The Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, senior pastor at True Bethel Baptist Church and Buffalo’s Ellicott Council member, will be among the individuals and organizations honored by the National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York at its 2013 Community Leader Awards Luncheon at noon Jan. 17 in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

For tickets, call 853-9596. The honorees will be introduced by luncheon co-chairmen Danielle Eisen Shainbrown, vice president of the McGuire Group, and Glenn S. Jackson, an administrative vice president at M&T Bank.

Pridgen, honored with one of the Interfaith Awards, will be cited for his struggles for social justice and his advocacy for people who otherwise would not be heard. He also reaches out to provide help for the needy and to work together with other faith groups. When he and True Bethel hosted the NFJC’s annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service in the church sanctuary, it attracted its largest-ever attendance.

Other awards include:


Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo – Founded in 1992 by the late J. Milton Zeckhauser, Grassroots Gardens helps people create and sustain community gardens on vacant lots across the city. Grassroots Gardens establishes leases with City Hall and, when possible, helps out gardeners with soil, seed, tools and other supplies.

Vive, Inc. – The largest shelter in the nation for refugees seeking asylum in Canada and the United States, Vive has assisted people from 106 countries since its founding in 1984. Despite a tiny staff and shoestring budget, Vive provided food, warmth, protection, education and legal assistance to more than 3,800 refugees last year, 65 percent of whom were women and children, from its headquarters in an old school building on Buffalo’s East Side.


Rahwa Ghirmatzion – Executive director at Ujima Theater, she is co-host of radio’s “Buffalo Backstage” and a community engagement specialist at Upstate New York Transplant Services. Born in war-torn Eretria, she is dedicated to presenting the work and craft of African- American and Third World artists. She also draws on personal experience in her work at UNYTS. After the tragic death of her 7-year-old son, she and her husband donated his organs so that five other young people could live.

Community organization

Family Justice Center – Open since 2006, FJC has been giving thousands of victims of domestic violence access to all of the assistance they need, from medical and legal help to counseling, child care and housing. Expanding on its success, FJC has established a satellite office in Orchard Park and is preparing for another in the Northtowns.

Community service/volunteerism

Barbara Baker – A successful agent with Hunt Realty and a former teacher, she is a member of the Erie County Cultural Resources Advisory Board, the Buffalo Niagara Tourism Initiative, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and has served on the board of the Weinberg Campus. When she was chairwoman of the Members’ Council of Albright-Knox Art Gallery, she created and headed the Rocking at the Knox fundraisers.

LeRoi C. Johnson – An attorney, artist and volunteer, he wrote songs for artists such as Rick James; studied classical guitar with world-renowned masters; and exhibited his artwork internationally. Returning to Buffalo after assisting minority businesses as a Washington, D.C., city government official, he has helped found the Willie “Hutch” Jones Sports Clinic and serves on the boards of the Buffalo Guitar Society and Give for Greatness.

James Tilley – After finishing a career in banking by serving as chief executive officer of Evans Bank, he has twice agreed to be interim executive director at prominent local non-profit agencies – the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County and the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens – and guided them through transitions while they conducted searches for new leadership.

Pastor Anita Williams – The host of “The Praise Zone” on radio station WUFO, she is pastor of God’s Ministry of Deliverance and God’s Ministry of Deliverance Prison Mission. More than 20 years ago, she also created “Taking It to the Streets,” an annual program held in Martin Luther King Park to help combat drug abuse, teach parenting skills, connect people with job training and offer food, clothing, school supplies and medical services to those in need.


Dennis Elsenbeck – Regional executive and spokesman for National Grid’s Western Division, he has earned high honors for his community service. The past chairman of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, he currently heads the Dean’s Council for the University at Buffalo’s School of Engineering, serves on the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and headed the annual campaign of the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County.


Jack F. Quinn Jr. – Always a leader, he has served as teacher, coach, Hamburg town supervisor and six terms as a congressman. As the 10th president of Erie Community College, he has expanded services and classes on its three campuses for 16,000 students. Also a leader among college administrators, he was invited by President Obama to participate in the 2010 White House Summit on Community Colleges.


Dawn E. Sanders-Garrett – Executive director of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, one of the 20 largest public housing agencies in the nation, she has been nationally recognized for her dedication and work against poverty. A graduate of Leadership Buffalo, she has served on the boards of the Buffalo Urban League and the NCCJ.

Health care

John Rodgers – Executive vice president and chief operating officer at Independent Health, he is responsible for expanding the company’s pharmacy management service nationwide. He also is involved with several charitable organizations, notably the WNY Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, where he is board chairman, has led several fundraising campaigns and served as chairman of its annual Diamond Ball.

The Visiting Nursing Association of WNY Inc. – The oldest home care agency in the United States, founded in 1885, it provides a broad range of health care services, regardless of age, race, condition or ability to pay. Most importantly, it allows its 22,000 clients to continue to live independently in their own homes. Its Needy Family Fund, established eight years ago, provides $400,000 annually in financial assistance and charity care.


The Rev. Joseph Bayne, OFM – Executive director of the Franciscan Center, a runaway and homeless youth shelter since 1990, he serves on the board of directors of the Empire State Coalition of Youth & Family Services, is a peer counselor on the WNY Stress Reduction Team and serves as chief chaplain for Erie County Emergency Services, the Buffalo Fire Department, and the Town of Hamburg Police Department.

Law enforcement

Deputy Elizabeth Rodriguez-Fildes – A 30-year veteran of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, she serves as program director of the Sheriff’s Human Trafficking Task Force and heads the WNY Human Trafficking Alliance, a task force of local, state and federal law enforcement officials. She has played a key role in local investigations into human trafficking and is founder of the United Hands of Hope House, the region’s first safe house for victims of human trafficking.

Deputy Brian Mohr – A Seneca born and raised on the Allegany Reservation, he is a domestic violence specialist who works with the Sheriff’s Offices in both Erie and Cattaraugus counties. He is co-chairman of the New York State Native American Family Services Commission and works to build cooperation between state agencies and the Native American nations.


Phillips Lytle LLP – Founded in 1834 and one of the largest law firms in Western New York, it recently was recognized for its Peace Out initiative, which pairs its attorneys with middle school students as mentors, tutors and role models. The firm has established a scholarship program at UB Law School for underserved students and has been honored for its efforts to increase diversity within the legal profession.


Karen Gaughan Scott – A generous contributor to charities and nonprofit agencies, she was a teacher before getting her law degree and becoming an attorney. She has served as board president for her alma mater, Immaculata Academy, and is former Hilbert College board president. A trustee of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site Foundation for more than 20 years, she currently is vice president.

Social services

Bonnie L. Glazer – Executive director of Child and Adolescent Treatment Services, where she oversees a staff of 150 professionals providing mental health services without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, economic class or sexual orientation. She heads the Child Mental Health Consortium of Erie County and is co-chairwoman of the Children’s Committee of the New York State Council for Community Behavioral Health Centers.

Dr. Francisco M. Vasquez – President and chief executive officer of Child and Family Services of Western New York, one of the largest private, nonprofit family services agencies in the country, he is a member of the board of Kaleida Health, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and serves as a member of the Buffalo News Diversity Advisory Board. He recently received a Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award

Special Award

The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site –The Delaware Avenue home where Roosevelt was sworn in as our 26th president is the only National Park Service location in Western New York. An educational resource and a heritage tourist attraction, in recent years it has been transformed with new interactive displays on issues that his administration faced over 100 years ago, such as racism, poverty and the environment, that continue to be concerns today.

Youth Awards: Vincent H. Bargnes III, Williamsville East High School; Levi Cartwright, Charter School for Applied Technologies; Brandon Cruz, WNY Maritime Charter School; Shalimar Duplantis, Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart; Lorena Lyon, Nichols School; Breanna Leslie-Skye, Niagara Falls High School; Pearl Noelle Guerin, Nichols School; Deja Triplette, Charter School for Applied Technologies; and Chelsy Wagstaff, Buffalo Seminary.

The Elizabeth A. Hickey Award: Erika A. Richardson, Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts.

The Dr. Manch Scholarship Award: Amber Quinney, Hutchinson-Central Technical High School.