Safety Network Recognizes Public Safety Community Leaders

by Dan Nguyen-Tan on May 10, 2007

Anyone who thinks San Francisco is mostly full of cynics and stand-by complainers should have attended last night’s Safety Network’s Awards Reception honoring grassroots community leaders.

While headline news focuses on homicides and violent crime, along with efforts to hold local officials accountable for improving public safety, the Safety Network’s Award Reception recognized 13 community leaders who are not waiting for other people to solve their neighborhood’s public safety and community health concerns.

The Safety Network is a citywide partnership, funded by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, employing district-based community organizers to support neighborhood organizing around public safety issues.

While other citywide events may highlight people patting each other on the back while dressed up and sipping wine, the Safety Network’s Awards Reception was low-key, no-frills, family-oriented, and attendees were diverse in ages and racial background.

In other words, the event truly reflected the diversity of the city across socio-economic and demographic lines. It showcased the unique personalities of each district in the city.

And the event recognized the strengths of grassroots organizers who, in their own respective neighborhoods, have proven, as one recipient noted, that “money can buy a lot of things, but respect must be earned.”

Each honored community leader “earned” the respect of people in their neighborhood who nominated them for award recognition. Almost every speaker noted the importance of neighbors working together to solve problems in partnership with government officials, law enforcement, and other community groups.

Quintin Mecke, Director of the Safety Network said, “Public safety is a very serious issue and it’s easy to concentrate only on the problems. It isn’t often we have the opportunity to celebrate successes and publicly recognize people who make a positive impact in their communities.”

The Safety Network Community Leadership award recipients include:

Sister Stephanie Hughes – Bayview District

Sister Stephanie lives in Alice Griffith community and runs Lazarus House as a community and outreach center.

Jennifer Donahue – Central District
Jennifer heads the Francisco Middle School Buddy program for youth.

Frank Kellom – Ingleside District
Frank is a leader and mentor to troubled youth in the Alemany Housing community.

Erick Arguello – Mission District
Erick is founder and President of the Lower 24th Street Merchants and Neighborhood Association.

Debra Edgerly – Northern District
Debra is Executive Director of the Little Children Development Center.

Kenneth Johnson – Outer Ingleside/Visitacion Valley District

Known as the “Cookie Man” in the Sunnydale community, Kenneth is a leader in the Sunnydale Public Housing community.

Peter Vaernet – Taravel/OMI District

Peter spearheaded neighborhood efforts to reclaim Brooks Park from drug dealers.

Leela Gill – Park Distrct

Leela is president of North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association and a member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee for the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families.

Nate Ford – Park District
Nate is the Athletic Director for the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco, Ernest Ingold Clubhouse and founder of the Rebels basketball program.

Karen Fishkin – Richmond District

Karen coordinates neighborhood resource centers for the Institute on Aging and serves of the Board of the Senior Action Network and Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council.

Jim Ayers – Southern District
Jim is a resident of Lawrence Hotel who has worked tirelessly to protect the rights of SRO residents along 6th Street, especially around problems with Club Six.

Ronald Pang – Taraval District
Ronald is the Principal of Abraham Lincoln High School which received a Distinguished School award from the state under his leadership.

Elaine Zamora – Tenderloin District
Elaine formerly led the North of Market/Tenderloin Community Benefit District Steering Committee.

Dan Nguyen-Tan is a Board member of North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association (

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