect among their peers and among others, that is where things begin to break down. It is also about commitment. If commitments aren’t made, or aren’t kept, there can be devastating effects. Accountability is as much a large part of inclusion as treating each other with dignity and respect,” Jay said.


Nominated by chief inclusion and diversity officer, UPMC, Candi Castleberry-Singleton, Ranny and Jay have been selected as the December Dignity & Respect Champions for their dedication to giving back to the community.


“Ranny and Jay Ferguson are not only leaders, they are community citizens. Jay is authentically interested and involved in the initiatives his organization – Fifth Third Bank – supports. Jay’s wife, Ranny, is his partner in their commitment to the community. They show up, whether it’s a neighborhood event or a corporate reception. They walk the talk and write the checks,” Candi said.


In November, Jay became chairman of Fifth Third Bank of western Pennsylvania, where for eight years he served as president of the western Pennsylvania market. In addition, Jay currently serves on the boards of directors of the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children and UPMC St. Margaret Memorial Hospital, where he is vice chair.


Ranny retired after teaching at the University of Pittsburgh and The Ellis School, and is now a full-time community advocate. She volunteers with many organizations such as the Race for the Cure, The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, among others.


“I truly believe that supporting people and being involved with people in our community only strengthens the ties we have among us, and it also strengthens Pittsburgh. I often feel that when I volunteer, I am the one who benefits. You give some of yourself, but you get so much back,” Ranny said.


Jay and Ranny are modest about receiving the award, and credit their parents for teaching them about important values.


“We’re honored and proud. Jay and I are both native Pittsburghers who were raised by professional parents, who felt strongly about giving back to the community. They taught us about the value of each individual person. ” Ranny said.


Jay added, “Respect and inclusion are one of Fifth Third’s four core values. It is something that we instill in each of our employees and our recruits that come on board. This is something very important individually and as a corporation or organization. It’s important to manifest those values as a company, as well as individually.”


Bracken Burns Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

County Commissioner Burns Honored for Years of Service to Southwestern PA


County Commissioner Bracken Burns has dedicated 40 years to Washington County government, working tirelessly to make sure everyone had a place in the community where they were valued and accepted for their differences. Bracken has tried to build a regional community that embraces diversity and encourages its citizens to love and respect each other. He often reminds others that “inclusion is not just about race, it also includes gender, age, geography, income, folks with handicaps, etc.”


Nominated by Melissa Allen, County Commissioner Bracken Burns was selected as the November Dignity & Respect Champion for expanding the work he does in Washington County to surrounding communities and throughout the southwestern Pennsylvania region.


“Bracken’s devotion to the community is invaluable. Within just minutes of talking with him or hearing him speak to others, you can tell that the work he does is truly from the heart. He’s dedicated to making our communities welcoming to all of us,” Melissa said. Serving as Washington County Commissioner since 1996, Bracken decided not to run for a fifth term in office. Since taking office 16 years ago, Bracken’s accomplishments include spearheading construction of the 50 bed Alzheimer’s Unit at the Washington County Health Center, developing an Attendant Care Training Program to aid elderly and disabled citizens, leading historic preservation efforts to restore and utilize the old jail as a Family Court Center, and more.


Commissioner Burns is known for starting all of his public comments with the phrase, “It’s a great day in Washington County.” He feels that we all have an obligation to be a “cheerleader for our community.”


Bracken is an influential supporter of the Dignity & Respect Campaign. In addition to advocating with Washington County Commissioners to recognize October as Dignity& Respect Month, he wrote a personal letter to nine other counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, promoting the Campaign and October as Dignity & Respect Month. Thanks to Bracken’s efforts, October was proclaimed Dignity & Respect Month in 10 southwestern Pennsylvania counties.


Bracken has always admired the saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” He feels that those of us who have been blessed with health, wealth, a good family, etc. have an obligation to assure that others in the community are given the same opportunities. In addition to being recognized as a Dignity & Respect Champion, Bracken has received many honors that show his dedication to fighting for everyone’s right to be treated equally. These awards include the Mental Health Neighbor of the Year Award in 1991, the Friend of 4-H Award in 2003, the NAACP Human Rights Award in 2007, and the Teen Outreach Social Justice award in 2009, among many others.


In accepting the award, Commissioner Burns said that he was, “humbled and honored to be recognized for doing what he called “the minimum expected of each of us – loving your neighbor.”


Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

Director of The Washington Hospital Teen Outreach and President of Academy for Adolescent Health Inc. Honored for Work with Teens


As an advocate for teen health, Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski works tirelessly to make the community a safe and respectful environment for youth to make healthy and smart decisions as they grow.


“One of the challenges we have is to reframe culture. We have to make it unacceptable to be disrespectful to others and it starts with young people. It has to be automatic to know that it is not o.k. to not respect others. If I can get kids to know that, that is a huge leap in changing our whole culture,” Mary Jo said.


Nominated by Washington County Commissioner Bracken Burns, Mary Jo was selected as the October Dignity & Respect Champion for her work at the Academy for Adolescent Health and The Washington Hospital Teen Outreach.


“Mary Jo is the personification of the phrase dignity and respect. She has devoted her life to the adolescent population and, in addition to respecting them, she demands that they respect each other,” Bracken said.


The Academy for Adolescent Health, Inc., which Mary Jo founded in 1988, provides programs for teens and youth and works to create a community in which young people are respected and able to enjoy physical and mental wellness. The organization serves as an advocate for youth, parents, professionals, and community members to encourage wellness.


Mary Jo lives in Washington, PA with her husband of 38 years. She attributes her success to her loving parents and supporting family.


“I’ve been married since ’73, and he is a wonderful partner. My father was an Italian immigrant, and my parents taught me to respect all people regardless of race, ethnicity, orientation, or funds. That was rare considering the time. Adults matter in the lives of teenagers. I’m teaching these young people how to make healthy choices so they can be good human beings.”


The Washington Hospital Teen Outreach holds an annual Ambassador for Respect Program in which 20,000 students participate in a “pass it on” activity that encourages recognition of respectful behavior. Each year the program centers around a different topic, including focusing on the word “respect” and what it means, listening to a speaker who talks about poverty among African Americans, a focus on self-respect and how young people think about themselves, and most recently, respecting people of all abilities.


Mary Jo is modest about receiving the award, as the passion for her work is driven by the youth, and not recognition.


“Everything I do is a joy. I do it because the kids are worth it. They are worth my time and they are worth all of our time. I was raised to believe you do things for the right reasons, not an award. My reward is working with the kids.” Mary Jo said.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness initiative designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Everett McElveen Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh

President & CEO of Life’sWork of Western PA Honored for Helping Individuals with Disabilities Achieve Independence and Self-Sufficiency

everett mcelveen_flash

(PITTSBURGH, PA) October 20, 2014– Everett McElveen works so the mission of Life’sWork remains the same as it did 84 years ago – to provide opportunity, employment, and independence to individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment. With this mission, he assures the organization treats everyone with dignity and respect, hoping to change the community for the better.


“Treating people with dignity and respect is good for all of us, and if we did that, a lot of the problems we have in the world would be solved. Our communities would be better, kids would be respectful in school, parents would treat their children consistently in that manner, bullying, everything would be different.”


Life’sWork started as an experiment in 1927 to find out if women who could not leave their homes due to housework and children could contribute to the family budget. Now, it is a nonprofit organization that assists more than 2,000 individuals each year to achieve independence and self-esteem through employment opportunities.


Nominated by Bernadette Turner, Everett was selected as the September Dignity & Respect Champion for working to create a respectful environment for all of those around him.


“Everett is oblivious to size, color, and physical ability when he is talking to a participant about their work at the center or smiling with them as they proudly show him their completed project. From the moment you walk in the doors, the employees are warm and welcoming. That type of environment is not happenstance, that is leadership. Everett is dignity and respect,” Bernadette said.
Everett lives in Ohio Township with his wife, and has been working at Life’s Work for seven years, a job that frequently reminds him how blessed he is. Everett believes treating others with dignity and respect is important in our daily lives because we are all one in the same.


“I find my job rewarding because of the families and the individuals we assist. People take it for granted that we are able-minded and able-bodied. From a disability perspective, the teenage years are difficult enough. People don’t realize if you are born with a disability, it is an added burden on your daily life. People are very bias towards others that are not like them. We are good at picking out what makes us different, but we are not aware of things that make us exactly the same,” Everett said.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Debbie Slocum Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh for Embracing the Philosophy of the D&R Campaign

Personnel Analyst at Allegheny County Department of Human Services Advances Inclusion in Her Daily Work and Life


(PITTSBURGH, PA) October 20, 2014– Debbie Slocum spends a lot of quality time with people who work at the Department of Human Services. With each encounter, she is consistent in doing the little things to show them respect.


“We do not make a big noise [about our Dignity & Respect Campaign], and maybe that’s a good thing. It is one person at a time. One more person saying thank you today than yesterday,” Debbie said.


Nominated by Brendan Hanschen, Debbie was selected as the August Dignity & Respect Champion for promoting dignity and respect in her everyday life, as well as at her job at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.


“Debbie seizes every opportunity to include dignified and respectful treatment of her colleagues. She has been the driving force of the Dignity & Respect campaign in the Department of Human Services, and has truly shown herself to be a champion in every way,” Brendan said.


Debbie is a resident of Penn Hills and has been working at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services for almost six years as a personnel analyst, a job she continues to find rewarding.


“I get to know what people’s concerns are, what their job is, and what they need. I try to find out how I can help them, and give them what I have to offer. When someone leaves having enjoyed my class, I am rewarded.”


Debbie thinks that it is important to treat each other with respect because it would make everyone feel appreciated and recognized, and brings the community together.


“We are all so much alike, but we just dwell on our differences. I think we’ve become isolated, and it is time to do something to bring back a sense of community. We are all going through stress and we all have problems, but if we can just say hello in the elevator, or smile, we might just make someone’s day better,” Debbie said.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Hilda Pang Fu Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh for Embracing the Philosophy of the D&R Campaign

Honor Given for Broadening the Minds of the Community


President and Founder of Luminari Works to Ensure Diverse Creativity in the City


In 2009, Hilda Pang Fu founded the nonprofit organization Luminari to bring a variety of people together and make the region a more prosperous, vibrant, and culturally enriched home to its citizens.


“It is right to treat everyone with dignity and respect, but it is also the smart thing to do. The economy is global – we need draw from all of the talents, abilities, and perspectives we have in the region and country regardless of backgrounds, race, sexual orientation, and gender. We can’t afford to not take everyone seriously,” Hilda said.


Nominated by Candi Castleberry-Singleton, chief inclusion and diversity officer, UPMC, Hilda has been chosen as the July Dignity and Respect Champion for her work as the president and founder of Luminari, which was founded to foster activities to broaden minds, inspire innovations, and promote community engagement.


“Hilda Fu’s organization, Luminari, is about changing children’s lives. The innovative I Want to be an Ambassador! camp introduces Pittsburgh students to foreign languages, conflict resolution, and even real foreign service workers during a field trip to Washington, DC!” Candi said.


The seven-day I Want to be an Ambassador! camp is targeted towards rising 8th to 12th grade students with the purpose of bringing their attention to the art and skills of diplomacy and how to apply them immediately to their daily lives.


“With the I Want To Be An Ambassador! camp, Hilda has found an inspiring way to expose students to the art of diplomacy, and to challenge them to become better negotiators by letting them see for themselves that differences are barriers to progress only if we allow them to be,” Candi said.


The camp has proven to inspire, educate, and help the students explore and further their skills.


“One of the purposes of the camp is to inspire our young people to consider different perspectives as they attack an issue. I think this is something we need, but haven’t seen in a while. The participants were excited to be challenged in this way,” Hilda said.


Hilda feels that if everyone treated each other with dignity and respect, the community would be a much more pleasant place to live in.


“It will create more vibrancy to the region. If we lived in a community that only has one set way of doing things, it would be quite boring.”


According to Hilda, treating others with dignity and respect is so obvious that she doesn’t have to give it a thought.


“Dignity and respect are the basis of diplomacy, the foundation of building sustainable working relationships. I think treating others with dignity and respect will help us to not shut the door on different perspectives. Thus, we won’t be missing important ideas and information.”


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Christine Bryan Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh for Embracing the Philosophy of the D&R Campaign

Director of Marketing & Development at Delta Foundation Works to Ensure Equality for GLBT Community


(PITTSBURGH,PA) June 9, 2011—Although Christine Bryan’s tasks are mostly “behind-the-scenes,” the work she does provides her an opportunity to build a bridge between communities to spread acceptance and equality.


“I used to hear people talk about ‘making a difference’ but I never knew what that meant until now. I honestly can say that in this job I feel that we are changing hearts and minds one day at a time,” Christine said.


Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Christine is the director of Marketing & Development at the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making Pittsburgh a vibrant and exciting city that is attractive to the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) Community. One of the biggest events held by the Delta Foundation is Pride Awareness, held this year on Sunday, June 12th. Led by the Dykes on Bikes contingent, participants will consist of a caravan of GLBT organizations, community groups, corporations, and politicians. The March will begin at the Boulevard of the Allies and end at the PrideFest entrance at Liberty Avenue & 6th Street.


Christine was nominated by Melanie Harrington and Gary Van Horn, and has been chosen as the June Dignity and Respect Champion for her work to achieve inclusiveness, dignity and respect for the GLBT community.


“Chris is a visible, strong advocate for inclusive communities that respect people of all backgrounds and sexual orientations. She epitomizes the type of ally that walks the walk and talks the talk for our region’s GLBT community,” says Ms. Harrington, ceo of Vibrant Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization dedicated to growing a diverse workforce.


According to Christine, there are many things we can do for one another to demonstrate dignity and respect.


“In today’s fast-paced world, we tend to forget the little things that can make a difference – a smile, opening a door for a woman with a stroller, helping a person who is struggling with their groceries, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Not only do you make a difference in that person’s life, it makes you feel better inside,” Christine said.


Christine feels that treating each other with dignity and respect is a mentality and way of thinking.


“Just because you may not agree with or like something, that doesn’t make it bad, it just makes it different. As soon as everyone can accept that, the better off the world is going to be.”


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Harish Saluja Named Dignity & Respect Champion of Greater Pittsburgh for His Efforts to Spread Knowledge, Love, and Joy

Executive Director of Silk Screen Provides a Gateway to Asia to Eliminate Prejudices


(PITTSBURGH, PA)October 20, 2014– Six years ago, Harish Saluja founded Silk Screen, an organization that works to educate communities about Asian history, art, culture, and more, based on the belief that if people knew more about their neighbors, there would be less prejudice and offer love to others.


“Love is what touches the heart, and that is what makes a difference. There isn’t money or anything that can compensate for this. Treating others with dignity and respect is normal, proper, and as required as breathing,” Harish said.


Nominated by Katie Jones, Saluja has been chosen as the May Dignity and Respect Champion for his work as the executive director of Silk Screen, a nonprofit organization that fosters understanding across lines of race, ethnicity, religion, age, and region.


Silk Screen’s mission is to celebrate diversity and multi-cultural appreciation of the Asian and Asian American experience through cultural events such as their annual Asian-American Film Festival.


“Harish helps at community outreach events presenting Asian arts and crafts and cultural awareness with Silk Screen. He always wants to spread love and joy to the world so people understand each other better,” Jones says.


Harish lives south of Pittsburgh with his wife. He is a filmmaker and artist in addition to founding Silk Screen. His film “The Journey” won Best Film awards in Florida and Cleveland film festivals, and was shown in more than 20 film festivals around the world. Harish is a nationally recognized painter and a co-host of Music From India on WDUQ-FM.


“I gave up a lucrative career in corporate America because I believe that one’s life fulfillment can only be found by doing something good and by giving something back to people. I started Silk Screen as a gateway to Asia so people could get to know the culture, resulting in less prejudice,” Harish said.


Harish strongly feels that treating others with dignity and respect should be important in everyone’s daily lives because it could drastically change a community.


“If we treat each other with tolerance and acceptance, it would make the world a better place and bring upon happiness and love.”
The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Aaron Gray and KEYS Service Corps Recognized as Dignity and Respect Champion for Its Work with At-Risk Youth

Program of AmeriCorps the First Organization to Win Champion Award


The Dignity and Respect Champion is normally an individual. However, this month’s recipient is not just an individual, but a whole organization – the KEYS Service Corps


“A lot of our members are college students who come from outside of the area to give back and dedicate a year to youth they aren’t familiar with and who have many different backgrounds and experiences,” says Aaron Gray, assistant director of the KEYS Service Corps, who is accepting the award on the organization’s behalf.


The KEYS (Knowledge to Empower Youth to Success) Service Corps is an education-based AmeriCorps program that provides at-risk youth safe places with structured activities, assisting with homework and class work, implementing community service/service-learning projects, and involving community volunteers in service.


Aaron Gray and the KEYS Service Corps were nominated by Jamie Scarano and have been chosen as the April Dignity and Respect Champion their work in implementing and supporting tutoring programs, community service, and learning opportunities and operations for at-risk youth.


“This group of young individuals is a representation of how coming together for one cause can make an impact on a community,” Scarano says.


Gray moved to Pittsburgh to join AmeriCorps and currently resides in Edgewood. After 15 years of service, he enjoys working with the members and seeing everything they can accomplish.


“It takes a lot of leadership and humility for the members to tell the youth ‘I’m here to help you do this for yourself and your future’.”


Gray was excited to accept the award on behalf of KEYS Service Corps, and he strongly feels that treating others with dignity and respect would change a community and surrounding areas.


“I’m flattered, impressed, and proud of the AmeriCorps members especially. We treat people with dignity and respect because that is how we want people to treat us. In general, our community issues that we face with the program, the city, and even the county would be downsized and hopefully eliminated if everyone practiced dignity and respect,” he said.


Lindsay Losasso Recognized as Dignity and Respect Champion for Her Work with Diverse Populations

Program & Grants Manager of Squirrel Hill Health Center Works to Clear Barriers Between Language, Culture, Income, and Health Care


(PITTSBURGH, PA) March 21, 2011 – As a tireless advocate for empowering Pittsburgh’s diverse population such as refugees, immigrants, and internationals, Lindsay Losasso believes that a crucial part of the human experience is to be treated with dignity and respect.


“A lot of people aren’t treated with dignity and respect in a number of situations in their everyday life. To be able to offer that to so many people is important,” Lindsay said.


Nominated by Adriana Dobrzycka, Losasso has been chosen as the March Dignity and Respect Champion for her work as the program & grants manager at the Squirrel Hill Health Center (SHHC), a comprehensive primary healthcare center that provides the highest quality medical care and social services to everyone in the community with special concern for patients’ religious beliefs, race, national origin, primary language, disability status and more.


“Lindsay embodies the values of dignity and respect in her everyday work and her community activities, using her cultural competency and language skills to ensure that the most vulnerable populations has access to quality care and that the providers that serve them are equipped culturally with appropriate tools,” Adriana says.


Lindsay lives in Greenfield with her husband. At the SHHC, she works to put projects and programs into place that will improve the office, services for patients, among others. Along with her multi-lingual staff, she works closely with patients to ensure there are no barriers between income or insurance status and healthcare.


“Seeing people come in without any connections to the community and being able to connect them is wonderful. It is great to be making major positive changes.”


Over the last several years, Lindsay has successfully led Translation and Interpretation Sub-Committee of the Department of Human Services Advisory Council for Immigrants and Internationals. Under her leadership, the Sub-Committee, comprised of local service providers serving immigrants and internationals, formulated plans to create Pittsburgh Language Bank.
Lindsay feels very honored to be receiving the award and thinks that if everyone treated each other with dignity and respect, the community would benefit in multiple ways.


“People operate in silos and wonder why they should care about others, if others don’t care about them. If there was a perceived effort at large that people want to do good things for each other, a community would be more compelled to work together,” she says.
The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Jared Jackson Recognized as Dignity and Respect Champion

Works to Grant Justice and Peace to all


(PITTSBURGH, PA) February 11, 2011 – Even after 42 years, Jared Jackson continues to teach the basic principles of dignity and respect: seeking racial and economic justice, inclusion, and improved education for all at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
“The students I teach are mostly African American, and I enjoy sharing what the bible has to say to us in the context of America today,” Jackson said.


Nominated by his wife, Reverend Cynthia Jackson, Jared is the February Dignity & Respect Champion for his work in seeking justice and peace for all.


“Jared believes we only will have peace when there is dignity and respect afforded to all people,” Cynthia says.


Jared, 80, lives with his wife in Gibsonia. As an assisting priest at The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Squirrel Hill, volunteer professor at the Metro Urban Institute of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and board member of Pittsburgh Interfaith Network (PIIN), Jared lives dignity and respect daily.


“It is important [to treat others with dignity and respect] because, as human beings, we are sisters and brothers. Experiencing other human beings, how they view life, and sharing that with each other is the joy of our life.”


Jared believes treating one another with dignity and respect would create the peace we seek and the peace our society needs.
The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Elisabeth Healey Recognized as Dignity and Respect Champion

Working on Improving the Lives of Those with Disabilities


(PITTSBURGH, PA) January 21, 2011 –As the mother of a child with significant disabilities, Elisabeth Healey believes that she needs to help others who are in similar situations.


“I know how difficult it was for me as a young parent to understand the nature of my daughter’s needs and how to navigate the system to get the services she required. Very quickly I began to feel that I couldn’t fix things just for my daughter. I needed to be active in advocating in the community,” Healey said.


Nominated by Cindy Duch, Joan Badger, Ceil Belasco, and Stephanie Tecza, Elisabeth has been chosen as the January Dignity and Respect Champion for her work to ensure anyone with disabilities and special health care needs leads rich and active lives, and participates as members of the community. She works to help others reach their full potential.


“She strives to encourage those with and without disabilities to reach for the stars and never stop,” Duch says.
Elisabeth lives in Squirrel Hill with her husband and daughter. As founding executive director of PEAL, or Parent Education & Advocacy Leadership Center, she finds it rewarding to be able to help those with disabilities. Treating others with dignity and respect is important to what she does.


“I live it. [My job] is my life. I think of Gandhi and how he said that you have to be the change you want to see in the world. We have to think about how we interact with others and navigate the world. We need to challenge ourselves so we don’t leave anyone out of our circle.”


Elisabeth feels that if everyone treated each other with dignity and respect, the community would drastically change.
“Many people in our community lead isolated lives. If we make people feel welcome, we impact the quality of our own life, and the lives of everyone else, both in big and small ways.”


Honored and excited about receiving this award, she credits her community of family, friends, and colleagues who taught her important values.


“Being recognized with this award makes me look back to where I learned these values and beliefs. It is not just a recognition of me, it is a recognition of my community as well,” she said.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Mark Douglas Recognized as Dignity and Respect Champion for His Work with Disadvantaged Youth

Center Director of Pittsburgh Job Corps Dedicates His Life to Helping Others


(PITTSBURGH, PA) December 20, 2010 –As a foster parent to teenagers for eight years, Mark Douglas is proud to say helping disadvantaged youth has been his entire career.


“I always had a very basic philosophy since I started in this profession: everyone deserves to be treated with value and respect regardless of their beliefs, orientation, age, or ethnicity. You deserve it because you are a human being,” Douglas said.


Nominated by Dottie Sweeney, Douglas has been chosen as the December Dignity and Respect Champion for his work at the Pittsburgh Job Corps Center in helping the disadvantaged population and encouraging dignity and respect to his staff.


“Every day he exhibits dignity and respect in his interactions with the trainees and staff. He empowers his trainees to make good choices for their lives. Mark daily exemplifies the core values of individual accountability, safety, growth, commitment, integrity, and respect,” Sweeney says.


Originally from Oklahoma City, Mark moved to Forest Hills with his wife in June 2008. As center director, Mark is responsible for all training and academic programs, and supervision of daily center operations, with 232 staff members, whose belief is that everyone should feel valuable. With 850 students, Pittsburgh has the largest college program in Job Corps.


“The kids we serve aren’t here because they have succeeded in everything. They are here because of whatever circumstance, whether its abuse, socioeconomic problems, their parents are in trouble, or any other disadvantage. It’s important to me that every student is treated respectfully and with value.”


Mark and his staff practice positive reinforcement, and rewards the students for their accomplishments.


“We reward students for small accomplishments because we want to help them experience what success feels like. We try to help them accomplish something that we can reward them. Our goal is to help them continue to stay on track.”


Mark was honored, excited, and humbled about winning the award, and believes that if everyone treated each other with dignity and respect, it would massively change the community.


“Dignity and respect changes everything — a family, an organization, a business. Look at the world today and you can see violence and degradation. If people take the approach in life that they don’t have to agree with others about anything or everything, but they do have the responsibility to treat others with respect and value, we would eliminate a lot of the bad news today,” he said.
The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Barbara Murock Recognized as Dignity & Respect Champion

Honor Given for Her Caring and Inclusive Work at a Govt. Agency


(PITTSBURGH, PA) Sept. 16, 2010 – Barbara Murock believes and lives each day under the philosophy that everyone wants to be included – and there is a place for everyone. Treating others with dignity and respect is simple – and is the vital life and fabric of the community.


“Our environment is about how we can serve and how can we say yes, how we can open doors and include everyone, find solutions, and help meet our clients’ needs,” Barbara said.


Barbara is a Health Policy Specialist with the Office of Behavioral Health for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. Nominated by her colleague, N’neka Hawthorne, Barbara is the recipient of the Dignity and Respect Champion Award.


“Barbara promotes the values of dignity and respect daily in all aspects of her life from work in policy to volunteering on local non- profit boards and in within her personal networks. She is an educator, ally and champion for diversity and inclusion,” Hawthorne said.


Barbara works in health care policy related to different vulnerable groups of people that the Department of Human Services serves, including the aging, mental health and drug and alcohol, children, youth and families, those with intellectual disabilities, and community services. She also manages an initiative for immigrants and international citizens.


“I really enjoy working for the Department of Human Services because people are always so surprised of how open and caring we are as a government agency and they don’t always expect that and they are always really happy to know that we have a philosophy of wanting to serve, and we aren’t inflexible,” Barbara said.


With an advisory council of people from around the world, Barbara is helping to develop a language bank for the community where different organizations can go for translators, and also works with an employment mentoring program for immigrants, and also works with a program aiming to make foster care more culturally competent.


“We want to tailor things to work for people, and empower people to live full lives and become independent and contributing members of the community. I also really love working with the international community of people – learning about different cultures, expressions, of ways of building community, and just the richness people bring to the council and the work of it in Allegheny County,” she said.


In addition to her work with the county, Barbara volunteers her time on the boards of the Squirrel Hill Health Center and the Consumer Health Coalition. She lives in Squirrel Hill with her husband, Carl Fertman, with whom she has six children ranging from age 16 to 31. She received her undergraduate education in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh and attended graduate school to study social and public policy at Duquesne University.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


The Dignity and Respect Fall Festival will take place on Oct. 16, 2010 from 11 am to 4 pm at Schenley Plaza in Oakland, celebrating inclusion of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds. The festival will include giveaways, free multicultural entertainment, health and educational information, community resource tables and vendor exhibits, and games for children. For more information call 412.864.3582 or e-mail


Michael Smith Recognized as Dignity & Respect Champion

Honor Given for More than 20 Years of Work at Goodwill


Helping people find work who have not been given a chance before is exactly why Michael Smith loves his job. By helping those with mental challenges and financial struggles to lead more independent lives, Smith sees everyday how transforming opportunities restore dignity and respect in both individuals and communities.


“Our clients feel included as part of a community and that’s what we are all about. It feels so good when someone we provided services for is now successful and feels good and is a part of the community. That’s where dignity and respect comes in, and we feel that finding people work is so gratifying,” Smith said.


Nominated by Arlene Robinson and Kim Simpson, his colleagues at Goodwill, Smith is the recipient of the August Dignity and Respect Champion Award for his work as CEO, along with his dedication to the organization for the last 20 years.


“He speaks with everyone no matter their need or circumstance,” his nominators said. “He has never turned anyone away, takes the time and patience to check all issues that arise. He handles it all with dignity and respect for all at Goodwill.”


Smith worked in the corporate world after graduating from college, but used his free time to volunteer and give back at three different organizations, including the Easter Seals of Southwestern Pa., Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and the Transitional Employment Consultants – an organization he helped to found.


After volunteering for 10 years, Smith decided to make the career transition to the non-profit sector when an opportunity arose at Goodwill. He has been at Goodwill since 1989, and became CEO in 2002. This past year, Goodwill served close to 70,000 people and found work for more than 1,400 people.


“We work with people with special needs and other barriers to employment and we are proud of the fact that year in and year out we serve anywhere between 70,000 to 100,000 people. Success stories happen every day at Goodwill. People who either didn’t think they would ever be working and contributing members to a community get work – we prove that wrong every day and it’s something we are proud of. That’s why I enjoy my job so much,” Smith said.


Smith is humbled to receive the Dignity and Respect Champion Award.


“I’m very honored and quickly turn that towards my staff at Goodwill because without them it would not be possible, but everybody wants dignity and respect and we focus on achieving that through the power of work,” Smith said.


Smith lives in Washington, Pa. with his wife, Beth Tomezin, and their daughter, Sarah, who is 14 years old. Their son Michael is a freshman at Robert Morris University.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


The Dignity and Respect Fall Festival will take place on Oct. 16, 2010 from 11 am to 4 pm at Schenley Plaza in Oakland, celebrating inclusion of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds. The festival will include giveaways, free multicultural entertainment, health and educational information, community resource tables and vendor exhibits, and games for children. For more information call 412.864.3582 or e-mail


Linda Demoise Recognized as Dignity & Respect Champion

Honor Given for Her Work Tutoring High School Students


In her daily work with students, Linda Demoise said her job is the perfect opportunity to give back, challenge young people, and help them shape successful futures for themselves in exciting fields. Demoise is the recipient of the July Dignity and Respect Champion Award for her dedication to her student’s lives.


Nominated by her colleague, Terri Kennelly-Cook, Demoise demonstrates her belief in treating all people with dignity and respect every day as she helps children to realize their potential, no matter their situation.


“Linda has a heart of true respect for each student. She works hard to offer them programs and meet their tutoring needs. She treats the kids with great respect, looks for the gifts they possess, and honors the potential they all possess,” Kennelly-Cook said.


Demoise is the academic support coordinator for Investing Now, an engineering tutoring program at the University of Pittsburgh for high school students as well as college students in Pittsburgh. She works directly with Hands-On-Science programs for pre-college students, where children get a chance to visit universities and learn more about careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.


Demoise is honored to receive the Dignity and Respect Champion Award, and said she feels treating others with both comes naturally.
“It’s just a given. It’s just a gut feeling about how you treat people. Nobody is any better than anyone else, and anybody’s circumstance could be yours in the blink of an eye,” Demoise said.


Demoise especially enjoys tutoring because younger children get a chance to work with college students each week, developing relationships that have the potential to shape their lives and careers.


“I get that personal satisfaction – it’s really giving back and I had wonderful opportunities as a kid from a mill town. It really is about giving back,” Demoise said.


Demoise has a degree in engineering and has been working at Investing Now for six years. After working in engineering for 12 years, she stayed home with her children and then decided to get involved in both engineering and helping children’s lives after volunteering at her own children’s schools.


“We are all here on their side – and that is the best part, to encourage these kids to really challenge themselves – and with a little help from their parents, it keeps them going, and as soon as you get their parents to buy into the fact that we are really going to challenge them for their own good, they are into it. They try to build a family here.”


Many children involved in the program have gone onto medical school, engineering programs, and more.


Linda has three children and is married to Mike Demoise. Two have graduated from college and another is at Penn State University. The couple lives in Forest Hills.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Alan Jones Recognized as Dignity & Respect Champion

Honor Given for Two Decades of Work at Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force


In the early ‘90s, Alan Jones lost more than 160 clients and friends during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. During a time when families were abandoning their own who had been diagnosed, Jones was there to lend support during their darkest days.
“Dealing with that changed my life, how I look at life, and how I spend my time,” Jones said. “I know to worry about the stuff that really matters.”


Jones, a prevention counselor with the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, has worked with the organization for 20 years and is now being honored with the Dignity and Respect Campaign’s Champion Award for the month of June. Jones was nominated by Matt Arch, an outreach committee member of The Gay and Lesbian Neighborhood Development Association.


“It is amazing to see the efforts of what just one optimistic and dedicated person can achieve, striving to make a lasting stand against the overwhelming stigma that surrounds the HIV virus. Alan’s commitment to this cause is truly a testament of dignity and respect that has not gone unnoticed,” Arch said.

Jones’ work at PATF on Penn Avenue in East Liberty includes providing free counseling, free testing, and lending support to a diverse group of people – each facing a different situation.


“I enjoy helping a lot of people who are getting in and out of relationships and people in various situations, and I try to instill a sense of value in them with people thinking about their health. Sex is powerful – it’s about emotion, love, and loneliness and people do a lot of things out of despair,” Jones said.


Before joining PATF, Jones worked in mental health. But in the early ‘90s, he was inspired by the struggles people faced when battling AIDS, and took on many personal emotional obstacles as he lost hundreds of AIDS patients that he worked with on a daily basis. Jones stood by them in the face of the powerful and negative stigma that surrounded the disease, and said that while that stigma has somewhat subsided, it still exists, preventing many people from getting tested.


“It does feel good to do this work – just doing this for 20 years and seeing the changes,” Jones said. “The thing is because it’s been in the news for 30 years, a lot of younger people do not remember the devastation of AIDS and HIV. I like to remind people that 1.2 million Americans are HIV positive. That’s over three times the size of Pittsburgh.”


No matter what situation people face as they come to PATF to get tested, Jones said each and every one of them should be treated with dignity and respect in the face of fear and human struggles.


“I think everybody needs to remember that this is a very diverse world – people come in all ages, sizes, and colors – we are all human beings who deserve the respect of dignity and treating others fairly,” Jones said.


Jones said he was deeply honored by the recognition. He lives in the Mexican War Streets on the Northside, where he restored a Victorian home.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Leonard Carter Recognized as Dignity & Respect Champion

Honor Given for His Teaching and Coaching


(PITTSBURGH, PA) June 11, 2010 – Leonard Carter wants to create a gigantic circle of respect as he prepares a generation of children for life through his football coaching and music teaching. “I teach them a lot about the Golden Rule – treat other people the way you want to be treated – that is your responsibility – even if others are not treating you with respect,” he said. “If we all operated that way, we’d live in a much happier world.”


Carter works every day to create an environment of inclusion for children as he is a music teacher at Conroy Education Center and also as a football coach at Peabody High School in East Liberty. Carter, the recipient of the Dignity and Respect Campaign Champion Award for the month of May, was nominated by Arlene Petite, who said he provides opportunities for all students to learn music and life lessons at the highest level possible.


“Mr. Carter challenges each student to do their best and to reach inside of themselves to get everything that they have to obtain their desired result. He wants what is best for the individual. Although winning and singing or dancing well is the goal, he determines winning by the effort, not the result,” Petite said.


Carter said he is honored to receive the award for his daily work with children. “I think it’s a gift that God gave me to relate to children and it’s something I enjoy. It’s important to be able to work with kids, give back to the community and help prepare the future generation,” Carter said.


He also said he had two of the best role models in his parents, and he tries to pass on their own lessons to his current students. “It’s something that I try to teach them – first you have to respect yourself, hold yourself at a high regard and esteem, and then you give that respect to others.”


He lives with his wife, Melinda, with whom he has two children, Christopher, who is in college, and Jessica, who is in the 10th grade. He received a bachelor’s degree from Carlow University, has been teaching at Conroy Education Center since 1988, and has been coaching football at Peabody High School since 1989.


Carter lives his life in a way that directly represents the Dignity and Respect Campaign’s mission – to achieve cultural and behavioral change in lives, organizations, and communities by ensuring that inclusion is at the core of what people do each day.
The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Esther Haquel Recognized as Dignity & Respect Champion


PITTSBURGH, PA) April 15, 2010 – Esther Haguel doesn’t believe success has a race, gender, or socioeconomic level – she believes and lives by the principle that success stems from an individual’s strengths.


Haguel works every day to teach children that when people bring out the best in each other, everyone benefits. A counselor at Northside Urban Pathways Charter School, Haguel is the recipient of the Dignity and Respect Champion Award for her work in breaking down barriers for children, and leading them to lives of success. She was nominated by her colleague, the Rev. Dwight Dumas.


“She is very sensitive to cultural concerns of the students of NUP, who are primarily African American,” Dumas said. “Esther routinely goes out of her way to make sure students are referred to the proper resources, and works as a very compassionate champion to help students maintain dignity and respect for themselves and others. She constantly seeks to engage, discuss & implement best practices in order to direct our students in the right direction.”


Haguel was chosen for the May award because of her extraordinary dedication to creating an environment of inclusion for children each day.


“I am really honored to even be nominated because being in a school that’s 98 percent African American, I work to understand a culture that is different than mine – but the differences are so minor compared to the similarities we all have in the need to be respected, honored, and recognized for the individuals that we are,” Haguel said.


A native of New York City, Haguel moved to Pittsburgh in 1990 after earning a master’s degree in social work from Tulane University in New Orleans. Haguel helps Urban Pathways serve more than 300 students and works with children in sixth through ninth grades who may be struggling with schoolwork, home life, or other personal obstacles.


“We try to let kids know that we are on their team and here to help them be successful. We help kids remove obstacles – whatever they may be – so they can go after both academic and personal success,” Haguel said. “I always tell the kids that if I can give them half as much as they give me, I would be satisfied. I learn so much from them and about them every day and I have such respect for their ability to be resilient. They have so many challenges but they come to school when weather is good or when it’s bad and even when they struggle through challenges – they show up – and that shows the courage and faith they have in life. I am very inspired by them.


Nieves Stiker Recognized as Dignity & Respect Champion


PITTSBURGH, PA) March 30, 2010 – Nieves Stiker accepts everyone for who they are in the very moment she meets them.


“If they do not feel total acceptance, we can’t be as effective. That is what people say to me here – ‘It’s the first time someone really listened or it was the first time I was treated with respect. I am going to face this because you have shown me that I am worth it.’”


Stiker is the recipient of the Dignity and Respect Champion Award for her work in empowering women and changing lives. While Stiker also works to treat everyone in her life with dignity and respect, she also helps to restore women’s dignity and respect for themselves.


Stiker, director of Community Education for Carlow University, located in downtown Pittsburgh, was nominated by Mary Curet of UPMC.


“She has worked tirelessly to provide opportunity for single parents, displaced homemakers and women in general. She has affected many lives and given ‘belief in oneself’ back to many women. I applaud her quiet strength and resolve to make a difference to women in our community,” Curet said of her nomination.


Stiker was one of three finalists for the March honor and is being acknowledged for her dedication to inclusion during Women’s History Month.


“This was a wonderful surprise. I feel not only honored, but humbled by it. I don’t have a false humility – I love what I do, but it is humbling because I get more out of it more than I give. So many women we serve have serious barriers, and we can be the catalyst. It’s a very rewarding job,” Stiker said of the award.


During her daily work, Stiker connects with women in tough situations in the New Choices/New Options program, which is a state-wide career development program designed to help single parents and displaced homemakers. Stiker also helps to provide free literacy programs to adults through the Community Education Center, which currently serves 400 people.


Stiker lives her life in a way that directly represents the Dignity and Respect Campaign’s mission – to achieve cultural and behavioral change in lives, organizations, and communities by ensuring that inclusion is at the core of what people do each day.


Stiker said that while she works to break down barriers women face, she feels that it is a privilege to be a part of their lives just as they are looking to make a positive change.


“For me, it’s important to accept the people I serve for who they are and where they are, and it is not difficult for me to do that and help them in their efforts to move to the next level. My role and my pleasure is to help them to go to the next level, whatever that is. To see them walking a little taller after a few weeks – nothing compares to that. We have wonderful stories of success, and for me, it’s rewarding,” Stiker said.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Will Thompkins Recognized as Dignity & Respect Champion


PITTSBURGH, PA) March 11, 2010 – Will Thompkins lives a life filled with both dignity and respect because of lessons learned from two people – his parents.


“Anything I did in my life, I never wanted to do any dishonor to them,” Thompkins said. “Wherever I lived and traveled – in college and the military – I tried to carry myself in a way that my parents would be very proud of me.”


Will is the recipient of the Dignity and Respect Champion award, a monthly honor recognizing people who are engaged in their communities, live by the principles of dignity and respect, and have experience in their fields.


Thompkins is the recipient of the Dignity and Respect Champion award, a monthly honor recognizing people who are engaged in their communities, live by the principles of dignity and respect, and promote an environment of inclusion.


“I want to live in a way that they would want to emulate,” Thompkins said.


Thompkins, director of community and outreach at The Pittsburgh Project, a nonprofit community development organization with a 25-year track record of developing leaders and serving the city’s most vulnerable residents, was nominated by Saleem Ghubril, executive director of the Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship program for students in Pittsburgh Public Schools.


“Will models servant-leadership in everything he does, but never with the aim of drawing attention to himself. He makes whomever is in his company feel deeply valued and highly regarded. He is a bridge-builder between those typically alienated whether because of race, ethnicity, gender, economics, age, or politics. This is Will’s first nature,” Ghubril said.


Thompkins was one of four finalists for the February honor and is the first member of the community to be acknowledged for his dedication to inclusion.


“I am honored,” Thompkins said upon learning of the recognition. “I don’t seek any accolades — I just try to help the community. There are so many people who could be chosen and I am happy about the work I have been able to do in the last several years for the city of Pittsburgh. I am humbled as well.”


Jessica Mock Recognized as Dignity & Respect Champion

Honor Given for Her Dedication to Deaf Community


(PITTSBURGH, PA) Oct. 19, 2010 – Jessica Mock is giving a voice to people who are sometimes left in a world of silence.
“A lot of the people I work with have inspired me – we have a few deaf blind clients who are extremely independent and all of our clients are very impressive. They have taught me not to give up on anything and keep doing what you love to do no matter what happens. Anything can be possible if you keep working at it,” Mock said.


Nominated by Judy Kelly, who met the young woman while she was signing for a hip-hop video, Mock has been chosen as the October Dignity and Respect Champion for her work at the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services (CHDS) in helping the deaf community in all situations, whether it is a visit to the doctor’s office or a performance.


“On a personal level, Jessica incorporates her love for music and skill in interpreting by signing at concerts, including Brad Paisley, Sarah Evans, Trace Adkins, and all performances of the Renaissance City Choir,” Kelly said.


A 27 year old Johnstown native, Jessica works as an administrative assistant and assistant staff interpreter at CHDS. She first learned sign language in high school so she could communicate with a deaf friend, and her commitment continued during her college years. She attended Bloomsburg University in eastern Pennsylvania where she earned a bachelor’s degree in interpreting.


Jessica moved to Pittsburgh after graduation and started working at CHDS, where she interprets at least once weekly, accompanying clients to doctor appointments, physical therapy, counseling, and other medical occasions that require both discretion and confidentiality.


“It is all about working with people, giving someone a voice when they don’t always have it, and it’s the language itself. It’s fascinating and fun to watch and learn,” Jessica said.


Jessica said she was surprised and honored that she is being recognized for treating others with dignity and respect, and said that it’s important for everyone to incorporate the values into daily life.


“If you don’t have dignity and respect, then it’s hard to let other people see how important those values are. It’s important to know how to treat others and how to show others how to be respectful to other communities and cultures. If you don’t have it yourself, it’s hard to interact with other people,” Jessica said.


Jessica said if everyone treated their peers with dignity and respect, the world would change.


“It improves a community just by how we act around each other – if you just show each other respect and understanding — it would improve everything: your life, your culture, and make everything a lot easier and better, and decrease violence. It would just be a better place,” she said.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.


Pastor Cheryl Ruffin Recognized as Dignity & Respect Champion

Recognized for Her Ability to Listen


(PITTSBURGH, PA) November 19, 2010 – Cheryl Ruffin finds that listening to others is the best way to demonstrate respect to her peers, colleagues, family, friends, and the people around her.


“When people walk into my office, they need to be heard. When individuals enter into the sanctuary, they need to be acknowledged. I think that is probably the basis of who I am. Just making sure that people can be heard and their presence is acknowledged,” Ruffin said.


Nominated by Shari Manges, Ruffin has been chosen as the November Dignity and Respect Champion for her work as the pastor of St. Paul AME Church in counseling, mentoring, and listening to others in times in need.


“Cheryl does not miss an opportunity to help others and help them see the value in themselves. She has been active in assisting people with barriers to employment to overcome those barriers. Cheryl is a wonderful role model and truly promotes dignity and respect for all people,” Manges said.


Cheryl, 53, lives in Knoxville with her husband. As an employee relations specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, Cheryl ensures that all departments run well and that the employees are satisfied. Both jobs — as pastor and as employee relations specialist — intertwine as her goal is to make sure that everyone is heard, acknowledged, and happy.


“If I can assist an employee in being a better employee, then it ultimately impacts the University in a positive way. In my secular job as well as in my vocation, the important thing is that the individual is thought of as important.”


Cheryl is also a mentor through Amachi Pittsburgh, where she guides children who have an incarcerated parent. She finds that just listening and sharing another’s emotions can go a long way.


“Many times if people are tearful, I will hug them, because physical contact is important. If they are excited, join in. If they are mournful, hold their hand. If we are here, we are supposed to be here. There are no mistakes. Everyone has a right to be treated with respect, ” Cheryl said.


Cheryl was surprised and honored when she found out about the Champion award. She feels that if everyone treated each other with dignity and respect, a community would be able to better itself.


“It is simply going back to what you learned in kindergarten. It really isn’t about you. It is about how we are reacting together. Each person has their own agenda, and if we decide our greatest agenda is to engage each other for the betterment of the community, each and every one of our desires would be met,” Cheryl said.


Cheryl believes that working together is the key to making the community and world a better place, all starting with dignity and respect.


“If we begin to respect and listen to each other, we’d understand that we can help each other. If we would sit down and talk, we’d realize we all really want the same thing. It takes all of us working together to change a community,” she said.


The Dignity & Respect Campaign is an awareness campaign designed to join individuals, community leaders, community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and corporations under the common notion that everyone deserves dignity and respect.