Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Recognizing those who made an IMPACT

Silver Spring organization awards community leaders, leadership program graduates

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Photo courtesy of Tooky Bunnag
IMPACT Builder Award winners The Padres Latinos en Accion and The Family involvement Committee (from left) Vilna Bonilla-Kenny on behalf of Jacqueline Guiterrez, Alma Orellana, Maria Guadalupe Rodriguez, Haydee Puertas and Jennifer Lane.
IMPACT Silver Spring honored top community leaders as well as the graduates of its leadership programs on Thursday during its second annual Spirit of Silver Spring awards night.

The awards are designed to honor area residents who have made a difference in the Silver Spring community. About 400 county and community leaders attended the event in the auditorium of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Silver Spring. Guests included members of the Montgomery County Council and the Maryland General Assembly.

The event also serves to raise the profile of the organization, which has been around since 1999. ‘‘That’s one of the big reasons we started doing it,” said Maria Markham, director of resource development and communications. ‘‘A lot of people don’t know the breadth of the work we do, particularly with rentals, our housing program.”

IMPACT Silver Spring was founded in 1999 to foster community involvement, especially among ethnic groups that have been underrepresented in the past on civic matters.

IMPACT awarded several individuals and groups. This year’s honorees included:

*Hawa Toure, a youth activist and member of the Gandhi Brigade, a group that uses video and other media to look at local and regional issues, was awarded the Pioneer Award, given to an emerging grassroots leader. The Gandhi Brigade was active in working toward keeping a space for youth in downtown Silver Spring.

*Erwin Mack, executive director of the Takoma⁄Langley Crossroads Development Authority, earned the Explorer Award for his efforts in keeping the area safe for pedestrians. The Explorer award is for established community leaders.

*The Builders Award was presented to the Padres Latinos en Accion, a parent group, and the Family Involvement Committee, a group from county schools, for their efforts to get Latino parents more involved at Rolling Terrace Elementary School. The Builders Award is given to a partnership between emerging and established leaders.

In addition, several graduates of IMPACT’s leadership development programs were honored: the Parent Leadership Team, where residents take on school-related issues, and Neighborhood IMPACT, which takes on problems where residents live. Participants learn leadership skills and then apply them to their areas of interest.

In Neighborhood IMPACT, residents, mostly renters in the Silver Spring area, participate in a two-phase, nine-month program, said Winta Teferi, the director of Neighborhood IMPACT. In the foundation phase, participants talk about leadership concepts and learn ‘‘active listening and other communication, public speaking skills and focus on building relationships,” Teferi said.

In the action phase, each participant selects a project to take on in his or her immediate rental community. ‘‘The focus is on small, achievable projects they can do,” Teferi said. For example, three residents at the Avery Park apartments are working on several initiatives, including forming a neighborhood watch, working on street safety and finding solutions for trash management.

Teferi said that it was gratifying to see how much change can be accomplished. ‘‘It’s really amazing when taking the initiative and drawing others into the process ... you get two or three people together, make something happen and make something tangible.”

For more information on IMPACT Silver Spring, call 301-495-3336 or

IMPACT winners

Hawa Toure, youth activist, member of Gandhi Brigade

Erwin Mack, executive director of the Takoma⁄Langley Crossroads Development Authority

Padres Latinos en Accion and the Family Involvement Committee

IMPACT graduate winners

Neighborhood IMPACT: Bill Dawes, Bruce Thomas Dutch, Clemonce DuVall, Martha Grageda, Luther Hinsley, Praj Kasbekar, Serena Locust, John Mataya, Henry Odeniran, Margaret Palmer, Diane L. Robinson, Portia Scott, Suzanne Washington, Emma Williams.

Parent Leadership Team: Berhanu Bedane, Eddy Carranza, Fini Konoleh, Akibou Obaurnin, Sara Mussie, Sherron Allen.