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Local Humanitarians Receive EDK Awards

Three members of the Salisbury-Rowan community were awarded Elizabeth Duncan Koontz (EDK) Awards for their contributions to improving human relations in the areas of education, employment, housing, industry, business, civic, church, advocacy and community service.

Herman Peterson, Tonya Cross and Melissa Summers were honored by their peers at the EDK Annual Awards Dinner on Thursday, Feb. 22.

Peterson currently serves as a senior Army JROTC instructor at West Rowan High School. He also is the owner and director of Kiddie Land Kindergarten “where he has mentored youth of all ages and many adults,” according to his nomination form.

A native of Spring Lake, N.C., Peterson is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University, and served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army. He has held positions at Ft. Bragg, Walter Reed Medical Center and Ft. Sam Houston Medical Academy.

Nominator Kimberly Geter summarized, “Some of his significant contributions are educating and being a role model for children at the Kindergarten. As an instructor he has been directly responsible for numerous cadets receiving scholarships, college admittance, entrance in the military and the work force. His JROTC program has donated more than 30,000 hours of Community services over the last decade.”

Cross is active in the arts and community service in Salisbury. She is head of The Vine Event Planning, which she states “has consisted of creating spaces that were either non-existent or marginalized.”

A registered pharmacist, Cross was a liaison and coordinator for Living Books Documentary that told the stories of Shuford Memorial School alumni. She coordinated the local art exhibit Young Black Man Going Ego Trippin’ which featured artwork, poems, and photos of local youth that were a reflection of African American activist Nikki Giovanni’s poem Ego-Tripping. In addition, Cross started the Peace Circle, a monthly community conversation that addresses social issues that affect the local community. “Collaborating with other community organizers to create a safe non-judgmental environment for people to speak their truth and actively listen to the truth of others has had a positive ripple effect,” said Cross.

She has been married to her husband Michael for 24 years and together they have three adult daughters Desere’, Cierra, and Gabrielle.

Summers, a 2004 graduate of North Rowan High School, is president of the Thelma Smith Foundation South Branch, a 501 (C) (3) nonprofit organization. In 2008 Summers’ aunt and her husband incorporated the Thelma Smith Foundation Inc. in Brooklyn N.Y., named after Summers’ uncle’s mother, Thelma Greene Smith who passed away in 2004. A year later, Summers’ aunt and uncle named her as the marketing and media executive for the Thelma Smith Foundation South Branch -- an umbrella extension under their original organization. In 2012 her uncle passed away, leading Summers to take the reigns of the Foundation and create her own 501 (C) (3). To date, the organization has held a number of services and programs, including a mentoring program, food pantry, clothing pantry, the Thanksgiving Feed a Family and Secret Santa.

As a CNA, Summers had an opportunity to advance her love of service by attending to many sick and young children, adults and elderly patients. She saw that through being a CNA she was able to communicate and build a bond with her patients, their families and her staff members to work together to ensure that her patients needs were met at all times.

This award is named in memory of Elizabeth “Libby” Koontz who was one of the organizers who re-established the Human Relations Council in 1985. The Salisbury Human Relations Council (HRC) was created to identify concerns in the area of human relations, make recommendations regarding issues and engage in activities, which shall be deemed best to the community for all citizens.

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