Community members gathered in the Phelps Garden at Goddard Riverside Community Center on Monday to celebrate the annual “Good Neighbor Awards,” a Goddard Riverside tradition which first began in 2001. Among this year’s winners are a podcaster, a Community Board 7 member and a mother-daughter duo. Overall, eight individuals representing the Upper West Side, Harlem, East Harlem and Yorkville were honored for their extraordinary work as volunteers in helping to build a better community.
The event, which was last held in 2015 before resuming this year, is a great opportunity to celebrate neighbors helping neighbors, which is how the event got its name – the Neighbor to Neighbor Awards ceremony – said Executive Director of Goddard Riverside Rod Jones.
“It’s really a good opportunity for us to stop to remind people that community doesn’t happen because of government,” Jones said. “It happens because we care and because people are willing to make the time to build community.”
The 2022 selection committee, made up of all previous award winners, received around 25 nominations this year and narrowed the pool down to the eight individuals who dedicated years of service to the community through volunteer work.
“People are so creative in the ways they find to be stewards,” 2022 committee member Susane Lee said, whether it’s giving to the community through the arts, sports or seeking out ways to help the homeless and the elderly.
Creativity on Display
This year’s winners put that creativity on display, each with their own ideas about how to use their knowledge, resources and expertise to better their communities and to be “good neighbors.”
One winner, Alan Winson, was recognized for his podcast “Hunkered Down,” where he interviewed artists, actors and musicians who could no longer work during the pandemic and encouraged them to talk about their work.
“He seeks out all kinds of people from social workers to politicians to artists to writers and will have them tell their story ... they’re all so different and yet they are a part of this kind of tapestry,” Lee said.
Mark Diller, a member and former Chair of CB7 and Manhattan Representative on the NYC Civic Engagement Commission, was recognized for his longstanding service and community leadership. Diller has long advocated for more funding for public schools and has lead grant-writing efforts and fundraising events to support public schools.
“It’s very special,” Diller told the Spirit before accepting his award. “Both because it’s Goddard Riverside ... they’re the gold standard, not just on the West Side but really throughout the city, and because it’s all volunteer.”
A mother daughter team of LaDreamer Lark and six-year-old daughter Daisy were awarded the Good Neighbor award for their nonprofit organization that provided care packages during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and donated over 25,000 masks to individuals and local small businesses.
“My favorite part has been meeting new people and helping out the homeless,” said Daisy, who delivered the speech upon winning the award.
Caring for Seniors
Linda Carter Cooper, an Upper West Side resident for over 40 years, received the Good Neighbor award for helping her neighbors navigate housing issues and the public school system, caring for seniors in her neighborhood and advocating for rent stabilization.
Also receiving the Good Neighbor Award was LeVera Sutton, who was honored for her work supporting stronger rent and eviction protections, and for being a spokesperson on behalf of SRO tenants in Harlem.
The last recipients were Ann Cutbill Lenane and Jake Russell, whose organization “One Block” focuses on maintaining a cleaner Upper West Side by encouraging community members and volunteers to pick up trash in their neighborhoods.
During the pandemic, these neighbors, and many more, went out of their way to help each other, and community building efforts have only continued to grow since then, 2022 committee member and emcee John Del Vecchio said.
“I went and asked Alexa, from Amazon, what the meaning of community is ... and she told me it is a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, have a shared government and have some cultural and historical heritage,” Del Vecchio said. “I think Goddard and this event check all the boxes on that.”
“Goddard Riverside ... they’re the gold standard, not just on the West Side but really throughout the city, and because it’s all volunteer.” Good Neighbor award winner Mark Diller