Niagara Gazette

January 15, 2013

MLK AWARDS: Magdalene Project director honored for her work

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

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."

Sullivan said what sticks the most in her mind about Lorenzo is her determination and dedication to her vision of the future.

But what doesn't register is complaints. In fact, Sullivan said she's known Lorenzo for 10 years and has never heard her moan or groan about anything. Not even once.

"She's loving and caring and gives so much to so many," Sullivan said. "And I've never heard her complain. I think she's an amazing person. She's doing it for the right reasons."

Thursday's ceremony will also honor W. Lee Whitaker and Falls High School student LaSharee Wallace, with a keynote address by Craig Pridgen of True Bethel Baptist Church, 1112 South Ave.

INSIDE: LaSharee Wallace chosen for MLK award. LOCAL, 8A HIGH HONORS The Gazette is highlighting the three award recipients leading up to this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration being held on Thursday night. The three winners: • LaSharee Wallace • W. Lee Whitaker • Joanne Lorenzo