City celebrates Tallahassee Awards

Mayor John Dailey and the Tallahassee Awards recipients. Photo courtesy: Shaanacee Wilson

Tallahassee community members on Tuesday celebrated the hard work of local leaders dedicated to making a difference in the capital city.

The Tallahassee Awards honored five individuals from more than 150 nominations that exemplified a commitment to service.

The recipients of the Tallahassee Awards 2021 are:

 Talethia Edwards

President of Greater Bond Neighborhood Association,

Monique Van Pelt

CEO of Second Harvest of the Big Bend,

Aurora Torres Hansen

Education and outreach program director of Asian Coalition of Tallahassee,

Royle King

Founder and Tallahassee program director of Omega Lamplighters,

Chris Petley

President and Founder of Tallahassee Soccer Club

Edwards, an alumnus of Florida A&M University, has been a leader in the Tallahassee community since moving to the city 20 years ago. She has advocated for her community in every capacity and established the Greater Bond Neighborhood Association to lead her community to a better future.

“I advocated for investing $6.4 million into my community, the Greater Bond Neighborhood, for infrastructural projects,” Edwards said. “It is the largest investment made by the city of Tallahassee in a Black area. We set the precedent for what can be done in communities like ours, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far. We’re in year three, so we’ve had the residential facade grant that has helped build the housing stock; we’ve set money aside for economic development and art infrastructure projects.”

Van Pelt, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of the Big Bend, and previous staff member at the Kearney Center, a local homeless shelter, is committed to fighting hunger in the Big Bend. Second Harvest hosts weekly events with community centers and schools to provide food for families, specifically with the backpack program, where 4,400 children receive a bag of food that will last an entire weekend.

The recognition of her efforts and the work of the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Big Ben depicts the importance of leadership.

“Winning the Tallahassee Awards is a reminder that community lead and community-focused work is valuable here in Tallahassee,” Pelt said. “Leadership is important when there is a clear vision and an invitation for people in a specific environment to rally behind a common goal and someone who can create a vision for that action.”

Chris Petley, president and founder of the Tallahassee Soccer Club, a minor league non-profit soccer team, created an organization that has become an integral part of the community. From May through July, community members join to bond from the efforts of Petley to bring joy to neighbors and friends.

“We are providing an outlet,” Petley said. “One of the best memories is our first game in May, in the middle of a pandemic, but it gave the community an outlet. We had 1,100 people show up to our game, and folks weren’t necessarily watching the game. They were commiserating with their neighbors and friends and happy to be out.  That’s what it’s all about. It has always been about the community, not necessarily the sport. The sport is great, but it’s about the bonds.”

King, the founder and Tallahassee program director of Omega Lamplighters, is known in the Big Bend for his dedication to mentorship. For over 10 years, King has played a significant role in improving the lives of over 600 young men who participated in the program.

King shares the importance of young men knowing they have a voice.

“Through the program, we try to groom young men to be leaders and have a voice,” King said. “One of the things I advocated for is that they have a voice and need to use it. Last summer, when we saw the six-minute 49-second video of George Floyd, they all had an emotional reaction where they weren’t looking at themselves as valuable.  I asked them whether they were going to cry about it or do something. So, they started a campaign where they utilized stepping to show they have a voice. We also showed them they don’t have a voice on just issues related to violence against black men; they have a voice with everything they want to have one in, and we have a platform to advocate as the Omega Lamplighters.”

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey ended the ceremony by honoring Tom and Barbara Rollins with a key to the city. The Rollins family has been in the area for nearly 200 years and have served as inspiration by advocating for issues facing their community.