JOHNSTOWN, PA – Impact and community service were cited throughout the Johnstown Branch’s inaugural NAACP Image Awards on Tuesday.
The awards honoring members of the black community and organizations that support the community as a whole were handed out virtually.
The winners included a well-known Johnstown nonprofit, a new business, a grassroots group, a community organizer, a growing youth development organization and two promising young people.
“We are blessed here in Johnstown and we must continue to support all people who have businesses, hobbies, who run institutions,” Johnstown NAACP branch president Alan Cashaw said during the program. “It’s a great job. Congratulations to all.
The awards were presented in six categories, including three commemorative awards.
• Michelle Haselrig, owner of Taco Chellz, 416 Main Street, received the Pauline H. Gordon Minority Entrepreneur Award. Presenting the award, Sherri Rae noted that the company is also a regular vendor at the Johnstown Farmers Market in Central Park and that Haselrig and his company are actively involved in the community.
“I’ve been in food my whole life,” Haselrig said, thanking the NAACP awards committee. “It has always been my dream.”
• The Highlands Health-Laurel Highlands free and charitable medical clinic and the Flood City Youth Fitness Academy received both Business / Organization Freedom awards.
Highlands Health Executive Director Rosalie Danchanko accepted the award, saying the free clinic’s mission exemplifies how she was raised to “give of herself and herself to help others.”
Highlands Health has been a major supplier of COVID-19 vaccines, with home visits and clinics held in Cambria and Somerset counties.
Some of his other initiatives have included distributing Narcan drug overdose treatment and offering a needle exchange for drug addicts.
The Youth Fitness Academy operates out of the Fitness / Weights / Aerobics Gym, 200 Lincoln St., and is run by gym owners Oscar and Annette Cashaw and other volunteers.
“What we do in our program is this: we help kids have a good time and mentor them to grow up and become good, healthy adults,” said Oscar Cashaw.
As schools closed during the pandemic, the FCYFA expanded its learning stations and tutoring program, as well as mental health counseling, to help children stay on track, said Annette Cashaw.
• Armari Andrews, a graduate of Bishop McCort Catholic High School and a student at the Collège de Genève, received the Young Scholars Freedom Award.
• Tanae Preston, a graduate of Greater Johnstown High School who is active in local community youth service, received the Dorothy Haselrig Thomas Youth Freedom Award.
• Mercedes Barnette, local designer, writer and singer, and the Smooth Sound Band won the Arts and Entertainment Awards.
• The program was crowned with the presentation of the Saul Griffin Humanitarian Award to Karen Carter Brandon.
During the presentation of the award, Francine Cashaw said Brandon offered support to the entire community, often anonymously.
Brandon and her late husband established the William Jr. and Karen Carter Brandon Scholarship in 2013 for a deserving minority student in the Greater Johnstown School District. The scholarship is also awarded during the student’s second year of college studies, to offset many funding lines that apply only to the first year tuition fee.
After her husband passed away in 2016, the family founded the WILLStrong Foundation Inc. in her honor to support three of her passions: education, health and community partnerships.
The humanitarian award was named in honor of longtime NAACP member Saul Griffin and the first black person to serve on Johnstown City Council.
Technical issues prevented some of those who had purchased tickets from joining the live program.
Alan Cashaw said the entire event has been taped and will be provided to those who purchased tickets and to attendees.
Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5057. Follow him on twitter @ PhotoGriffer57.