Philadelphia is saying “go green” — and we “don’t mean the Eagles.”
That was how local author and restaurateur Judy Wicks addressed the crowd of award nominees and admirers at the inaugural SustainPHL Awards. Activists, business owners and community leaders were nominees in 13 award categories such as Locavore Champion and Unsung Hero.
Organized by the team at Green Philly Blog, winners were given sustainably crafted awards designed by Recycled Artist in Residency. Wicks, who thought she was just there as a speaker and presenter, was presented with the Sustainable Pioneer Award.
For winner Morris Holland Derry III, this was his first time winning something since earning his high school diploma. He thought Ashton Kutcher would pop out to tell him he was being “Punk’d” after he got the call saying he had been nominated.
“To get an award like that — it’s letting me know that my efforts are being recognized,” Derry said. “I wasn’t looking for it, so it makes it even more of an honor.”
Derry received the Civic Sustainability Award on Thursday evening for his outreach work. He runs No More Pain Inc., an organization that he calls “the Big Brothers, Big Sisters for adults.” The program is based on mentorship and the goal is to help people want to help themselves.
"Positivity, pushing forward, not giving up and setting goals," said Kelly Gibson, Derry's former mentee. "We need more people like Morris in the world. He has given me life again."
Although No More Pain Inc.’s office is located in Somerton in the Far Northeast, Derry travels throughout the city to serve the larger community. He and his team hand out donated pizza to the homeless in Center City. He approaches addicts to provide information on detox centers or halfway houses.
Derry and Gibson met in September 2015 when Gibson reached out via Facebook to ask for help with addiction.
"Sometimes you don’t think ahead because you’re so caught up in the moment," Gibson said. “I was ready for the change — I just needed a coach.”
Derry's plan to found his mentorship program began in 1996 while he was incarcerated. No Pain Inc. became a nonprofit organization in 2014. He continues to mentor and hopes to grow his nonprofit with assistance from grant money later this year.
“I mentor five people myself — they range from substance abuse to being on parole,” Derry said. “It’s all about getting people back in the community, and getting them straight and clean so they can be in our society.”
Derry was nominated for his award alongside representatives of PowerCorps PHL and As I Plant This Seed. The ceremony also addressed the growth of eco-friendly and community driven business practices in Philadelphia.
“The sustainable business community is growing and thriving —now, we have our own awards,” said Christine Knapp, director of the city's Office of Sustainability.