Back in 2009, I remember sitting at a local diner with my fellow staffers brainstorming about recognizing local residents and workers who are making a difference in South Philadelphia. More than three years later, Monday night to be exact, 17 of this year’s Difference Makers were honored while some of the winners from the previous two years joined in the celebration.
The best part about the annual fall gathering, which took place at Chickie’s and Pete’s Play2, 1526 Packer Ave., is how all of these unique, non-attention-seeking individuals interacted with one another and shared their stories. They are putting others, whether it be students, four-legged friends or their community in general, before themselves.
Too much time these days is spent talking about dire and depressing subjects like violence, the economy and Hurricane Sandy recovery. Yes, these are all extremely important topics that must be addressed, but for a brief, two-plus-hour period, the attention shifted to the good instead of the bad.
The honorees were busy snapping photos of one another as a memento of this special night. The positive energy of one, Charles “Chahlie” Stecker, who founded the International Child Abuse Prevention Task Force, really caught my attention as he used his iPad to capture images of his fellow Difference Makers. He is a man who uses the devastating childhood image of witnessing, at the age of 4, his foster mother kill his 2-year-old brother to fuel the inspirational talks that he delivers around the world.
Others like Ella Best, president of Grays Ferry’s Don’t Shoot...I Want a Future, and Megan West, who founded Whitman’s Save the Mums & Mutts, were discussing helping each other out with their respective causes. The fact they reside in opposite ends of South Philadelphia didn’t seem to be a factor.
Then there was Queen Village resident Kathy Rush, who attended the ceremony on behalf of her late husband and this year’s Honorary Difference Maker Jeffrey Rush, the former two-time president of the Queen Village Neighbors Association. She mentioned how she will be displaying his award in the living room and how much he would have appreciated the recognition.
This is just a small sampling of the great stories that were shared. We’re starting the process all over again for the ’13 Difference Makers issue. Nominations are being accepted year-round, so please drop us a word about any worthy candidates going above the call of duty in your neighborhood. E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax them to 215-336-1112.
In the meantime, here are a couple photos from this year’s event. To view a photo gallery, visit southphillyreview.com/multimedia.
Contact Editor Bill Gelman at email@example.com or ext. 121.