Twenty-three Western New Yorkers were honored Saturday night at the 41st annual Black Achievers Awards Banquet in the Adams Mark Hotel.
The event highlighted the contributions and achievements of African-Americans in the community.
Buffalo Urban League President and CEO Brenda W. McDuffie was presented with the Community Service Award for her lifetime of work strengthening families and the community through ensuring access to education and economic opportunities.
She is credited with turning the Urban League into one of the region’s premier human service and economic-empowerment organizations since taking the helm in 1998.
Steve Finch, plant manager of General Motors’ Tonawanda Engine Plant, received the Award of Excellence after 34 years with GM as everything from manager of engineering services to production superintendent to his current position, which he assumed in 2007.
He also is United Way of Buffalo & Erie County board chairman and a board member for both the Buffalo Urban League and AAA of Western and Central New York.
Black Achievers awards also were presented to:
• Dolly Michelle Randle, a senior administrative assistant for diversity and inclusion at LPCiminelli who used her more than 20 years of business administrative experience to launch Compliance & Administrative Services of New York in 2009. The company provides professional services that include compliance monitoring, MBE/WBE outreach and marketing support, and it has played an important role in the Joint Schools Construction Board project to renovate Buffalo Public Schools. It also provides a Business Survival Series that focuses on topics that assist business owners in staying viable and administers Construction Connection, a mentoring program for Buffalo high school students.
• Dwight D. Hicks, who in 1993 created the security company B.O.L.O. Protection Agency that provides event control and bodyguard services and that has worked with major celebrities. He retired earlier this year from his 18-year job as a parole agent with the state Division of Juvenile Justice and also has worked as a certified personal trainer, and mentors young entrepreneurs in the security field.
• George E. Stokes, an early volunteer with Buffalo’s BUILD organization after years of activism in Chicago. He was a machine operator, then worked in retail sales, insurance and club management after retiring from American Brass in 1999. He turned to public service, working in the Erie County Senior Transportation Department, as well as holding several key Democratic committee positions and supporting his wife, Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes. He is currently crime-prevention coordinator for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority and a member of the Buffalo Police Reserves and the Men in White choir.
• Harold S. Cardwell Jr., building superintendent for the state Office of General Services. The Buffalo native began his landscaping, snowplowing and home repair service nearly 37 years ago and takes pride in being known as one of the hardest workers in the community. He mentors young people and has served in a variety of capacities – from Sunday school superintendent and photographer to basketball and baseball coach – at St. John Baptist Church.
• James Jones Jr., who learned the value of hard work early as a part-time shoe salesman at age 16. He took that work ethic to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in 1977, where he has worked his way up from mechanic’s helper to being named vehicle maintenance supervisor at the Cold Spring Garage in 2006, where he turned around the struggling facility by more than tripling the average number of miles that vehicles achieved between stalls.
• Jorge Albarran, a native of Mexico, who moved here in 1980 to work at Trico Products while earning degrees from Erie Community College and the University at Buffalo’s Millard Fillmore College. A foreign language teacher for the city schools in 1996, he encountered Willie Hutch Jones, who happened to share the same views about children, sports, and social integration. Albarran join Jones’ youth-enrichment program to conduct a soccer camp for underprivileged children. Since then, the two have continued to provide additional opportunities for youth through the Willie Hutch Jones Sports Clinics & Educational Programs.
• Kaamalal Robinson, People Inc. case management coordinator, who connects seniors with services and assistance through Erie County Department of Senior Services. With a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Medaille College and extensive CPR and first-aid training, she has become a civic leader through volunteer work at agencies ranging from Habitat for Humanity and the Girl Scouts of Western New York to Schiller Park Community Services. She tries to exemplify one of her favorite quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, “My life is my message.”
• Keith M. Young, an HSBC Bank USA premier relationship officer, who also earned a New York State real estate license in 2013. He has been a driving force behind the HSBC African Heritage Employee Resource Group’s Career Self Empowerment Subcommittee and, with colleagues, organized a highly successful series of educational and career-development seminars, “Self-Empowerment Zones.” His achievements have contributed to a more diverse environment at HSBC. In 2011, he was recognized as an HSBC Ambassador for Diversity and Inclusion. In late 2012, he joined with the Junior Achievement Program to mentor a student at Riverside High School, volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House and has been working with HSBC to acquire donated books that will be distributed during the annual Juneteenth Festival.
• Kimberly L. Beaty, Northeast District chief and a 27-year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department. She is a former community police officer who helped neighborhoods address crime, and also was a gang-resistance and education instructor and D.A.R.E. officer in city schools. She is a facilitator for the Erie County Law Enforcement Training Academy and has worked with United Neighborhoods and UB on strategies to reduce racial profiling. Beaty is a certified domestic violence instructor, is the primary training facilitator in Erie County for law enforcement recruits, and has spoken at many conferences on law enforcement and diversity training issues, community policing and crime prevention. She has been widely recognized for her work, including with the Mayor’s Award of Merit.
• Kyle L. Mann, director of clinical research for the Cardiology Group of Western New York, a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and an elder at the Good Will Community Church of God in Christ. Always eager to help others, he began at age 18 working with adults and children with mental disabilities, has helped raise money for cancer research, and started clothing drives across the city to aid those in need.
• Larry Bonds, who pursued his dream and in 1976 started his own company, Larry Bonds Cleaning Service. He was initially the sole employee and worked day and night servicing residential and commercial clients, eventually enlarging the company and providing employment for others with the motto: “We clean it like we own it.” He is a co-founder of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Western New York, which promotes the empowerment of black-owned businesses through the use of cooperative economics, and is active at First Centennial Missionary Baptist Church.
• Leonard E. Lane, whose interest in helping the community led him to Buffalo Fire Department in 1987. While there, he joined M.O.C.H.A (Men of Color Helping Others) and was also instrumental in the “Safe Quest” fire safety and prevention program that would teach Buffalo school students fire safety. He also helped form the anti-violence community group F.A.T.H.E.R.S. (Fathers Helping to Educate Restore and Save), which has helped thousands of children and earned awards throughout Western New York.
• Leslie J. Allison, director of quality management at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, where she has worked for the last 28 years. She is responsible for the management of five departments, as well as for ensuring the facility complies with Joint Commission standards and national patient-safety goals. In her previous role as director of mental health programs and treatment services, she developed and implemented new training initiatives to enhance patients’ skills with the focused goal of community reintegration and twice was recognized with Best at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center awards.
• Lloyd J. Hargrave, a Buffalo Parks Department retiree who has been a longtime education advocate who has testified before Congress on Title I funding, co-founded the National Coalition of Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I Parents in 1974, and served on the Buffalo Public Schools teacher-selection committee, He has served as an educational consultant for school districts locally and across the nation since first becoming interested in education when his children reached school age. He has been a mentor to several parent groups in Buffalo, including the District Parent Coordinating Council.
• Mark A. Worthy, who had a promising future in sports and visual arts before his life took a wrong turn, turned things around and landed a job at the Adam’s Mark Hotel that eventually became his career. He recently received his stationary engineering license and is currently pursuing his HVAC license. He credits his lifestyle change and his employers at the Adam’s Mark with helping him turn his life around.
• Phillip Dabney Jr., sole practitioner in the law office that bears his name, handling criminal and civil litigation. A former felony prosecutor in Niagara County, he also served as administrative law judge for the State Liquor Authority. He was a part-time instructor of constitutional law at ECC. He has served on the boards of local charities such as the Eastern Niagara United Way and is a member of various legal groups.
• Saleem A. Shabazz, a banking officer and community lending specialist for M&T Bank who helps customers achieve homeownership by assisting with credit repair, monthly budgeting, debt management and homebuyer education. He has received the President’s Club Award four times in his current position and has helped more than 600 families acquire their homes. He also has worked with St. John Community Development Corp., Bethel Community Development Corp., Belmont Shelter Corp. and the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency in assisting their clients to become homeowners through programs at M&T.
• Shemika Charles, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, who as a child performed the limbo with her family’s Caribbean Extravaganza Steel Drum Band, including on national television in 2010 when she cleared a limbo bar at just 8½ inches above the floor and entered Guinness World Records. She continues to tour with the band, playing keyboard and singing and performing the limbo. Her career took off in 2009 when she was featured on WGRZ-TV on a “Your Side” report by Claudine Ewing, which led to performances on a variety of network TV shows.
• Tiffany C. Benning, upstate multicultural trade development manager for wine and liquor distributor Empire Merchants North, where she manages all African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and LGBT accounts and where she has more than doubled the size of the multicultural market and implemented new ties to community organizations. The Canisius College graduate began her career as a sales representative for WUFO-AM and also worked for Time Warner Cable, and is active at Upper Room Church of God in Christ, where her father is pastor.
• Vincent J. Grooms, a 10-year employee of KeyBank, where he works in the Contact Center in Key’s Virtual Distribution Channel. He has been an account specialist, team specialist, and team leader and has earned a variety of performance awards at the bank. He visit schools and youth programs in his spare time to help teach youngsters about financial responsibility. He also participates in community cleanup efforts sponsored by the United Way, the Salvation Army and KeyBank’s own Neighbors Make the Difference Day, and is a volunteer youth director at Antioch Holiness Church.
• Willie A. Price, a Buffalo-born real estate investor, author and entrepreneur, is president of Majadi Enterprises, Property Inspections and Management Training. A former federal housing inspector, he has authored property management and maintenance publications and presented at workshops. He also has authored four editions of “This Week in Black History” and created the “Shining Star Program” that provides motivational training for youth to help them recognize their potential and achieve their life goals.