Minutes into his speech, Joshua Brown, 16, broke down, tears of joy and gratitude spilling down his face as he accepted the third annual Light and Peace Award.
The Children’s Mission of St. Paul and St. James hosted the Light and Peace Awards Dinner and Reception Friday at the New Haven Lawn Club in recognition of individuals who have made significant contributions to the New Haven community. This year’s recipients were the Rev. Bonita Grubbs, executive director of Christian Community Action, and Brown, a volunteer with the Children’s Mission.
The Children’s Mission is a nonprofit social agency in New Haven, started by the Episcopal Church of St. Paul and St. James. The program assists children from disadvantaged backgrounds through several outreach programs, including the Light and Peace Summer Program, a three-week program for inner-city children that encourages study of the Scriptures.
“The annual dinner allows us to look at what Children’s Mission does. We like to acknowledge the efforts of people in the community who have helped children,” said Susan Amussen, a former member of the Children’s Mission Steering Committee.
The Light and Peace Awards Dinner also raises money for the Children’s Mission.
“In the past, we have raised around $4,000,” said Gretchen Pritchard, founder of the Children’s Mission. “This money goes towards paying our staff.”
This year’s award recipients were chosen by the Children’s Mission steering committee through an informal selection process.
Grubbs is the executive director of Christian Community Action, a nonprofit social service organization which provides emergency housing and support to economically disadvantaged New Haven citizens, encouraging them in their efforts to attain self-sufficiency. CCA sponsors a family shelter, a transitional housing program, and advocacy and education programs.
“Bonita’s life is the essence of the Christian gospel,” said the Rev. Harlon Dalton, a leading member of the parish, in his introduction. “She has been helping families in New Haven for 15 years. For every one of those years she has seen her call as someone to provide food and shelter to the needy.”
Pritchard echoed Dalton’s praises.
“Bonita is completely dedicated to what she does,” she said.
Grubbs has also received other major awards, including the Public Citizen Award, the Women Who Make a Difference Award, and the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund award.
Despite her accomplishments, however, Grubbs remains modest.
“I really don’t like awards,” Grubbs said in her acceptance speech. “I’m just trying to do the work because it needs to be done. CCA has continued to improve the New Haven community. But I don’t call that an accomplishment. I call that stewardship.”
Brown, a junior at The Sound School in New Haven, has volunteered extensively with the Children’s Mission, working in the soup kitchen and food pantry and serving as a trainee in the Children’s Mission summer program.
“We were very excited about Josh’s commitment and energy but we were especially impressed with how much he followed through,” said Faith Blasi, the Children’s Mission program coordinator. “We never had to ask where Joshua was. He was always there, ready to help with that wonderful smile of his.”
“I just love helping out people and giving as much as I can to others,” Brown said.
Previous recipients of the Light and Peace Award include Clarence Coleridge, a retired bishop, and Edward Zigler, founder of Head Start.