Pictured: TaCiana Morris and Daniela Panetta of Lacasa.

Every year, NeighborWorks America receives nominees throughout the NeighborWorks Network for the Dorothy Richardson Award for Resident Leadership.  This award honors individuals who demonstrate outstanding leadership in community development. Named after Dorothy Mae Richardson, a pioneer in the field, the award recognizes residents who have made significant contributions to improving their neighborhoods, fostering community engagement, and advocating for positive change. Recipients of this award exemplify the spirit of grassroots leadership and the impact residents can have in transforming their communities.

This year, TaCiana Morris, one of our residents at Roosevelt Center was among those nominees.  According to Daniela Panetta, Director of Community Building and Engagement, “TaCiana envisions herself as a champion for indigent communities, striving to advocate for those affected by stereotypical bias. She actively pursues this vision by fostering unity through meal sharing and outreach initiatives.”  Taciana believes that meal sharing is more than eating with strangers. It’s caring and preparing love and family bonds amongst us all.  She says, “My food is for your stomach. My help is for your stability.”

Pictured: Rebecca Rea, Elkhart Chamber Member Relations Specialist, TaCiana Morris, and Kristen Smole, Elkhart Chamber Strategic Initiatives Officer

With the help of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, TaCiana has been diligently formalizing Lotus Kids a program she started to unite communities through meal sharing and outreach. She collaborates with community organizations, cooking and distributing meals to those in need. Her efforts have not only nourished the Roosevelt community but also inspired others through her culinary talents. Initially volunteering her skills, TaCiana partnered with nonprofits and participated in a NeighborWorks CLI project with Lacasa to host a dinner for neighborhood leaders. This event successfully brought leaders together to address community priorities, with TaCiana playing a key role in both the culinary and discussion aspects.

Her influence extended beyond her immediate circle, inspiring others, including her friend who became actively involved in local governance and community events. TaCiana’s dedication also served as a model for her family, increasing their engagement in community activities. Her leadership has significantly raised awareness of Lotus Kids, strengthened community connections, and increased participation in Lacasa’s programs. Through Lacasa’s leadership development program, TaCiana gained skills in event planning, collaboration, and teamwork, further boosting her confidence and inspiring others to get involved. TaCiana’s journey exemplifies how individual initiative can lead to meaningful community change.