“Many times people say to me, ‘You’re so selfless — there are not many people like you,’” said Dr. Zodelia Williams, founder and executive director of 3D’s Aftercare Inc. “And I believe that selfless people are the majority — people just don’t know that we’re selfless, because we’re so busy working that we never get a chance to say what we do or who we are.”
But 3D’s Unsung Warriors Gala, held in the ballroom of Coral House in Baldwin on Oct. 24, was an opportunity to recognize, thank and pay tribute to the people who Williams said help change the community for the better in a powerful way.
Williams, a social worker who for almost 20 years has run 3D’s, a nonprofit organization based in Baldwin at 3D’s Community Empowerment Center, had a vision for the formal affair: to honor a handful of community members “who change the world on a daily basis, yet rarely have their efforts recognized.”
More than 150 people filled the ballroom to honor local residents who regularly help Williams and the 3D’s board carry out their mission to provide programs and workshops for children, including summer camps, after-school programs, weekend activities like Middle School Mingle and Teen Café, scholarships, and life skills and college- readiness programs.
“Having adopted the name ‘modern-day Harriet Tubman,’ she believes all children have the right to be free from the circumstances or challenges that confront them,” 3D’s president, Dr. Audrey Kirkland, said of Wiliams, “and that they should be encouraged to dream big and given the tools to make their dreams come true.”
The center also hosts English as a Second Language programs, encourages parent involvement, partners and collaborates with organizations, and facilitates various workshops like the Save Our Daughters Too annual Red Carpet Ceremony and a seminar on how to interact positively with police with a former NYPD homicide detective. Throughout the years, 3D’s has fed more than 1,000 people through its annual Thanksgiving community event and donated over 500 backpacks to students in back-to-school drives.
“3D’s stands as a proud beacon of hope,” Kirkland said before the honorees were announced. “Through a sense of powerful dedication, 3D’s intends to continue fostering growth, development, character, belonging and true community.”
In the category of public servants, State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, Deputy Town of Hempstead Comptroller Richard Ramos and Freeport Police Chief Miguel Bermudez were honored for their work serving the community, organizers said. Deborah Payton-Jones was recognized as “Citizen of the Year,” and Abraham Kevin Spann was named “Hometown Hero.”
Griffin shared memories of meeting Williams before the grand opening of the center, at 586 Seaman Ave., about a year ago.
“I was just so excited because I could see how much this was in her heart — it was just in her whole heart,” Griffin said. “It really was just, as soon as I walked in the door, such a special place. There should be more places like that — a place that just wants to help people and take care of people.”
Between the announcements of honorees were performances by Devore Dance Center, Macksings, Kemba Lodescar and Amanda Sherwood, who played a classical piece on the cello.
Fatima Perry, a local Girl Scout leader, LeMichael Allen, a basketball coach, and Taisha Francis, the leader of a nonprofit that brings opportunities to communities in need, were honored as “Children’s Heroes.” Sheilly Martinez, a 17-year-old girl attending The Academy Charter High School, was named “Young Leader of Tomorrow” to recognize her work teaching people English. Benjamin Bodley, owner of Benny B’s restaurant in Baldwin, deemed “Community Uplifter,” was recognized for supplying 3D’s with hot meals for children.
“I’m not used to this,” Bodley said, adding that he was at a loss for words. “My mom said, ‘If you can help, help.’”