The Peace and Justice Center established the Service for Peace Award in 1997. In 2004, it was renamed the David Frey Community Service for Peace Award in honor of David Frey, a tireless founding member of the center. The award honors an individual or group whose actions have contributed, either by direct support of the mission of the Peace and Justice Center or by making a contribution to the community, to the civic or corporate cause of peace and justice.
2023 Honorees: Bobby Hughes and Jessica Letteer
Robert “Bobby” Hughes, Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR)
As Executive Director of EPCAMR, the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, since its inception, Bobby Hughes has overseen decades of work to remediate the environmental harm of our region’s most historically significant industry, to convert those spaces into viable economic opportunities, and to educate younger generations about the importance of environmental protection.
Jessica Letteer, Wilkes-Barre Community Garden
Jessica Letteer started community gardening three years ago but has been growing things at home for much longer. She has a small hobby nursery business and dedicates many hours to the Wilkes Barre Community Garden project in order to ensure our children have equitable and healthy futures.
2022 Honoree: The Indian American Association of Northeast Pennsylvania
Established in the 1970s by a small group of Indian immigrants, the Indian American Association of Northeast Pennsylvania (IAANEPA) strives to maintain and celebrate valued aspects of Indian culture while living in an area where non-Indians are the majority. Rather than isolating themselves from their neighbors, IAANEPA members support a range of projects that enrich the lives of people throughout the region and engage them with Indian traditions and values. Recent community service projects that brought press attention to IAANEPA included donations to the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen and a special needs playground in Wilkes-Barre, as well as the collection of over 200 books for a Free Little Library in Nanticoke. With rising food insecurity in Northeast PA, the donation to the “soup kitchen” helped provide nutritious meals for hungry families. The same could be said for the Little Library project. Children from families that have fewer books in the home tend to be at a disadvantage when starting school. IAANEPA members also recognized they could help fill a gap for children with the special needs playground supportIAANEPA also enriches the region with cultural activities, from holiday celebrations, such as a Holi party, to traditional Indian dancing at the Wilkes-Barre Multicultural Festival. By creating these opportunities for interactions, IAANEPA contributes to breaking down barriers of ignorance and building up mutual respect and understanding.
2021 Honoree: WRKC’s Radio Home Visitor
Every morning since 1974, Radio Home Visitor has been a welcome guest in the homes of over 15,000 blind, visually impaired, elderly, and homebound listeners. Broadcasted by 88.5 WRKC, the King’s College radio station, volunteers read the daily Wyoming Valley newspapers including the news section, obituaries, advice columns, television schedule, and human-interest stories to people who can no longer easily read the newspaper themselves. It runs for an hour from 10 to 11 a.m., then is repeated till noon. Coming up on its 47th year on the airwaves, Radio Home Visitor is the longest-running radio reading program of its kind in the United States. It began as a class service project by then 33-year-old King’s College senior, Brother Tom Carten, who later became a priest and Campus Ministry educator at King’s. He saw the blind and homebound as a population that was underserved and often forgotten in society. While he did not even know whether the program would last a semester during its inception, the late Father Carten went on to serve as the committed radio host until his retirement in 2014. Today, Radio Home Visitor is cited as one of the most tuned-in news radio programs in the Wyoming Valley. It continues to make the homebound feel connected with their community as they are not left in the dark of the latest happenings.
2021 Honoree: Sara’s Table at Kraus-Chaiken Food Pantry
For over three decades, Sara’s Table at Kraus-Chaiken Food Pantry has provided a free friendly “shopping” experience for hungry families and individuals in need of food and proper nutrition. Located at the Friedman Jewish Community Center (JCC), the pantry is stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, canned goods, and other meal items. While it is open to everyone who is within the income guidelines, Sara’s Table is unique in that it makes sure to carry kosher foods for the Jewish poor, unemployed, and retired. Along with JCC staff, volunteers greet and register patrons and help them fill their bags with foods that meet their dietary needs. This service meets the mission of JCC as it aims to offer charitable, social, and educational programs that foster the well-being of the local community and Jews at home, in Israel, and around the world. The pantry is a community effort as it is supported in part by the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Northeast Pennsylvania Regional Food Bank, CEO Food Bank, and United Way. Likewise, Sara’s Table collaborates with other agencies when patrons express needs in addition to food, such as counseling. Guests also uplift one another as they often share their stories and exchange recipes with each other. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, patrons have had to stay in their cars and receive curbside service instead. Friday mornings when the pantry opens, guests are provided with roughly two weeks’ worth of food. With the increase in unemployment and reduction in food steps during the pandemic, Sara’s Table has welcomed many new faces and been able to be a light in their lives.
2020 Honoree: the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children (WWC) Program at Misericordia University
Established in 2000, the Ruth Matthews Bourger Women with Children (WWC) Program at Misericordia University is the only university-based program of its kind in Pennsylvania that has created a path out of poverty for single mothers through a college degree. Having recently expanded with a fourth community home, the program now provides housing and amenities for 20 student single mothers with up to 3 children each. Its mission is to use a two-generational holistic approach that allows both mother and child to academically, emotionally, and physically thrive without facing food insecurity, crushing debt, violence, or homelessness. Through the program and multidisciplinary collaborations with other departments and local organizations, families are supported with case management aid and family enrichment services. For instance, each home has an in-house food pantry stocked with nutritious goods from CEO Food Bank. Students are also given federal work-study priority placement to meet the requirement to secure county assistance for child-care subsidies and food stamps. On the academic front, mothers receive comprehensive financial aid with books covered annually and have access to on-campus tutoring and counseling services. The women likewise give back with 10 hours of community service every academic year. To make sure the children thrive as well, all attend either an accredited daycare or the Dallas Area School District. On top of receiving many of the same services as their mothers, new programming initiatives have been implemented including a dedicated children’s garden and literacy-shared reading program that incorporates Misericordia’s Speech-Language Pathology Program. Recreation-wise, swimming lessons are offered through the university’s swim academy along with summer camp scholarships. During their senior year, each WWC student obtains post-graduation aid comprising mentoring, graduate school planning, housing transition plans, household supplies including furniture, and basic financial literacy. As of the spring of 2021, 36 mothers have graduated from the program. They have gone on to become leaders in their communities, advocates for women, and even WWC Advisory Board members.
2019 Honoree: The League of Women Voters Wilkes-Barre
As we approach the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which finally gave American women the right to vote, the Peace and Justice Center honors the women and men of our local League of Women Voters for carrying on the tradition of protecting this fundamental pillar of democracy. The League of Women Voters does not oppose, support, or otherwise endorse any political party or candidate. Rather, it focuses on educating voters about issues and the voting process. Moreover, the League advocates for the expansion of opportunities to vote, and challenges changes in legislation that would create obstacles for citizens to vote. Annually, the League of Women Voters of the Wilkes-Barre Area sponsors a Legislative Breakfast as well as candidate forums/debates prior to the general election. In addition, the League annually publishes an updated Government Directory, and the Voters’ Guide, which appears in The Citizens’ Voice newspaper prior to each election. Lastly, the League gladly assists organizations and colleges with their voter registration drives. These activities are invaluable to our community. Recognizing that the League shares many of the same values as the Peace & Justice Center, and appreciative of the consistent and dedicated effort members of our local League have made towards education, dialogue, and partnership, it is our privilege to honor the League of Women Voters of the Wilkes-Barre area with this award, which bears the name of a kindred spirit.
2019 Honoree: Camp Orchard Hill
Camp Orchard Hill has provided fun, exciting, and life-changing experiences for children, youth, and their families since 1972. Its mission is to meet the physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs of campers, families, and the community through the love of Jesus Christ. Camp Orchard Hill provides a safe place that offers a hands-on learning experience while having fun. Programs throughout the year include summer day and overnight camps, family events, retreats, school field trips, birthday parties, recreational leagues, and banquets. Since 2011 Camp Orchard Hill has provided a fully inclusive Day Camp program that serves over 2000 campers each summer from the local community and benefits both special needs and typically developing children. The program focuses on building skills and gaining confidence as part of the outdoor experience offering special needs campers the opportunity to participate in all activities to the best of their ability alongside their typically developing peers. One of the core values of Camp Orchard Hill is to serve those in need and to partner with others in service. For example, the Camp opens its doors for two weeks every Christmas to area men experiencing homelessness, and partners with Mother Teresa’s Haven, area churches, families, and civic groups to provide meals, clothing, identification, and more. They desire to show these men that they matter, that they are valued, and that they are loved. Camp Orchard Hill has also partnered with Misericordia University to host A Taste of Syria – a community benefit dinner for local Syrian refugee families. And, they work with the Keystone Mission and Crosswalk to provide after-school programs to the children and youth in area low-income housing developments.
2018 Honoree: Verve Vertu
Verve Vertu is a community-based art studio that taps into creative energy. Directed by Gwen Harleman, the studio works with the whole community, building and forging relationships through the arts. The core group of artists who work in the studio have special needs, and their immense talents are diverse and in demand. Their work has found homes all over the world and can be seen in the most interesting and diverse places. The studio has a boutique studio and gallery at 24 Main Street, in Dallas, Pennsylvania, where the artists’ work is created, displayed, and sold. Verve Vertu collaborates with organizations, universities, and businesses to enrich and beautify the community one brush stroke at a time. Just ask and they will be happy to share a story or two.
2018 Honoree: The Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm
The Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm was founded as an organic farm to provide produce for those in need and act as a place of hospitality. Its founders, Larry, and Carmina Chapp, are both Catholic theologians. The Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm strives to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ through simplicity of life and the performance of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Raising a variety of crops and a small herd of sheep, the farm provides organic produce and hand-made wool products to people of limited means. Following a Benedictine spirituality, daily life on the farm is a rhythm of prayer and work that respects the dignity of the human person and God’s creation. The farm’s founders view giving the poor access to healthy food as the primary peace and justice issue in the world today. They also use their farm to teach and empower people to be self-sustaining in the local area. Additionally, they view the plight of refugees as a critical issue. In 2015, they hosted a refugee family from Eritrea and became very close.
2017 Honoree: Hazleton Integration Project
The Hazleton Integration Project’s mission is to provide educational, cultural, and athletic opportunities for economically disadvantaged children. Under the guidance of Chicago Cubs Manager and Hazleton native Joe Maddon, HIP operates the Hazleton One Community Center with programming designed to engage children in wholesome activities while fostering trust and respect among all of our region’s ethnic cultures. One such project HIP hosted was the Luzerne County Disproportionate Minority Contact Youth and Law Enforcement Forum which brings together youth and law enforcement officers to foster communication, understanding, and trust in the community. HIP offers classes in Spanish, computers, ESL, GED, citizenship, ballet, and jazz, etc. HIP leaders believe that diversity can be a city’s greatest strength and through interacting with different cultural groups they develop a greater understanding of common humanity while learning to appreciate our cultural similarities and differences. For their efforts, the Hazleton Integration Project was awarded the 2014 Human & Civil Rights Award from the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
2016: Interfaith Council of Wyoming Valley
2015: Peace Community of LEPOCOervices
2014: St. Therese’s Social Justice Committee and Bette Saxton, Maternal & Family Health Services
2013: Nancy Frey, Commission on Economic Opportunity
2012: WFTE-FM Community Radio Collective, Inc.
2011: Susan & Judd Shoval
2010: Juvenile Law Center, Frank Sindaco, NEPA Organizing Center
2009: Jim Davis
2008: Cds creative, inc., 24-hour Create a Thon for nonprofit agencies.
2007: The Rev. Keith & Julie Benjamin, founders of Ruth’s Place Shelter for Homeless Women, & the Book Concern, giving employment to people who encounter employment difficulties.
2006: Back Mountain Free Medical and Legal Clinic, and Jewish Family Service Kids Care Club, and Dawn Morton, Director Volunteer Services, King’s College
2005: Stefanie Wolonik, REACH, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
2004: Donna Wench Peace Camp, and Miles of Mules
2003: Firwood United Methodist Church, Wilkes-Barre, host for Peace Camp
2002: Journey’s End, Kristin and Carl Curtis
2001: Girl Scouts, for PEACE patch
2000: First Presbyterian Church of Wilkes-Barre
1999: St. Jude’s Church, Social Action Committee
1998: Dr. Linda Trompetter, founding director, Diversity Institute at College Misericordia
1997: Scranton Chapter of the F.O.R.