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2019 ESL Jefferson Award Winners

Five Local Heroes Named 2019 ESL Jefferson Award Winners!

Congratulations to these local volunteers who were recently recognized by ESL Federal Credit Union and News 10 NBC WHEC with the 2019 ESL Jefferson Awards.

This year’s honorees are:

Amanda Dreher

Thanks to the efforts of attorney Amanda Dreher, there are a lot more dry bottoms in Rochester.

Amanda is credited with saving Rochester’s only diaper bank from closing.

Through her work as a member of the Junior League of Rochester, Amanda became familiar with an organization called ROC City Bottoms Diaper Bank (RCB). As a member of the RCB Board of Directors (and eventually its president), Amanda worked with them to secure pro bono legal assistance, acquire 501©(3) status, and collect and distribute over 100,000 diapers to partner agencies in Monroe County.

With demands on the ROC City Bottoms Diaper Bank continuing to grow, Amanda turned to the Rochester Junior League for help, ultimately transitioning the RCB to become the Junior League of Rochester Diaper Bank. With the backing and support of the Junior League’s strong membership of trained volunteers, the RCB’s mission of providing diapers to those in need can continue.

Dave Difranco

Dealing with PTSD is no laughing matter. Or maybe it is.

In 2015, Dave Difranco founded Combat Comedians to promote healing through humor and to help veterans overcome PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.) This program helps veterans begin to heal by empowering them to share their experiences through live comedy. The vets begin by working with comedians who listen to their stories and write their performances. As they learn to use creative writing and communication as an outlet, they also hone their acts, ultimately sharing their experiences in front of a live audience.

Combat Comedians is not the only way Dave supports veterans. As president of Veterans Plus Assistance Corporation, he spends more than 30 hours a week strengthening the network of services available to veterans. In addition, Dave combined a love for animals with his commitment to helping vets by establishing Punchlines Fur Pets. This program supports no-kill animal shelters and abused farm animals and connects veterans with support animals to promote additional emotional healing.

Carrie Green

When scrolling through the home page on the Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha website, you’ll find a quote that nicely sums up why Carrie Green does what she does: “Birthdays should be a chance for each child to feel especially loved and celebrated. But unfortunately, many children don't have the opportunity to experience anything special on their day—that's where we step in.”

Carrie founded Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha (HBCCC) in 2017 as a way to ensure all kids feel special on their birthday by delivering to them a personal care package. Working with the RCSD to determine K-2 classrooms with the highest rates of poverty, Carrie’s organization “adopts” the class and provides all students with a “Birthday Bag” on their special day. Each Cha Cha Cha Bag contains two wrapped toys, Birthday Cake Oreos, a book, personal care items like new socks and underwear, toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap, as well as a few shelf-stable grocery items.

In addition to determining where to distribute the birthday bags, Carrie spends time enlisting other volunteers and donations to keep up with the demand. In three years, HBCCC has gone from serving 129 kids (year one) to serving 730 kids (year three) in five schools. And the party is just beginning.

Noah Levine

Diagnosed as on the autism spectrum at the age of two and non-verbal until the age of four, Allendale Columbia School senior Noah Levine now works to give others living with autism a voice.

As the founder and chairman of the AutismUp Student Ambassador Board, (an advocacy group comprised of students with autism spectrum disorder, or students who have been affected by ASD), Noah prepared a formal proposal, charter, mission statement, and plan for the Student Ambassador Board and presented it to the Board of Directors of AutismUp as a way for youths to participate in achieving the mission of this organization. This youth board coordinates events throughout the year to support the efforts of AutismUp, increasing awareness and encouraging the community to think more positively about autism.

Noah also has an entrepreneurial side. His software company, Horizon Autism, develops assistive technology for individuals on the autism spectrum.

John Salzer

At 93 years young, Rochester native, John (Jack) Salzer, has been volunteering since the late 1980’s when a wave of Vietnamese refugees began settling in the Rochester area.

Those efforts have taken him “back to school” as a volunteer at the Rochester International Academy, where he volunteers in the high school math classes. Because of the volunteer work he has done with the Third Presbyterian Church of Rochester, Catholic Family Center, and Lifespan, John gets to know both the students and their families. Helping refugees feel more at home in their new community, Jack gives support in a variety of ways, from providing transportation to appointments, helping to find housing, with homework, job searches, clothing, food, to just being a friend to talk to.

About the ESL Jefferson Awards

The ESL Jefferson Awards are part of the national Jefferson Award Foundation which strives to build a culture of service in communities across the country. Founded in 1972 by well-known public servants including former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the Jefferson Awards are the country’s longest standing and most prestigious honor of its kind.

One winner of the local ESL Jefferson Awards is selected each year to attend the Jefferson Awards National Ceremony in Washington, D.C.