First State celebrates 50 years empowering people, changing lives

DOVER – First State Community Action Agency, a statewide non-profit helping low-income Delawareans become self-sufficient, held their 50th anniversary celebration with a dinner and recognition ceremony Monday, Nov. 16 at Dover Downs Conference Center.

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Nakeisha Holliman-Redmond (with plaque) was honored as the 2015 Personal Achievement Award recipient at First State Community Action Agency’s 50th anniversary celebration. Ms. Hollman-Redmond is pictured with, from left, First State Executive Director Bernice Edwards, FSCAA Board Chair Peggy Strine and FSCAA Vice Chair Dr. Anne Farley. (Special to the Sussex County Post/Tim Rounds).

Close to 400 guests, including appointed and elected officials, business and community leaders attended the affair sponsored by Discover Bank.

The celebration attracted prominent leaders, including nationally acclaimed civil rights attorney and human rights activist Bryan Stevenson as the keynote speaker.

Mr. Stevenson, a Delaware native and graduate of Cape Henlopen High School, is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and the author of New York Times bestseller, “Just Mercy.”

Mr. Stevenson spoke on justice, poverty and making progress in the 21st Century.

“In order to create a better and more just Delaware, we must become proximate to the issues affecting marginalized people, change the narrative of our conversations, do what’s uncomfortable, and protect our hope,” Mr. Stevenson said.

First State presented special honor sto outstanding individuals, leaders and community partners who have demonstrated extraordinary service, dedication, and achievement towards self-sufficiency.

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Keynote speaker Bryan Stevenson gives a moving message about justice, poverty, and change. (Special to the Sussex County Post/Tim Rounds).

Brother Ronald Giannone, Executive Director of the Ministry of Caring, received the agency’s prestigious Stanford L. Bratton award for leadership and service.

Bro Ronald was commended for his extensive work and service to impoverished communities, families, and homeless populations within inner city Wilmington.  Giannone is highly regarded and well known for his mantra “the poor should never be treated poorly”

Discover Bank received the 2015 Community Partner award for their generous support of First State and the communities served.

First State Executive Director Bernice Edwards stated, through the partnership with Discover Bank, First State has been able to provide a variety of innovative programs and services to address the needs of those living in despair.

‘First State Pioneers’ William “Bill” Schab, Harold Truxon, Joe Conaway, and William “Bill” Moore were honored for their work and support in rural impoverished communities during the agency’s conception years.

Kaneisha Trott, Communications & Public Relations Specialist was recognized as the Employee of Year for outstanding commitment to the agency and community; and Nakeisha Holliman-Redmond, a former participant of First State’s Case Management at Brightway Commons as well as the Welfare to Work program, was commended with the Personal Achievement Award for her success in coming out of poverty and her commitment to self-improvement and positive change.

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Brother Ronald Giannone, Executive Director of the Ministry of Caring, receives First State Community Action Agency’s prestigious Stanford L. Bratton award for leadership and service. First State Executive Director Bernice Edwards presents the award.

Tributes, greetings, and letters of congratulations were provided by Vice President Joe Biden, Delaware Congressional members, the Delaware General Assembly, and other state and local elected officials in support of the agency.

HISTORY

First State’s roots extend as far back to 1964 when federal legislation – namely the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 -birthed a network of community action agencies (private non-profits and public organizations) to fight America’s Way on Poverty declared by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1965, a group of concerned citizens in the Georgetown area formed the Sussex County Community Action Agency thus becoming Delaware’s first community action agency.  In August of 1993, the agency expanded into Kent and New Castle Counties and changed its name to First State Community Action Agency (First State).   The agency serves more than 10,000 individuals impacted by poverty annually and has become one of the state’s leading anti-poverty human service organizations.  First State provides a menu of programs and services, ranging from housing counseling, employment and training, community development and afterschool programs, senior companions, emergency services, case management, reentry, and home energy conservation programs to help Delaware’s poor and vulnerable populations.  Its mission, “to work towards the elimination of poverty and lessen the effects of poverty on people of low-income” is what Executive Director Edwards says the agency has worked tirelessly to fulfill.

“Fifty years is a great milestone for us. First State and our partners have worked very hard to lift people out of poverty and help them become self-sufficient.  For years, we’ve been the boots on the ground, going out into those low-income communities, trying to help people help themselves to a better life,” said Ms. Edwards. “We work to provide hope and relief to those devastated by unemployment, homelessness, poverty, and hunger.  While there is more work to be done, I can proudly say we’ve made a difference, our work speaks for us and there are many stories of our success!  First State will continue to be here to provide a hand up, not a hand-out, in the years to come.”

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Kaneisha Trott from Georgetown, Communications & Public Relations Specialist at First State Community Action Agency, was recognized as the Employee of Year for her outstanding commitment to the agency and the community. From left, First State Executive Director Bernice Edwards, Board Chair Peggy Strine, Ms. Trott and Vice Chair Dr. Anne Farley. (Special to the Sussex County Post/Tim Rounds).

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Holding awards, First State Pioneers Bill Schab, Harold Truxon, Joe Conaway and Bill Moore were honored for their support and work in rural impoverished communities during the agency’s conception years. At left, First State Executive Director Bernice Edwards and First State Board Chair Peggy Strine.

The Sussex County Post delivers news from Georgetown and southern Delaware. Follow @SussexPost on Twitter.

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