Greenburgh Human Rights Committee Presents First Local Hero Awards

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The Greenburgh Human Rights Advisory Committee (GHRA), in partnership with the United Nation’s Association Westchester Chapter and the Greenburgh Public Library, honored several residents and a church for their work to promote human rights in the town at a ceremony Dec. 9.

The event was held in observance of Human Rights Day, the annual international celebration of the UN’s 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document proclaimed the inalienable rights, which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being.

This year, nationally, the United Nations Association has sub-titled its commemorations “Close to Home,” noting the Declaration’s vital importance in today’s populist environment.

The Greenburgh award recipients are Colby Jenkins-Caesar, who has been called the personification of a selfless giver. Her many activities include work with seniors, children and food pantries. She served as first PTA president of the Children’s Aid Society and founded Women In The Black, to help educate, train and support black women entrepreneurs and “Dare 2 Be Different,” an annual Greenburgh event that honors women community leaders.

Vic Leviatin made his mark on the Greenburgh community as an educator. He is best known for developing the Woodlands Individualized Senior Experience (WISE), a program to give seniors of all ability levels the opportunity to design passion-driven projects that empower a transition from high school to college, work, and life-long learning. The program, to which Vic has donated more than 20,000 hours of his time, is in schools across the nation and has had more than 40,000 graduates. During his 30 years at Woodlands HS, he also inspired students by bringing them to human rights demonstrations.

Cleo Oliver served as the president of the Hillside/Wyndover Civic Association and vice president of the Greenburgh Civic Associations. She has long been active in political circles, representing the interests of her community to the Greenburgh Town government. For more than 25 years, she co-hosted the cable TV show “3 C’s –Cleo, Cora and Community.”

The one institution receiving an award is Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, which for more than 18 years is credited with working to improve the lives of those in its Elmsford community, particularly its Hispanic residents. What began with the launch of a Spanish-language mass is today an important resource center with the overall aim of protecting human rights and providing important information about available resources. Programs include a food pantry, workshops, immigration and job counseling, support groups for single parents.

The Greenburgh Human Rights Advisory Committee, created in 2015, advises the Town government on human rights issues and provides informational and educational forums to promote respect for the worth of each individual. The Committee has recently prioritized work against racism, white supremacy and the plight of undocumented immigrants in the region.

The committee’s meetings are open to the public and generally take place the third Thursday of each month beginning at 7 p.m. at Greenburgh Town Hall.

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