By Lynne Hendricks
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Yesterday’s YWCA of Greater Newburyport’s 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast served as an opportunity to honor a community leader who fights racism and embodies the mission of the organization.
The YWCA honored Nancy Earls with its 2013 Nancy E. Peace Action Against Prejudice Award for her work over the last 14 years with at-risk youth at the Newburyport Learning Enrichment Center at Kelleher Park, known locally as Park Circle.
Earls was commended for “speaking up for those who have been overlooked or not invited” and for her contributions “in fighting prejudices and celebrating diversity, for knocking on doors and breaking down walls.”
Offering their praise of Earls was
A host of local leaders familiar with her work at the center offered their praise of Earls. They included Mayor Donna Holaday, City Councilor Ed Cameron, her husband and City Councilor Greg Earls, School Committee member Bruce Menin and Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer.
Earls also received a special citation from the Massachusetts Senate for her work, delivered in person by Newburyport’s own recently anointed state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives.
“This is so richly deserved,” said O’Connor Ives, who spoke personally of Earls’ work with local children. “Nancy truly does embody those values that MLK called for. She is present. That is the first step in making community. She grows community every single day.”
In the struggle between one’s individuality and their community, where it can seem overwhelming to try to do good things in a world where so many bad things are happening, O’Connor Ives said Earls is someone who makes a difference where she can — at home. The new senator urged everyone to follow Earls’ lead — in the same spirit of “living by example” that MLK espoused.
“We can start here at home and make a tangible difference,” O’Connor Ives said. “It can feel like an uphill battle — maybe a losing battle — but what I try to keep in my mind is that we’re certainly not alone in this.”