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Jefferson Awards Foundation Recognizes Local Volunteer for Philanthropic Work at National Ceremony

ESL Jefferson Awards Regional Winner Receives National Honor in Washington, D.C.

Rochester, NY — Sadiya Omar, a 2016 local ESL Jefferson Award recipient, received the coveted National Jefferson Award for public service at a national awards ceremony on June 15 and 16, in Washington, D.C. Omar was recognized locally as part of the ESL Jefferson Awards, in partnership with WHEC News10 NBC, in May. The program honors grassroots heroes making impactful philanthropic changes to their surrounding communities. This is the 13th consecutive year that the local financial institution has sponsored the awards program.

Omar, the first Rochester-area ESL national Jefferson Award recipient, was one of five individuals to receive the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award. This award honors “…private citizens for enacting change, and bettering communities through grassroots volunteerism.”

“We are thrilled that one of our own local volunteers was selected as a National Jefferson Award recipient,” said Faheem Masood, President & CEO, of ESL. “Each year, we are moved by the nominations and touched by the stories, struggles, and triumphs our honorees have endured. Sadiya and all of the regional recipients are incredible people that deserve the spotlight.”

Omar is co-founder and vice-president of Refugees Helping Refugees, a non-profit organization that fosters the growth, self-determination, and self-reliance of Rochester’s refugee community. The organization provides a range of services including job applications, interpreting, counseling, and others. Omar was born in Somalia but forced to flee to Kenya because of civil war. During her time in Kenya, she volunteered in refugee schools and advocated for women’s rights. She was relocated by the United Nations, first to Nairobi and ultimately western New York.

Her volunteer work is shaped by a long history of life as a refugee, as a single-parent widowed by Civil War, as a mother, grandmother, leader, and advocate. Omar’s passion for helping others has extended to children, women, refugees, and the elderly population.

“Sadiya is an amazing individual with a tremendous capacity to give,” said Louise Bennett, Medical Director of the Refugee Health Program at Brown Square Health Center, who nominated Omar for the ESL Jefferson Award this past spring. “Her presence inspires others to give of their time and efforts to help others.”

National winners include former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. He will receive the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Outstanding Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, at the ceremony, for his unflinching work and support of the U.S. educational system.

Previous recipients of the award include: former Arizona politician Gabrielle Giffords and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

“The Jefferson Awards Foundation is proud to continue in the tradition of our namesake as we recognize the incredible achievements of these individuals,” said Hillary Schafer, Executive Director of The Jefferson Awards Foundation. “We hope that we can be a beacon for others who wish to contribute to their own communities, and that our honorees will help to activate these initiatives.”

The Jefferson Awards were established in 1972 by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Taft, Jr., and Sam Beard, founder and chairman of the National Development Council. Since its partnership with WHEC News10 NBC in 2003, ESL has recognized the philanthropic efforts and contributions of approximately 100 people in the Rochester area. For a list of previous local honorees, visit

About ESL Federal Credit Union

Founded by George Eastman in 1920, ESL Federal Credit Union is a full-service financial institution with $5.6 billion in assets. The locally-owned financial institution employs more than 700 people in Rochester, New York, and includes approximately 330,000 members worldwide.

The company has now appeared on the Great Place to Work® Best Small & Medium Workplaces list for five years (2015, 2014, 2013, 2011, and 2010). Access to the credit union includes 20 branch locations and more than 40 ATM locations, locally-based telephone and Internet chat centers, and online and mobile banking channels. The company is headquartered at 225 Chestnut Street in Rochester and can be found on the Internet at

About the Jefferson Awards Foundation

The Jefferson Awards Foundation (JAF) powers others to have maximum impact on the things they care about most. Through celebration, they inspire action. With programs and partnerships, they drive Americans to change their communities and the world. To learn more about the Jefferson Awards Foundation, visit: or engage with our community on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook.

For more information, contact:

Rich Pulvino, APR
Vice President/Director, Corporate Communications