The 10th year anniversary of the Pennsylvania branch of Peace Islands Institute’s Annual Friendship Dinner and Award Ceremony was held on December 18, 2014 at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel. The theme of this anniversary event was “Preventing Violence through Education.” The Master of Ceremonies was Ms. Carolyn Nichols, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas.

The event’s keynote speaker was the Honorable Michael A. Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia. However, he was unable to attend due to a last minute scheduling conflict. In his place, the keynote was given by Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor of Public Safety, Mr. Everett A. Gillison.

The event started with opening remarks by Judge Nichols and welcome remarks by Dr. Vincent McCarthy, Professor at St. Joseph’s University and PII Advisory Board Member. The participants then viewed a short video on Peace Islands Institute and its activities.

Following dinner and live classical music, the MC introduced Mr. Everett Gillison to deliver the keynote speech. Mr. Gillison recognized the participants at the dinner as an important example of unity and collaboration, and stated that “the Mayor, if he were here, would say” that the credit for the efforts put forth in serving the city of Philadelphia goes out to the staff in his office and all of the city employees. Mr. Gillison gave an inspiring speech on how much was accomplished but how much more needs to be done, in the name of peace. He attributed the good work to the many that were in attendance who represent the many areas such as law enforcement, the Justice Department, City Council, and civil society organizations, all working toward the same goal of a safer Philadelphia for its citizens. He concluded his speech by challenging all to continue the work and how the outcome “is in your hands.”

In the Awards Presentation portion of the event, four PII awards were presented. Ms. Janelle Miller, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, presented the Innovation in Community Service Award to the Fellows of the Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Accepting the award on behalf of the VPI program was Mr. Peter Grollman, VP, Office of Govt. Relations & Advocacy and Executive Sponsor of CHOP’s Violence Prevention Initiative. Mr. Grollman showed his gratitude for VPI to be selected among the awardees and thanked PII to receive this important award on behalf of VPI. Ms. Jennifer Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs, presented the Community Service Award to Mrs. Dorothy Johnson-Speight, Founder and Executive Director of Mothers in Charge. Mrs. Johnson-Speight said the unfortunate tragedy of the murder of her son led her to establish Mothers in Charge. She also recognized and introduced other MIC Board Members present at the dinner, and said that together they vow to continue to work toward non-violence and achieving peace. Mr. Robert Reed, Executive Assistant of the US Attorney for the Eastern District of PA, presented the Special Appreciation Award to Mr. Knight Sor, Conciliation Specialist of the Mid-Atlantic Region, from the Dept. of Justice, Community Relations Service. Mr. Sor praised the good work of PII and was glad to support the tolerance and understanding that PII stands for. The audience learned that Mr. Sor is transferring to the Seattle, WA area to continue his work in the Pacific region.

And finally, Judge Carolyn Nichols presented PII’s Legacy Award to Mayor Michael Nutter, accepted by Mr. Everett Gillison. Mr. Gillison in his acceptance speech was appreciative on behalf of Mayor Nutter, but reminded everyone that there is still much work to be done. Additionally, Judge Nichols called to the stage Mr. Juvencio Gonzalez, Legislative Assistant and Outreach Coordinator to Lt. Gov.-Elect Michael Stack, who delivered a Proclamation on behalf of Michael Stack to Mayor Nutter. Mr. Gonzalez, in his introduction, expressed how honored he was to be serving in his current role, and told the audience that Senator Stack gave him one of the first orders of business which was to get to know the folks at Peace Islands Institute. He thanked PII for holding this event as he was very pleased to meet and network with participants from all walks of life. Mr. Gonzalez then read the Proclamation out loud before presenting it to Mr. Gillison, who accepted it on the Mayor’s behalf.

The MC thanked everyone for attending and the evening adjourned with a group photo with all award recipients, their guests, and PII Advisory Board members.

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