If it’s spring, it must be time for the annual Northside Center for Child Development gala, the key event of the season. It never disappoints; the 2012 gala was all you would imagine it to be. The ballroom at the Plaza was filled with well-meaning and well-endowed supporters, all there to applaud the continued efforts and success stories that Northside has become noted for.
Celebrating 66 years of serving the underserved, teaching those thought to be unteachable and providing light to those in the dark and hope to many who had lost their way and their faith, Northside continues to be a pillar of strength reliable and steadfast.
I happen to love the Plaza. Still elegantly located on 59th Street and Central Park South, there is something regal about walking up the red-carpeted steps to the main entrance. It makes everyone feel so special–which makes it a perfect fit for Northside, as the organization is an expert in making everyone who walks through its doors feel special too.
Accordingly, last year, over 3,000 families in East and Central Harlem and the Bronx came through the doors of Northside seeking solace. The children and their families were all experiencing a range of difficulties, from emotional and behavioral trouble to an inability to cope within the educational system. Northside’s holistic approach to helping those most in need has been met with much success, as the stories from Northside just keep coming.
To begin at the beginning, the evening started with a cocktail reception, where those such as restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson, of the famed Red Rooster, and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons mingled amongst the guests, which included Lisa Downing, Janice Dye and Hazel Dukes. The tastiest of the hors d’oeuvres served include the tiniest cut of watermelon with a thin slice of cheese topped with a jalapeno pepper. Talk about fire and ice! The only thing to tame it was a glass of champagne, which was of an excellent vintage.
Upon entering the seductively lit ballroom, guests such as Tony Award winner George Faison, founder of the Faison Firehouse Theater, which is located in central Harlem and home to the American Performing Arts Collaborative and Byron Lewis, founder and chairman of UniWorld Advertising Agency, gathered once again to recognize the achievements of Northside Center.
The master of ceremonies for the evening was radio personality Elvis Duran, along with Carolina Bermudez. Remarks were given by the chairman of the Northside board, Michael Goldstein, and the ever-so-gracious Thelma Dye, Ph.D., Northside’s executive director and CEO. Thanking all of those who share in the success of Northside, Dye remarked that it has been an incredible journey and “stunning accomplishment” to play such a vital part in making a difference in the lives and future of those Northside serves.
“One in five children in the United States is suffering, but those who reach Northside’s doors are well on their way and don’t worry that they are becoming a statistic because we care about who they’ll become,” stated Dye.
This year’s Mamie Award, named after Northside’s founders, Kenneth and Mamie Clark, was awarded to the Hon. David Dinkins, the 106th mayor of the city of New York. It was presented by Ed Lewis, founder and CEO of Essence Communications Inc. (formerly Essence Communications Partners) and co-founder and publisher of ESSENCE magazine.
Lewis read a special message sent by first lady Michele Obama before speaking very highly of Northside’s commitment, as well as the accomplishments of the former mayor. Accepting the award for Dinkins was his wife, Joyce, as Dinkins was in South Africa with Nelson Mandela.
Also receiving the Mamie Award was Richard J. Rubino, former senior vice president and CFO of Medco Health Solutions and Northside board member. Other awards included the Corporate Community Achievement Awards, which went to Ravi Sachdev, managing director of JPMorgan Chase, and Kenneth Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Lazard.
Galas are taking place all around us. There was also that of the National Academy Foundation (NAF), a network of 500 career-themed academies that links underserved high school students to viable careers. During the 2011-12 school year, 60,000 students attended NAF academies across 39 states, in D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. NAF’s national rate of graduating seniors is 97 percent. In attendance at the gala were Michelle Dutton, Rose Kirk and Brianna Dutton.
Then there was the annual POSH gala, where the highlight of the evening was the fast-paced auction, where more than $100,000 was raised within seven minutes. Various POSH events raise approximately $1.3 million during the course of the year, all in an effort to fight vision loss.
However, none of the events outshine Northside, as the community-based organization operates from the heart. If you’re interested in seeing Northside in action, visit any one of their centers: Northside headquarters on East 110th Street, a satellite center at West 135th Street and the newly opened Susan Patricof Head Start Center, located on East 111th Street.
Charlie’s angels and knights in shining armor gathered to salute Rep. Charles B. Rangel at the Hudson River Cafe on a recent balmy evening. There to show the congressman some love were Isabel Dennis Cummings; Councilwoman Inez Dickens; Ken Knuckles, president/CEO of Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone; Lucille McEwen, Esq.; and Londell Davis. The Fred McFarlane entertainment was outstanding, setting the mood for unity, family reunion, celebration and a good, good time.
Other folks in the house were Maria Luna of Washington Heights, Marietta Dunn of Mahattanville, Minnie Moore and Jeffe Hamilton, Sylvia Alston of Edwards Reality; a dedicated fundraising angel, Sharon and Karen Witherspoon, Maria Cruz of Taino Towers, the Scott Sisters, JoAnn Henry of 1199SEIU, Bob Ana, Ralph Corum, Yves and Harriet Michel, Hazel Dukes, Dr. Marcella Maxwell, Vi Higginson, Audrey Smaltz; Portia Paterson with husband Basil and son, Gov. David Paterson, William Hammer of the Abysinnian Development Corp, Dr. Lenora Fulani, Walter Edwards, Betty Parks, Tony Rodgers and City Council Members Gale Brewer, Marcel Vinelleta and Robert Jackson.
Happy birthday to the Hon. Frank Morton Jr. (age 92), May Hall, Joseph Chassems, Ida Burgess, Carlotta Segars, Lucy Wiles, Josephine Gurley, Larry “Larry Love” Coldwell, Deacon Walter Mayo of Caanan Baptist Church, Sandra Carrion, Harmon James, Rory Gains, Miles Dutton, Richard Freeman and Faith from NYSC.
Condolences on the passing of radio personality Hal Jackson, a class act.
It’s just occurred to me that June is busting out all over–grads are graduating, lovers are exchanging nuptials, dads are getting ready to sit back, put their feet up and enjoy their special day and, well, it’s the month when everything seems right with the world.
Until next week…kisses.