By Tricia Hall
The Truth reporter
Padua Center welcomed 120 supporters to their annual “Peaces” of Art Celebration on Sunday, October 9, 2022 starting at 5:00 p.m. The celebration was held at the Gesu’s Sullivan Center. Guests were greeted by youth who have benefited from the programming offered by the center. Fletcher Word, The Truth publisher and Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union board president, served as the event’s master of ceremonies.
“I am so thrilled that you have joined us in celebrating the work of The Padua Center,” shared Word during open comments.
The event’s main objective was to raise funding to support the center’s programming. Padua Center, located at the corner of Nebraska and Junction, has provided hands-on youth programming for over a decade and a half. The Center offers after-school tutoring, several weeks of youth camp, gender specific youth enrichment programming once a month, and cultural neighborhood celebrations.
Attendees could bid during the meal on silent auction items or even five items marked for live bids only.
“The Padua Center is a link in the neighborhood that helps children and adults to be empowered for a healthy and happy future. This fundraiser presents an opportunity for you to support the work of the Padua Center,” explained Word.
Immediately following the auction and dinner, Baldemar Velasquez delivered remarks as the keynote speaker and recipient of Padua Promoter award. Velasquez reflected on his journey for justice and racial equality which aligns with Padua’s mission.
Velasquez was born and raised in Texas. As a child, he worked in the migrant system in Texas, Florida, Ohio and Michigan. Eventually his family settled in Ohio, where he worked seasonally in the field and then attended school. In 1969 he became the first member of his family to graduate from college, graduating from Bluffton College with a BA in Sociology.
Velasquez is the founder and president of Farm Laborer’s Organizing Committee (FLOC) and founder of the Black/Brown Unity Coalition. He has organized against social injustice on a local, regional, national and international level.
“As I look around this room, so many of you are old fighters and I stand proud to be in your presence. I started my migration in the 1950s from Texas to Ohio, where we picked tomatoes and other fruits in those areas. I would see signs that said no Mexicans and at that time I didn’t think that it was racism. I saw the way that they treated my parents, my grandparents and those of us who worked in the fields. I know what it’s like to grow up in poverty, it’s not traumatic, it’s inconvenient because of how you’re treated. As a boy, I saw how my mother was treated which angered me and that fire still burns inside of me. I didn’t choose this career, it chose me. You can use your calling to do something for others,” shared Velasquez.
The Padua Center staff, volunteers and board presented Velasquez with a plaque as a token of appreciation.
“I would now like to present the Padua Promoter Award to Baldemar Velasquez. We have just heard of his tremendous passion for justice. We have been inspired by his commitment to help shape a peaceful, just world. I am privileged to present him with this award,” said Dennis Jarrett, Padua Center board president.
The other key piece to the evening was the auction: a silent auction featuring most of the donated items, a live bid allowing online participants and a verbal auction of the children’s paintings.
“This is about helping the kids in our neighborhood by showcasing their art. These children are extremely talented and we hope to raise some funds to support our youth program,” said Sr. Virginia Welsh, Padua Center director.
Padua Board Members: Dennis Jarrett, chair; Msgr. Michael Billian, vice chair; Carty Finkbeiner, treasurer; Hass Joseph, Esq. secretary; Mike Badik, Theresa Gabriel, Lonnie Ghee, Art Jones, Beverly Moore, Harvey Savage Jr, and Phyllis Toney board members.
Staff members: Sr. Virginia Welsh, director; Anique Davis, Emerging Young Ladies and NIA Educational Programs director; Dedra Brown, NIA Educational Enhancement; Roger Whickum, Urban Gardener; Kim McFann, Administrative Assistant; Guadalupe Villolovos, Environmental Services; Mary Hariss and Cynthia Hinton, Pathstone participants; Kerry Gibson, volunteer, Kathy Kirby, Art Teacher and General support from St. Martin de Porres Parish.