More than $50,000 was raised by the Commercial Real Estate Humanitarian Awards benefit in West Orange to provide opportunities for high schools and students to attend the Lead for Diversity Institute.
“This is such a worthy cause,” said Greater Trenton founding CEO George Sowa, who was honored as Humanitarian of the Year. “Unfortunately, we find ourselves living in an environment where barriers are literally and figuratively being built. … When you think about all of the injustices today, this is how change is being done.”
The Lead for Diversity Institute, formerly known as Anytown, is a leadership-development program designed to help youth recognize, address and challenge bias, bullying and oppression based on ability status, age, body image, race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.
There have been more than 3,400 graduates since it began in 1995.
“I learned that we’re one step closer to changing the world, its views and its problems,” said Andrew Kardos, a junior at Spotswood High School, who attended the institute this past summer.
At the reception, Thomas F. Hayes, New Jersey Resources‘ customer and community relations director and co-chair of the American Conference on Diversity board of trustees, announced the return of the “No Hate in Our State” challenge.
NJR will award the American Conference on Diversity $25,000 to support the organization if the community helps raise $75,000.
“This is an organization that needs to be here, but it needs all of us to be behind it,” Hayes said. “We have the organization come out and train our employees, and there are facets that all of us can use.”
The Commercial Real Estate Awards was started more than 40 years ago by the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
“It’s often said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” said Kenneth R. Orchard, president of TriState Capital Bank and a key member of the event planning committee.
“When we learn to respect because of differences and not in spite of our difference, we create greater understanding across cultural divides,” said ACOD CEO and President Elizabeth Williams-Riley. “Your support today provides students and schools from communities impacted most by social and economic disparities the opportunity to challenge stereotypes and open their minds.”