By Jennifer L. Warren
POUGHKEEPSIE – The two are men whose footprints have forever been emblazoned in the historical framework of this nation: Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
With February paying tribute to both President’s Day as well as Black History Month, both of these trailblazer icons- who fought to end slavery- stand as symbolic figures, representing the transforming results that passions for justice, equality and humanity can produce. For these reasons and many more, the Poughkeepsie Neighborhood Club, Inc., whose roots trace back to 1913, has been celebrating their legacies with The Lincoln-Douglass Luncheon for the past 103 years. With a laser-focus on uplifting their community through service, The Neighborhood Club’s Annual February cornerstone Luncheon serves multiple purposes: Honoring Black History Month, celebrating the contributions of distinguished citizens, as well as serving as a fundraiser for local scholarship monies.
And so, once again, after a Covid-induced hiatus, hundreds convened at The Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel to honor community citizens who have made a lasting difference in the lives of others. This year, that list included seven people who hail from a host of different backgrounds and fields; however, each shared an undeniable link of an intense desire-calling to serve his-her community-world, making it better, just as the Poughkeepsie Neighborhood continues to for over a century through its mantra: “Lifting as we climb” and Douglas and Lincoln had done around 150 years ago.
Among those being celebrated was Nathan G. Grant, a Poughkeepsie resident for the past almost 60 years, who is a proud veteran, serving in the United States Army for two years, including a one-year stint in Vietnam. For the past 10 years, as a Commander for the American Legion Lafayette Post 37, Grant devotes his time to selflessly helping other veterans as well as those in need.
“This honor really shows the appreciation the community has for what I do for veterans and others in the community, which means so much to me,” said Grant, whose altruistic gestures includes; cooking and feeding veterans as well as visiting ones who are sick and placing wreaths on others’ graves. “I want to thank the Poughkeepsie Neighborhood Club for recognizing me and allowing the young people to see how important it is to give back to one’s community.”
Another recipient who is paying it forward in her surrounding area is Lennice Johnson-Odums of Wappingers Falls and President of the non-profit organization, River Cities, Inc. Guided by the mission of “Leave no kid behind,” the organization empowers youth through the vehicle of track and field.
“The whole purpose is when you combine athletics with academics, you can really expand confines, as our team has traveled to places such as Maine, California, and North Carolina with the goal being to expose members to colleges in the process of competing,” explained ‘Coach Odums,’ as she is known to team members. “The idea is to stress the student part of athlete.”
Another honoree who is intent on broadening the youths’ spheres is Wappingers Falls resident, Zanette McClain, the Dean of Students at New Venture Academy in the Bronx. Possessing a lifelong passion for the youth as well as the undeserved, McClain is the CEO of the non-profit, Educators of Passports Inc., which allows underserved youth, ages 10-high school to travel the world at no cost. Spending school breaks and summer time at such destinations as; Dubai, Thailand and the Caribbean, participants are able to meet people from different cultures while having unforgettable first-hand experiences at places they never deemed possible.
“The ability to travel should not be limited by one’s zipcode,” reflected McClain, “Frederick Douglass is known for saying ‘Knowledge is power,’ so as an educator, this honor really means a great deal to me for all it stands for.”
Other recipients included: Stacey Nicole Bottoms (Deputy District Director to the 39th District State Senator Rob Rolison), Cheryl Lynette Bradshaw Haines (Elementary Teacher for the Poughkeepsie School District), Debra Long (Director of several youth and community programs throughout the Hudson Valley), and Carlos Wood (Entrepreneur who will soon open the doors to Poughkeepsie’s Geneva’s Blues House, featuring Southern BBQ and regularly holds cooking classes for children as well as donates time and services to his community.)
The Poughkeepsie Neighborhood Club, Inc., an umbrella organization of the revered National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, is located at 190 North Hamilton Street in Poughkeepsie and is intent on seeking out more members, particularly the young, to carry on their integral, community work.