Contributed by Nechelle Harris
The purpose of these stories is to introduce you to normal hard working people of The Lehigh Valley that give back every day from the simplest hug to the hardest fight of making others realize their level of ability ,and potential to meet their own goals, achievements and dreams. Despite what is seen, heard or said in front of them about the rest of the Lehigh Valley, these Natural Productive Leaders have a determined passion, a thriving force, to give back to those in the community in which they live among. Giving back is not so much about personality or character, as it is about practice, patience, progress and people.
Stephen Walker who is familiarly known as Nyce Jones is a local business owner as well as an educator in the Lehigh Valley. Stephen was born and raised in the Allentown area where are graduated high school, soon after graduation he moved away to attend undergrad college , later he return to the Lehigh Valley where he earned his MBA from Kutztown University. Mr. Walker gives back to his community through volunteer work, fundraisers, and social involvement, meaning advocating for community involvement, promoting community base events in some way shape or form and educating. When asked what is your philosophy of a community and how do you apply it to your outreach? Mr. Walker stated; My philosophy on community is it that we as a the people of the community should go back to the better days of “it takes a community to raise a child” practice , where parents consistently got involved, along with other members of their community with the upbringing of the community as a whole. Instead of today’s social practice of the NIMBY” Not In My Back Yard and nobody gets involved. Stephen also contributes his philosophy and love of community give back to his mother. A person who has had the biggest impact on him as a leader and a person of give back. Stephen states, she is one of the strongest people I have ever met. I’ve watched her make miracles out of thin air with managing the household. She consistently gave out wisdom with her words throughout my childhood and still teaches me things from her experiences in the world. She impacted my life by instilling in me great qualities and self-worth ever since I was young, as well as the concept of working hard for things that you want and never giving up. Never! She always has had a positive outlook on life and because of her; I am the man, the leader, the community action that you see today. The reason I started to reach out is because I was taught to help others wherever possible. I was taught to be an Action verses a Non-Action, a helper verses being helpless. As a teenager I got involved in some community work, while also being a part of a of a teen program at the Caring Place myself, which also taught me about being involved in communities. Being in the atmosphere and seeing how things worked and what type of things it provided to a community gives you a sense of a good feeling by helping others. One characteristic I feel every leader NEEDS to possess is the ability to listen. When I say listen it must be objectively and without bias. People won’t follow someone who doesn’t relate to them or know where they’re coming from. Now great leaders who listen will be able solve more problems and have a loyal following because people will feel connected. When asked what is the greatest strength and weakness in the Lehigh Valley and where do you see The Lehigh Valley in the future as a Community. Stephen stated, the strength of the valley is the expansion of the metro areas and luring more jobs to the area. With this also brings more people to the community that is moving with the companies. A weakness in some areas I would say is lack of awareness by people of different programs that are out there to inform, educate, and get involved in things. I think the future is bright because of all the development and things being shaken up a bit. While buildings are being built around us, I am looking help and teach children to build themselves, so that one day they too can build.
Alicia was born in Allentown Pennsylvania where she lived her entire childhood. Despite being a foster child in the Pennsylvania court system, Alicia always had that go getter spirit and passion Alicia started off giving back at an early age by helping and supporting her sisters and brothers. Living at the beginning of the Hanover Ave bridge, Alicia always saw herself crossing over into a diversified majestic creative world, a world that did just not consist of her talents, but her give back. After graduating high school, she attended the Philadelphia Art Institute and served her country in the United States Army. Alicia also attended Kansas State University and Baker University completing her MBA. She has lived all over the country and has recently returned home to Allentown where she feels truly at home. She says joining the Army has contributed to the strong-minded giver you see today. “Before I joined the army I had no self-confidence. I was just a girl who never really accomplished much and the Army showed me I can do anything I set my mind to and it didn’t matter who I was before”. That I was worthy of a good life and I can achieve it. I learned I was a strong confident and creative person who had a life to live. I went from being a child of the projects to a soldier with a weapon… The weapon was my mind! Today this woman of steel and artistic compassion is so involved in the community. Alicia is the Director of Corporate Relations at the Alternative Art Gallery in Allentown, Pa. Today, she helps teach art classes to children at the gallery where she works prominently in oil pastels. She uses her hands to work and blend vibrant colors to achieve her desired feel of each painting. She believes her hands and fingers are more connected to the canvas and each color is achieved through touch blending, just as she believes in her artistic creative hands being a great give back to the kids she works with. She also is the owner and operator of three small ventures. Run Diva where she teaches new runners to gain the self-confidence to run a 5k. True Weddings as a wedding officiant, and Happy Faces where she paints faces for children at no cost at community events. She is also the founder of a small group of artists, Called “Allentown Bomb Squad” that creates chalk art in underprivileged areas of Allentown over night to inspire the community to find beauty their neighborhoods. When asked what was her philosophy of community she stated, my concept of community is basically where you live is where you breathe…where you foster and nourish those around you to be and achieve better. As a community it is you who is responsible for the children and neighborhoods. We have a responsibility to give back and volunteer whenever possible. I started to reach out because I was a child of Allentown, and I know what Allentown means to me. I know Allentown has the potential to be great. Every leader should possess the ability to give those around them the ability to make decisions and lead as well. As a running coach, watching my running clients cross the finish line at their first 5k is truly humbling, and as a volunteer for art, classes watching my art students have the courage to try new things. Her most important decisions in giving back are the ones that involve children. Not having money or the resources to purchase real art supplies led me to believe I was not an artist. My goal is to provide a free place for children to be exposed and taught art, a place where the beauty that you see and feel in you, can be discovered and painted by you. Allentown’s strength is in its community. I run and teach in center city Allentown because the people inspire me. I grew up there those are my streets my memories and I cherish them. The people of the Lehigh Valley are good, strong, hardworking people and I love where I come from and I love were I attend to go. In my give back, I seek to teach and learn from every art not yet painted or drawn.
Terrell Parker was born in Philadelphia son of Thomas & Dorothy Griffin. When he was six years old, he was taken into custody and placed in foster care, due to his mother being on drugs. When he was 13, he was moved from the foster home where he was living and brought to The Children’s Home Of Easton where he successfully resided until he was 19. In that time, Terrell had two children, his first a girl, and his second a boy who both reside with him in Emmaus, Pa. Despite the challenges of a being a young father, Mr. Parker worked, help care for his kids and still graduated from high school. When asked what is your philosophy of a community and how do you apply it to your outreach? Mr. Parker stated: Community to me is responsible people, connecting, communicating, working and inspiring one another to be their best despite all obstacles. A place where people come together, feel like they belong, and draw strength and positivity from one another. I don’t believe in giving handouts; I believe in helping those who want to help themselves first, and being there for the little people with huge hearts who need us the most. You can give individual water or you can teach and encourage them how to get and keep the water. A person’s know how is far greater than someone else’s show how.
The most important decision to make when giving back is when to help and how much help to give. Terrell Parker is currently in the process of trying to open The Parker Foundation. The goal of The Parker Foundation is to enable those who can physically, mentally, and emotionally begin to start a better life for themselves the means to do so and to those who (because of life circumstances) can’t, the love, affection, and support that they deserve. Being through the system himself, Terrell can communicate with and has an instant connection with the youth and a real understanding of overcoming all barriers in which he kicked down. Mr. Parker states, when speaking one to one with people, I let them know I understand them because I’ve been there before. As a leader, I want to completely take myself out of picture and focus on what and who matters the most. It’s a great characteristic to have because it keeps you humble and never selfish. It all has to come from the heart or it’s no good. In my give back in the future through The Parker Foundation, I plan to give more children & families who don’t normally get to have a Christmas a Christmas, a Thanksgiving, raise money to get more kids off the streets and into things that will better them in the future (leadership program, dancing school, sports, arts etc) and each year host an event in the community that’s open to the entire Lehigh Valley and I have plans having on a job fair at the event. I won’t stop there! These acts alone will not only bring us closer a community but as a nation and create new laws and better funding for these programs! I do this because this is what I was put on Earth to do. I went through a lot growing up in the “system” and it is my mission to give back.
Giving back is a huge part of community development, by creating community “give back” and the awareness about the people and programs that do care our social environment of the Lehigh Valley can encourage innovative thinking, imagination and creativity among its people . From making them understand the importance of social respect, education, to equipping them with essential life skills, and making them aware about social issues these individuals are empowering a generation of young citizens that can become our next Mayor, our next Chief of Police, teacher, judge, pastor, business owner , Sandra Graves, Milagros Canales, Nechelle Harris, or You!
Copy Right 2014 by Nechelle Harris