LEAP recently awarded some of its strongest community supporters in a small ceremony at the Roslyn Milstein Meyer LEAP
The annual ceremony "is a chance for LEAP to thank those community members who give the most support to the mission of LEAP," the agency said in a statement.
This year’s LEAPers of Distinction recipients were Louise Endel, Gordan & Shelley Geballe, and Che Dawson, shown in photo, the statement said.
Rita Berkson, chairwoman of LEAP’s Board of Directors, began the evening welcoming those in attendance, which included the award recipients, their friends and family, and LEAP staff members, the statement said. Erik Clemons, executive director, then introduced the individuals who presented awards to the recipients, the statement said.
In photo, l to r, Gordon and Shelley Geballe, Louise Endel, Che Dawson, Executive Director Erik Clemons, and Rita Berkson, chairowman of the Board of Directors.
Ann Baker Pepe, LEAP Board member, presented the first award to Louise Endel, and talked about Endel’s "unique ability to be the glue of the community, pulling people together to make a difference in the community," the statement said.
She also talked about Endel’s ability to “understand what a person can contribute well before that individual understands his or her own potential contribution.”
Endel has served for a number of years with Baker Pepe as co-chairwomen of LEAP’s most significant yearly fundraising event, LEAP Year Event. Her contributions to the event have made the event a huge success, last year raising over $100,000 for LEAP’s programs, the statement said.
Endel "is the kind of community member that makes connections that keep the community moving forward and LEAP is grateful for the contribution she makes to the organization," the statement said.
Roslyn Milstein Meyer, LEAP co-founder, presented the award to Gordon and Shelley Geballe. The Geballe’s "have been strong advocates and supporters of LEAP since its founding," and Meyer discussed the importance of their friendship to LEAP, the statement said.
Meyer recognized them for their contributions to support LEAP’s growth, the statement said. Shelley Geballe, co-founded Connecticut Voices for Children in 1995, and through this organization, has passed many laws that benefit LEAP’s children and families, the statement said.
Gordon Geballe "has also contributed to the civic landscape in Connecticut, advocating for sustainability and conservation of the environment, education, arts and ideas, civil rights, volunteerism, and a free and fair press," the statement said.
The couple's sons, Ben and Dan, served as LEAP counselors while students at Yale. Seeing the positive effect LEAP had not only on the children but also the young adults involved in LEAP, the Geballes became strong advocates for the program, the statement said. In her acceptance remarks, Shelley Geballe pointed out her belief that LEAP is not “state-spending, it is an investment” that must continue to receive support from the state, the statement said.
She called for all event attendees to be advocates of the worth of the program and the difference it makes in the lives of children.
Tai Richardson, former LEAP employee, presented the last award to Che Dawson, past executive director and current LEAP advocate. Richardson "discussed the true mentoring relationship he received from Mr. Dawson," the statement said.
Richardson discussed how Dawson pushed him to success and prepared him professionally to take on the world, the statement said. He said he felt that Dawson provided the kind of relationship that a big brother or father provides, and acknowledged that many other young men in the city of New Haven who worked with Dawson also benefited from his guidance and leadership, the statement said.
"Dawson graciously and humbly accepted the award, saying that he felt the award should have been reversed. He discussed how grateful he is for the experience and professional tools that LEAP gave him," the statement said. He expressed his hope that LEAP would continue to inspire young people to reach their potential, as LEAP helped him to do.
The evening also featured dancers form LEAP’s Community Center jazz class, who danced to R. Kelly’s “The World’s Greatest.” The evening was catered by Culinary Concerts. Past recipients of the LEAPers of Distinction award include: Anne Tyler Calabresi, Honorable William R. Dyson, Henry J. Fernandez III, Jean Handley, Matt Klein, Jerome Harris Meyer, Roslyn Milstein Meyer, and Julia Rusenik. Award recipients are featured on a plaque in the Roslyn Milstein Meyer LEAP Community Center on 31 Jefferson St, New Haven, the statement said.
LEAP is an academic and social enrichment program for children and youth, ages 5 to 23. Our mission is to develop the strengths and talents of young leaders who create and implement year-round, community-based programs designed to achieve positive academic and social outcomes for children living in high poverty urban neighborhoods. LEAP is an AmeriCorps Program. LEAP operates community-based programming in the Church Street South and Farnum Courts neighborhoods, school based programming at Wexler Grant School, and runs community classes at its Roslyn Milstein Meyer LEAP Community Center at 31 Jefferson St.
Editor's note: The information in this post was provided wholly by LEAP