Continuing an annual tradition, the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice and Ecumenical Campus Ministries on Tuesday awarded local leaders the Tom and Anne Moore Peace and Justice Awards.
Meg Heriford, owner of Ladybird Diner, and Dana Ortiz as a representative of Family Promise of Lawrence, were in attendance to accept their awards. The third nominee, Graham Kreicker, was not in attendance, but his nomination was read aloud.
Heriford drew national attention to Lawrence last year through her efforts to provide free lunches to anyone who needed to eat. The initiative was largely propelled by sales of “Ladybird, Collected,” a book of essays that she published last fall.
She was nominated by Will Averill, who wrote that she is an outspoken advocate “for those who need it most in our community.”
“Her writing has been a source of inspiration for many who share her viewpoint that the most robust communities are strong because they look out for their most vulnerable members,” Averill wrote. “… Ladybird lunches nourish not only the body but the individual, knowing that someone cares enough to put themselves and their livelihood on the line for the sake of taking care of people who need it.”
Heriford, accepting the award, said “the credit for the Ladybird meals program goes — just everywhere, it’s just everywhere.”
“It’s just stardust that has the right spin, and gravity forms and then it keeps turning, and that’s really what it’s been and what it continues to be,” she said.
She said it is an honor to have been able to distribute meals, and to meet the people she’s met in serving them.
“It really just is a lovely example of how community care and mutual aid work,” she said. “… And it doesn’t make you go broke, and it doesn’t destroy your business or your viability.”
Deacon Godsey, lead pastor of Vintage Church, was present to read his nomination of Ortiz, executive director of Lawrence Family Promise. The organization aims to help families experiencing homelessness.
“I have witnessed Dana’s leadership firsthand as she walked their faith community partners through a clarification of who Family Promise’s services would be made available to, ensuring that all families, including children with parents who identify as sexual minorities, were included in Family Promise’s mission — a venture that took great risk, both personally and financially,” Godsey said.
Ortiz spoke briefly about the quadrupling of families that the organization has seen through the pandemic — previously, they were helping about 19 families at a time. Now, they’re serving 80 to 90 at a time.
“The system problems in our culture, in our country, in our own community — the pandemic has put the spotlight on all of that that is broken,” she said. “And we would not, at Family Promise, be able to do anything at all about this if it wasn’t for community members helping all of our other human service agencies, independent folks like Meg and Ladybird, community organizers.
“This is where all the heavy lifting has happened,” she said. “… I appreciate this honor, I’m humbled by it, but it really goes to all of us who are part of this Family Promise network.”
Kreicker, the third nominee, served on the board of the Kaw Valley Living Wage Alliance, volunteered as an English teacher in Paraguay and at free classes at Plymouth Congregational Church, and hosted people seeking asylum, and he currently serves on numerous boards of local and statewide advocacy groups and nonprofits. He also drove supplies to North Dakota during the Dakota Access Pipeline encampment as a show of solidarity with the cause, according to the nomination.
“Graham deserves to be recognized for his countless contributions to the community over many years, his commitment to justice, and his ever-present yearning to make the world a better place. He will drop everything to help someone in need, and has the wisdom and wit of a revered elder who models justice activism and blesses our community with his presence and love for all sentient beings.”