Niagara Gazette — When it comes to community involvement, Joanne Lorenzo is certainly leaving her mark on Niagara Falls.
The Buffalo native and founder and director of the Magdalene Project, which works with women and children out on the streets to help them find safety and sobriety if they're in trouble, is a constant presence in some of the roughest neighborhoods, all while running childhood programs.
"We focus on women and children, mostly women in addiction and those that are homeless," she said about the Magdalene Project, which takes a bus around the community, providing help to those stranded alone on the streets.
For her work, not only with the project, but also with children in the community, Lorenzo is set to receive the Spirit of Dr. King award at this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration, which begins at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Performing Arts Center at Niagara falls High School, 4455 Porter Road.
What is the Spirit of Dr. King to her? She said she strives to ensure equality through her ministry on the streets.
Racism, she said, still exists in this country and she's trying to be as colorblind to it as possible.
"We're all the same," she said. "I have a little boy who's 9 years old and he's mixed. There's still racism today in this country. But I don't look at the color of your skin, I look at what's in your heart."
It's those qualities and Lorenzo's ability when working with other people – especially children – that drove Samika Sullivan to nominate her for the honor. She said Lorenzo, for as long as they've been acquainted, has done great work with people, and been successful.
"(Joanne) has always been a really helpful person," Sullivan said, This summer, I had the opportunity to volunteer with her in one of her many programs throughout the area. When I was there, I saw how many kids were there and how they responded to her, I was very impressed."