LOWER EAST SIDE — Mimi Stern-Wolfe has devoted the past half century to improving her neighborhood.
After moving to the Lower East Side in 1963, Stern-Wolf helped found the nursery school collective Liberation Nursery, taught children’s community theater and music in local schools and started a music series called Composers of the Holocaust in 1989, among other neighborhood efforts.
“I just felt a commitment to the community,” she said, explaining why she became so involved.
Stern-Wolfe was one of five local leaders who were recognized for their work at the first-ever LES Community Heroes Award ceremony on May 4 as part of the inaugural LES History Month. The awards were handed out at Pier 42 in East River Park, during a community picnic held to kick off a month of events that explore the neighborhood’s history.
In addition to Stern-Wolfe, the honorees are:
► Steve Cannon, poet and founder of A Gathering of Tribes, an informal salon that gave artists a place to showcase their work and connect with each other starting in 1991. Cannon was also recently named poet laureate of the Lower East Side by HOWL! Festival.
► Ruth Taube, program director of Henry Street Settlement’s Home Planning Workshop since 1966. She is also a regular volunteer for the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy and a lifelong resident of the Lower East Side.
► Det. Jaime Hernandez, community affairs officer at the NYPD's 9th Precinct. In September, he will mark his 25th anniversary of working with the community.
► Robert Graf, president of First Street Block Association. He has been a First Street resident for more than 30 years and has played a leading role in creating the First Park children’s playground and courts.
According to Tamara Greenfield, co-chairwoman of the LES History Month steering committee, the awards were intended to celebrate the honorees' achievements.
“Part of why we’re doing LES History Month isn’t just to be nostalgic about the past but to really honor and recognize the activism and diversity that have shaped the neighborhood,” she said.
The honorees were chosen by a six-person panel that consisted of Wellington Chen from Chinatown Partnership, Kerri Culhane of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, Carlina Rivera from GOLES, Carolyn Ratcliffe from Art Loisaida and Elena Feliciano and Jan Hanvik of Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center.