Two simple words. Quite a lofty ambition.
And yet, as I stood surrounded on the evening of December 11 by a diverse group of friends and colleagues at Community Partners’ annual holiday gathering, the intentional shared striving for this goal could not have been more palpable.
Nearly every person in that room works daily with diligence to do good for others. And while so many could have been singled out for his or her contributions to building their own caring communities, as is our custom we selected a handful of our own project leaders to receive the Albert R. Rodriguez Civic Legacy Awards. The awards are given in recognition of my dear colleague and late friend who was the founding board chair of Community Partners. His spirited dedication to ethical integrity, public accountability, and fiscal prudence in charitable enterprise continues through the work of each year’s honorees. This year, marking our milestone 20th year and looking ahead to 20 more, we expanded the awards from 2 to 6.
I felt honored to be able to call attention to each one of these dedicated and compassionate individuals whose vision and hard work resonates in the lives of so many now and into the future. They are:
- Virgil Roberts, Board Chair
The African American Board Leadership Institute
Virgil’s stewardship in Los Angeles education and philanthropy distinguishes him; the AABLI defines his desire to leave a legacy in community organizations throughout the region.
- Dan Clement, Senior Resource Fellow
Community Partners/College Bound Today
An extraordinary connector, Dan exists at the nexus of education and opportunities for high school kids to achieve their college ambitions.
- Karen Mack, Founder and Executive Director
Karen weaves the fabric of community by identifying both the threads of similarity that tie neighborhoods together and the textures and hues that distinguish and differentiate diverse people in a complex urban environment.
- Billie Weiss, MPH
Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles
Respected nationally as a researcher and advocate, Billie’s grace and dignity combine to call each of us to our highest values and most peaceable selves.
- Keren Taylor, Founder & Executive Director
Keren’s gift of helping young women find voices to match their compelling life experiences makes her an exemplar in the work of lifting to visibility those who might otherwise remain silent.
- Harley Frankel, Founder and President
Arguably, Harley found new meaning and purpose in the second half of his life by establishing this project and committing himself to the lives of the young people – many the first in their family – for whom each year he opens the doors to some of America’s most selective colleges and universities.
It’s difficult to correlate any single act or even any series of sustained acts of caring with the health, capability and prosperity of communities in general. Yet I am convinced that it is the unrelenting acts of caring inherent in the work of our honorees that improve the quality of others’ lives and is the indispensable strand without which humanity’s bond unravels.
That seems such a self-evident statement to make. Yet, it’s a paradoxically fragile and agile quality, this striving thing called caring community. It is at once singularly dependent on the vagaries of individual human character to take hold at all. And, for it to catch and spread – to go viral, in the jargon of the era – requires visible practice, acts and results repeated over and over again. Never just a single act, caring community is rather an accretion of behaviors, behaviors becoming habit, habit transforming institutions, and institutions framing culture.
Community Partners also was honored this night with a proclamation delivered by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a 2010 recipient of the Albert R. Rodriguez Civic Legacy Award, recognizing our 20 years of service to the region. With my staff and board, with our mighty band of project leaders, and with the breadth and diversity of the many civic-minded individuals gathered together, I was most aware of the fundamental humanity with which Community Partners lives its mission.
More than anything else, we stand in service to ever more caring community.