The The Church Club of New York’s Young Adult of the Year Service Recognition Award is a tri-state, regional program that recognizes the exceptional volunteer service of either an individual or a group of young adults in their 20s and 30s. The Award is accompanied by a $1,000 honorarium, of which $500 is designated to the highlighted church or community ministry. This year, eight young adults from parishes in the Episcopal Dioceses of New York, New Jersey, Newark, Long Island, and Connecticut were nominated for their commitment to enriching their communities with their talents and time.
The nominees include:
- Marisol Ortega of Grace Church/La Gracia in White Plains, who organized an Adult and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED training course and serves as a young adult leader and liaison between her English and Spanish-speaking congregations.
- Carrie Sheffield of St. Thomas Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, was nominated because of her work with Silicon Harlem a tech development and social/economic investment program.
- Adam Martinek, also of from St. Thomas, was nominated for 12 years of dedicated service (starting at age 16) at the Saint Thomas soup kitchen.
- Tivaun Cooper of Trinity Wall Street was nominated for his advocacy and leadership within the LGBTQIA community within the Diocese of New York.
- Nolan Burke of Grace Church, Manhattan, was nominated for his volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, donating 150+ hours over the last 2 ½ years.
- Kristin A. Vieira was nominated for her leadership in organizing and teaching adult education forums at Calvary-St. George.
- Tamara Wernham of St. Philip’s in Harlem, was nominated for her work as coordinator of the Ecclesia, an outdoor worshiping community serving the homeless.
The winner of this year’s Young Adult of the Year Service Recognition Award is Merrick K Williams, of The Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City, in the Diocese of Long Island.
His volunteer work has included fundraising and coordinating build days with Habitat for Humanity, committee work with Neighborhoods Against Opioid Epidemic, and many hours of service at The Mary Brennan Interfaith Nutrition Network (Mary Brennan INN). The Mary Brennan INN is the largest soup kitchen on Long Island. Williams, a new Episcopalian, speaks boldly of his commitment to our Baptismal Covenant vows. In working with the clients of The Inn, he has faced his own sense of privilege, realizing he had never experienced a day when he worried he might go hungry. In his desire “to respect the dignity of every human being,” he dedicates his time to working at The Inn where approximately 62,000 lunches are served annually.
Williams refuses to be a bystander to the experience of homelessness that plagues his fellow citizens. His peers describe him as someone who not only participates but also, “spearheaded the Habitat Build Day arrangements.” Williams believes it is important to be enlightened on relevant and current Episcopal issues. He is eager to take classes and attend lectures to be a more informed participant in the Episcopal community. The Rev. Deacon Barbara Guy describes William as an “active, dynamic, and creative member of the Cathedral Council with an open-minded approach to problem identification and problem-solving,” making him a valued member of the congregation.
Every nominee of the Young Adult of the Year Service Recognition Award has made serving others a priority in their life, which is apparent by their monthly and weekly dedication to helping their communities. It is easy to become absorbed in all the noise that exists in our daily lives, distancing us from the problems people in our community face. However, through the hard work of these Young Adults and the communities they serve, it is possible to give people who are not usually visible a voice. Change is possible, but it has to come from the individual, such as our Young Adult nominees before it can affect the masses.