Mayor Purzycki presents 16th annual Wilmington Awards

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki last week honored five city residents with the 2018 Wilmington Awards and two residents with Access Wilmington Awards.

Former Mayor James M. Baker established the Wilmington Awards in 2001 to recognize local achievement in the arts, athletics, environment, business, education, health or science.

The Access Wilmington Awards, given out by the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (Access Wilmington), recognize people who open doors and creates opportunities for people living with disabilities and their families.

The 2018 honorees include:

Wilmington Award for Business Community Involvement

Capital One has been an outstanding community partner for the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware, having gone above and beyond to support the club’s mission in many different ways. In addition to generous financial support to the Boys and Girls Club and other organizations, their Community Relations staff has also organized volunteers who have dedicated their time and knowledge. From cleaning a room to assisting at an event, their associates have gone above and beyond. They have hosted a Day of Coding, financial literacy workshops, and are continuously reaching out to find new ways to partner. Their financial support has funded a new full-time statewide STEAM Director, updated technology centers, and teen centers. Additionally, several times a year, Capital One hosts trainings, networking sessions and more for their non-profit partners. They understand that while the business side of a non-profit is incredibly important to being successful and being able to fulfill the mission, it is often difficult to spend time growing in that area. Every year they host a “Speed Consulting Event” where non-profit executives can receive targeted consulting and expert advice. They recognize that they are the experts in that field and are generous in sharing that knowledge. In the last year, Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware staff has been invited to trainings with Capital One’s Marketing Team as well as provided training in Agile Work Flow. These trainings provided vital information that is practiced at the Boys & Girls Club of Delaware. Capital One is helping people of all ages, especially our youth, to build knowledge and skills for 21st century jobs. They are having a strong community impact on workforce development and job readiness by dedicating dollars, time, and resources. They work with multiple organizations ranging in size and mission, but the common thread is that the support from Capital One is tailored to their needs and is a vital part of their success. Capital One was selected for their outstanding community partnership, support of the Boys & Girls Club, and impact on the youth of the City of Wilmington.

Wilmington Award for Community Service

Danette Y. Butler is the Founder and Executive Director of Parents of Incarcerated Children, a nonprofit organization that provides support and information on how to access resources for families of previously incarcerated men and women in the City of Wilmington and throughout the state of Delaware. Her community service and leadership has changed lives and strengthened families. As corrections officer for the State of Delaware for twenty years, she saw first-hand that in many cases ex-offenders were returning to prison because they were not able to coordinate their basic needs for daily living. Many needed support with housing, employment, medical services, and transportation. In most instances “attitude adjustments” were needed to change the mindsets that caused them to be incarcerated in the first place. She was able to build a strong community network to help develop an understanding of the resources available, the court system, and court proceedings. Mrs. Butler provides one-on-one counseling for justice-involved individuals and their families. She uses her skills to coordinate services, including transportation to job interviews, court proceedings, probation meetings, prison visits, school visits, food banks, clothing closets, and any place where there is a need to be met. Mrs. Butler is humble and caring and works tirelessly for the benefit of others and in the memory of her son, Clarence “Clayball” Butler. As a disabled individual living on a fixed income, she goes about the business of helping people get pardons and expungements and avoid the cycle of returning to prison. She works to empower individuals to achieve their potential. She has an annual “Coat Give-Away” for children of incarcerated parents and others, as well as a Robe and Slippers give-away for cancer patients at Christina Hospital during the Christmas holiday. Mrs. Danette Butler was selected for her efforts to advocate for, support, and strengthen the families of previously incarcerated citizens of the City of Wilmington.

Wilmington Award for Community Service

JJ Francis is a Wilmington native whose drive, perseverance, faith and connection to his family and community allow him to see his goals through to fruition. He currently works as Outreach Coordinator for the Office of U.S. Senator Christopher A. Coons. JJ earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from La Salle University in Philadelphia. By the age of 22 he was working in the U.S. Senate, serving as an Assistant to Senator Coons, and taking evening class to earn his master’s in Political Management from The George Washington University. At the same time, he was commuting home on the weekends to help run the Hedgeville-based store his father left him. JJ decided to return home to Delaware and immediately began putting his skills, knowledge and passion to use by addressing issues impacting the community he serves. He helped lead a rally advocating for the reopening of the Jackson Street Boys and Girls Club and served as a liaison between frustrated residents and Wilmington police. He serves as President of the Hedgeville Civic Association, and Vice President of the 6th District NPC. He also serves as Chair of the Metropolitan Urban League of Young Professionals Community Outreach Committee, and is a board member of Public Allies of Delaware and the Delaware Nature Society. JJ is extremely humble and well-respected by youth and young adults, serving as a positive role model helping them to navigate some of the toughest issues. JJ consistently engages in direct action and advocacy for political and social change. For this reason, JJ is recognized as a prominent voice and agent of change leading the charge on critical social issues such as criminal justice reform, educational equity and community development. Mr. Francis was selected for his community service and volunteerism, advocacy, and outreach to the citizens of Wilmington.

Wilmington Award for Education

Sheila O’Callaghan has dedicated over 65 years of her life to educating young people. Ms. O’Callaghan, recognizable around Wilmington and known popularly as “Miss O,” lives in the Highlands and is well known in the Forty Acres area, where has had a significant impact on many people through her teaching and by modeling love and faith for those who have had the pleasure of knowing her. Miss O’s journey to St. Ann’s School began in Ireland, where she was educated by the Mercy Sisters. After graduating high school at age 16, she came to the United States and earned an American diploma. Joining the Sisters of St. Francis, she embarked on a career in education that began at St. Joseph on the Brandywine School in Greenville and continued at St. Peter the Apostle in New Castle. After several other stops, she took a job teaching for 4th grade at St. Ann’s. Although she eventually left the Franciscans, she remains close to them and makes occasional visits to the motherhouse in Aston, Pa. She also visits the Kentmere home for Mass each month along with a parish priest and St. Ann students. She officially retired from teaching a few years ago, yet she returns to St. Ann’s every day to teach more children and teachers! She continues to give of herself tirelessly as a volunteer expecting nothing in return. She is a humble educator of children and impacts those less fortunate. She is a model for all, exemplifying pride in where she lives and a strong work ethic. She maintains strong bonds with her former students, and she continues to advocate for educational excellence, setting high expectations for her students, and pushing them to stretch beyond their comfort zones. Ms. O’Callaghan was selected for her lifelong dedication to- wards educating and instilling the values of hard work, respect, and love to generations of young people in the City of Wilmington.

Wilmington Award for Health/Science

Dr. Edmondo J. Robinson, M.D., MBA, FACP, is Christiana Care Health System’s Chief Transformation Officer and Senior Vice President, Consumerism. He is responsible for transformation of health care delivery to advance population health initiatives and move from volume-based to value-based care with a special focus on developing and managing Christiana Care’s consumerism strategy. Dr. Robinson is highly regarded for his focused, engaged leadership style and was instrumental in transforming the historic Wilmington Hospital into a vital, state-of-the-art campus, regionally recognized for Rehabilitation, Center for Advanced Joint Replacement and the Swank Memory Care Center. He was pivotal in establishing the Rocco A. Abessinio Family Wilmington Health Center and was a key leader in Christiana Care’s efforts to involve patients in organizational decision-making through the creation of a Patient and Family Advisory Council. He recently helped lead the hospital’s successful verification as a Level III trauma center. Dr. Robinson is an associate professor of medicine at Thomas Jefferson University’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College and an adjunct senior fellow in the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and a senior fellow of the Society of Hospital Medicine. He holds a medical degree from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles; an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania; and a master’s degree in health policy research also from the University of Pennsylvania. He serves as Vice Chair of the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation Board, has shared extensive health care and business expertise with the Delaware Health Care Commission, and sits on the City of Wilmington Health Care Task Force, and on the board of directors of Nativity Preparatory School in Wilmington. As a practicing physician, Dr. Robinson models excellence and love, providing respectful, compassionate care to individuals in the Wilmington community. Dr. Robinson was selected for his efforts in transforming health care to improve the health and well-being of some of the most vulnerable citizens of Wilmington.

Access Wilmington Access to the Arts Award

Charles Conway who holds a B.A. from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, is the Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Delaware Theater Company, located at the Wilmington Riverfront. His initiative and ongoing efforts for 26 years have been instrumental in making the creative craft of playwriting and performance accessible to persons with disabilities in Wilmington and across the state of Delaware. He started the “Totally Awesome Players” acting troupe in 1992. In 2012, the name was changed to “TAP2.” The troupe is partially funded by a grant from the Foundation for Reaching Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities. Many of the original players have remained with the troupe over all these years, and because of great demand, the troupe has expanded from one to three groups. These troupes meet weekly and participants are involved in the creative process from beginning to end. They create the storyline, write the script, rehearse and perform an original play. Typically, the performances, which are presented on the main stage at the Delaware Theater Company and other community venues, are standing room only. In the past, the TAP2 Program offered workshops at the Howard T. Ennis School, a school for students with significant disabilities located in Sussex County. The group expanded to Kent County on October 1, 2018. Mr. Conway is happy about the expansion, which goes along with his motto: “Theater is for Everybody!”

Access Wilmington Community Service Award

Michele (Mickey) V. Billups, a retired social worker from the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Families, has dedicated her life to “Love, Compassion and Understanding.” She has spent her retirement years volunteering in numerous initiatives, including serving as a mentor to children at Douglas School, an alternative school in the Christina School District for children with emotional, behavioral, and mental disabilities. She believes in the mantra “Teach One, Reach One.” Offering her expertise on specific programs geared to aid the abled and disabled, Mrs. Billups is considered a treasure. While she focuses the majority of her volunteer efforts in the West Center City community, where she has lived for over 40 years, her door is open to anyone who needs assistance. She has volunteered with Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware for years and was awarded the Quaker Hill Association’s Thomas Garrett Award for Outstanding Humanitarian Efforts. She works with the homeless and disabled in her West Center City neighborhood and beyond.

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