COMMUNITY • BY LINDSAY ST. CLAIR SIMPSON, PHOTOS BY JAY KELLER
Takoma Park residents faced off in a benevolent game of Tug-of-Peace during last month’s Celebrate Takoma Festival. However, the most notable awards given at the festival were not to the winners of the Tug-of-Peace competition, but to the fourteen Takoma Park’s residents who were recognized with an Azalea Award for their outstanding service to the Takoma Park community.
The 9th Annual Azalea Awards were presented on Sunday, May 19, 2013 in front of a crowd of nearly 1,000 people during the first Celebrate Takoma Festival, a day long celebration of the cultural diversity of Takoma Park, said Howard Kohn, who has served on the board of the Takoma Park Foundation for the past 10 years.
The Azalea Awards are presented to members of the Takoma Park community who go the extra mile for the community, Kohn said.
The Takoma Park Foundation sends out a call for nominees each year. Once all of the nominations have been received, a ballot is available online and paper ballots are distributed around the area for the community to place their votes.
The Azalea Awards committee, who make the final decisions on each winner, then tallies the online and paper ballots.
This year there were 14 winners across 10 categories, as some categories recognized two recipients.
Each winner received a custom designed tile by local tile maker, John Hume, owner of Sligo Creek Tile Company.
Celebrate Takoma – a first
This year was special for the Azalea Awards as they were presented during the first Celebrate Takoma festival. The Takoma Park Foundation decided to host this celebration for the first time this year to recognize the culture and diversity found within Takoma Park.
In a celebration as eclectic as the community itself, Takoma Park residents enjoyed their community’s rich cultural diversity and strong societal consciousness. Some of the features of the festival included live music, food booths, dance performances and story telling. And, of course, Tug-of-Peace.
“It is a very local festival,” said Kohn, “just for people who live in Takoma Park or very close to it, to celebrate and honor the international melting pot (of Takoma Park).”
The Takoma Park Foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises money to contribute to the culture and enrichment of the Takoma Park community.
The 2013 Azalea Awards winners (by category):
Daniel Hutton. A consummate educator (with an early Azalea in that category to his name), Dan teaches his first graders at Takoma Park Elementary environmental stewardship along with their ABCs.
Emily Rawson. Emily puts her love for swimming and kids to good use at Daleview Pool, where she coaches the division champion swim team, and at Piney Branch Elementary, where she teaches swimming in addition to fourth grade and was instrumental in getting the pool reopened.
Bob Antonisse. A longtime Takoma Soccer coach, Bob oversees the high-school division and for the last 14 years has organized the popular Memorial Day 4×4 tournament.
Bryan Goehring. Science team leader and teacher extraordinaire at Takoma Park Middle School, Bryan also serves as advisor for the Difference Makers and Ski Club.
Brandon Johns. Brandon is the creator of M.A.N.U.P. (Making A New United People), a volunteer group that teaches financial literacy, social responsibility, and self-empowerment to Takoma Park teens.
Sandy Egan. For Takoma Park Elementary students who miss the bus or need a warm wrap for recess, or parents in search of a Scout troop, after-school scholarship, or holiday present for their children, Sandy is the go-to person.
Laura Barclay and Patty Baker. With innovations like Food Truck Fridays, festivals including the recent Earth Day, and new businesses galore, the co-executive directors of the Old Takoma Business Association keep Old Town vibrant.
El Rosal. The five women of El Rosal used their sewing skills to create a sewing cooperative, providing a livelihood for their families and inspiration for numerous other women.
Jill Feasley. Whether in her day job directing Meals on Wheels, or leading the effort to create a community commercial kitchen, or organizing the neighborhood entry in the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race, or simply making stop signs bloom, Jill embodies the spirit of Takoma.
Bomani Jones. A beloved member of the City’s garbage and recycling crew, Bo is on hugging terms with many of our youngest citizens, who eagerly await his weekly visits.
Sheri Verdonk. With innovations such as “Chat and Chews”, Blair’s PTSA president encourages parental involvement and bridges socioeconomic and cultural divides to help foster a sense of cohesion at this enormous and diverse high school.
Elissa McBride. Elissa’s group of 5- to 15-year-old activists performs service projects for Takoma Park’s neediest families.
Cherwanda Oliver. Play Days, Earth Day, work days at city gardens, MLK Day, Celebrate Takoma, Explore Takoma, Halloween, CHEER events, Takoma United events…you name it, Cherwanda’s there.
Sally Brucker. Sally’s work with the Listening Room–Refugee Art Project helps local refugees express themselves through art, poetry, and storytelling.