Foundation sponsors 2021 Diversity Awards, a celebration of immigrant and refugee contributions to the community

2021 Welcoming Fort Wayne Diversity Award Winners and Nominees
Mary Tyndall, St. Joe Foundation, with Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry

Two individuals and two organizations were recently honored for their work to make Fort Wayne a community that welcomes everyone, especially immigrants and refugees.

The 2021 Welcoming Fort Wayne Diversity Awards took place at the Fort Wayne Coliseum Campus of Ivy Tech Community College. Winners included: Fey Fey (Ferdinand) Moussou, Malak El-Taleb, Friends of the Third World and Fort Wayne Sport Club.

As part of its work to advocate for immigrants and refugees, the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation was the title sponsor for the event.

“When our sponsor, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, sent sisters to Fort Wayne in 1868, their priority was to minister to the needs of the German immigrants settling in our city,” said Meg Distler, executive director of the St. Joe Foundation. “Today, the St. Joe Foundation carries on that mission of welcoming and caring for immigrants in our community.”

Fey Fey (Ferdinand) Moussou

The Lifetime Achiever Award was presented to Fey Fey (Ferdinand) Moussou, who volunteers at St. Augustine Lutheran Church, which includes members from more than 17 African countries. Moussou organizes the annual African Food Festival, which features a variety of African recipes as well as music featuring traditional West African instruments. Moussou was born in Bénin, West Africa and moved to Senegal as a youth. He came to Fort Wayne in 1998 and now works at Brightpoint as a Male Involvement Coordinator. He is fluent in English, French, Spanish and several African dialects.

Malak El-Taleb was honored with the Welcoming Fort Wayne Emerging Leader Award. El-Taleb is a volunteer member of Amani Family Services’ Community Advisory Board and advocates for immigrants and refugees living in Fort Wayne. She was nominated by a Purdue Fort Wayne international student who stated, “Malak made me feel like I’m part of this country and part of a community that is willing to help you whenever you need.” A native of Libya, El-Taleb moved to the United States 13 years ago and works for the Allen County Clerk’s Office.

Marian Waltz and James Goetsch, Friends of the Third World

The Welcoming Organization Award was presented to two organizations: Friends of the Third World and Fort Wayne Sport Club. Friends of the Third World (FOTW) is a non-profit operated by Jim Goetz and Marian Waltz. Founded in 1972, it was initially formed as a fundraising project to aid the hungry. FOTW currently operates job training programs for foreign-born area residents and markets handmade crafts from 80 partner organizations in 35 countries. The organization is actively involved in the community and supports many multicultural groups and events, including the Three Rivers Art Center for Kids, International Village, Arab Fest, Welcoming Week, the Center for Middle East Peace and more.

Dan Kruse, Fort Wayne Sport Club, with Francisco Townsend, YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne

The Fort Wayne Sport Club is the second winner of the Welcoming Organization Award. Founded in 1927 by German immigrants, the Club strives to capitalize on the common language of football (also known as soccer in the U.S.) to provide a platform for people of all cultures to share their passion for the game as well as their love for their home countries. Every week from early April to the end of October, the Club brings residents from a wide variety of cultures and heritages together to participate in various activities, such as cultural food nights, dances, family game night, and the annual Schutzenfest.

Min Oo, Burmese Muslim Education and Community Center, and Ewelina Connolly, Amani Family Services

The Welcoming Fort Wayne Diversity Awards celebrate the achievements of exceptional immigrants and refugees, native community individuals, organizations and companies that have demonstrated a strong commitment to multiculturalism, and others who have shown dedication to creating a welcoming Fort Wayne community. The awards are presented by Welcoming Fort Wayne, a chapter of Welcoming America and an initiative of Amani Family Services.

“We are happy to honor these individuals and organizations who have done so much to welcome and include immigrants and refugees in the Fort Wayne area,” said Ewelina Connolly, CEO of Amani Family Services. “The Diversity Awards celebrate the winners, but the event also provides the opportunity for us to let immigrants and refugees know they are a valued part of our community.”

Other individuals and organizations nominated for the Diversity Awards include: Three Rivers Art Center for Kids or TRACK, Friends of Afghanistan, So Min Oo, Win Tun Nyunt, Lahmay Moo, Dr. Mieko Yamada, Yin Yin Moe, Cynthia Villanyueva, Sarah Castillo, Marian Waltz and Dorothy Kittaka.

The Title Sponsor for the event was the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, and the Presenting Sponsor was Ivy Tech Community College – Fort Wayne/Warsaw. Supporting sponsors included Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County.

Supporting organizations included: Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County, the City of Fort Wayne, East Allen County Schools, Fort Wayne Community Schools, Fort Wayne Metropolitan Human Relations Commission, Friends of the Third World, Language Services Network, Multicultural Council of Fort Wayne, Parkview Health, Purdue University Fort Wayne, St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, Wellspring Interfaith Social Services and YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne.

Welcoming America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that leads a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by ensuring everyone belongs.