These wonderful neighbors are the winners of the 2016 Celebration of Rochester Neighbors Awards. Visit the 2017 page for information on this year’s event.
SouthWest Quadrant Community Champion
Ms. Bessie Clifton, a founding member of the Cottage Street Block Club, is the Rochester Neighbors Community Champion Award winner for the Southwest Quadrant. At 88 years old, she remains an active advocate and participant in her neighborhood. Ms. Clifton has been a member of the Plymouth Exchange Neighborhood Association for 25 years and is also a member of the South Plymouth Avenue Business Association. In addition, she walks her neighborhood as a member of PAC-TAC and is often seen cleaning up litter on area streets. Two projects with which Ms. Clifton is closely involved are the Legacy Garden and the Legacy Park Station, sponsored by the Cottage St. Block Club. She helps plant and maintain the community garden that provides fresh vegetables for neighbors, and she provided input and historical information and continues to fundraise for the Legacy Park Station. On the “Street Voices” program on Rochester Free Radio 106.3 fm, Ms. Clifton provided listeners with more history and memories about life in Rochester. Described as resilient with a “youthful spirit,” she continues to inspire her southwest neighbors.
NorthEast Quadrant Community Champion
Vera Crumpler, organizer of the Citywide Youth Crusade, is the Rochester Neighbors Community Champion Award winner for the Northeast Quadrant. Carlos Santana of Action for a Better Community nominated Mrs. Crumpler calling her “a highly committed advocate for the less fortunate” in Rochester’s northeast through efforts that span nearly 50 years. She has tackled community issues of housing, injustice, public safety, employment and youth while sitting on the boards of various associations: Coalition of the North East Area (CONEA,) North East Block Club Alliance (NEBCA,) Sector 10, and North East Neighbors Association (NENA.) In addition, she gives her time to other local events when asked. Her 30-year involvement with the Citywide Youth Crusade includes organizing rallies in which public officials, police officers, clergy, lecturers and neighbors with positive messages are invited to speak. In an effort to keep the dialogue moving forward, Mrs. Crumpler continues to hold the events at her own expense and without compensation. Santana adds that Mrs. Crumpler displays “a caring, loving heart toward everybody she meets, without distinction,” treating everyone with respect and compassion regardless of age or ethnic background, making her a true role model and champion.
NorthWest Quadrant Community Champion
Described as a “quiet champion” for Charlotte, Pamela Postgate is the Rochester Neighbors Community Champion Award winner for the Northwest Quadrant. After moving to Stutson Street eight years ago, Ms. Postgate organized the Stutson Street Block Club and Charlotte Beach Clean-ups. Her most recent community project has been spearheading the Lakeside Farmers Market. Ms. Postgate organized the group of neighbors to put it together, then hosted meetings, sought out sponsors and vendors, and locally publicized it. After a successful first year in 2015, the market will open this month for a second year.
SouthEast Quadrant Community Champion
Aaron and Kelly Metras, winners of the Rochester Neighbors Community Champion Award for the Southeast Quadrant, are parents, entrepreneurs and community advocates. Their restaurants, Selena’s Mexican Restaurant and Nox Cocktail Lounge, are located in Village Gate Square. Aaron has served as the president of the Neighborhood of the Arts Business Association (NOTABA) for the past five years. According to the Southeast Quadrant Team, who nominated the couple for this award, they have volunteered much time and energy into building NOTABA into “one of the most successful and influential business associations in the City of Rochester.” Their popular Mexican restaurant, Selena’s, reaches out to causes beyond the southeast and sponsors the Monarch Butterfly Display at the Seneca Park Zoo, an important program to the growth and migration of monarch butterflies. Selena’s also sends a team to the annual Polar Bear Plunge which benefits the Special Olympics of Western New York. Last year the team raised $8,000. The latest project for the Metras is the Rochester Youth Culinary Experience, or RYCE. They are endeavoring to start a third restaurant, this one built around an immersion experience for youth interested in the restaurant business. Students will participate in all aspects of creating and operating a working restaurant with guidance from a management team. Their vision is to assist youth in acquiring skills and experience that will assist them in gaining employment or continuing their culinary education. The Southeast Quadrant Team notes that the couple is always “thinking outside of the box” for ways to move the neighborhood forward.
Community Leader Award
Ericka Jones, a Systems Advocate at the Center for Disability Rights, has been selected to receive the Community Leader Award for her work in improving accessibility. Ms. Jones has been instrumental in two city issues that have been vital to people with disabilities. As the leader of the Center’s Transportation Action Group (TAG,) she organized and empowered group members to contest the closing of several inner-city bus stops used by people with disabilities. She coordinated the campaign and utilized the media to voice concerns. The group’s efforts resulted in many of the stops remaining on the routes. Ms. Jones also worked on another issue important to all city dwellers: the amendment of a City of Rochester ordinance to keep the sidewalks clear during the winter. She attended neighborhood association meetings and organized a group of people with disabilities to make their voices heard at City Council meetings. The new ordinance passed, and city sidewalks will be more accessible for all residents during the winter from now on. She is an advocate in other areas, also, as a member of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley and participant in the Rochester-Monroe County Anti-Poverty Initiative. A group of 15 people with disabilities that she gathered participated in Rochester’s Clean Sweep program. Stephanie Woodward, Director of Advocacy at CDR, nominated Ms. Jones for this award, saying she has “inspired others to get involved,” that she sets an “incredible xample” for people with disabilities, and has motivated more people with disabilities “to become active and involved in our city.”