Welcoming Fort Wayne Awards honor contributions of area immigrants and refugees

This year’s Welcoming Fort Wayne awards, supported by the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, honored two individuals and one organization that work to make the Fort Wayne community welcoming to everyone, especially immigrants and refugees.

The Lifetime Achiever Award was presented to Dorothy Kittaka to honor her lifetime dedication to welcoming international students, immigrants, and refugees to Fort Wayne, embracing various individuals and cultures, and celebrating the cultural diversity of Fort Wayne. Dorothy moved to Fort Wayne in 1978 because her late husband’s company transferred 30 families to Fort Wayne for the Central Soya Company.  As a music teacher, performer and co-founder of FAME, Dorothy has created numerous opportunities in bringing multicultural arts to all students in Allen County.

Hthamay Paw was honored with the Emerging Leader Award. As an outreach coordinator for Amani Family Services, Paw uses her voice to advocate for the local Burmese/Karen community to ensure their needs are met. She also dedicates her time volunteering for Fort Wayne Sister Cities, Human Library and Professors and Pathways at Purdue University Fort Wayne.

The Welcoming Organization Award was presented to Neighborhood Health. For more than 50 years, Neighborhood Health has been one of the leading community health centers in the Allen County region. Over the years, Neighborhood Health has expanded its services and locations to help bring health equity to the community, especially for people of color and immigrants and refugees.

The St. Joe Foundation’s Executive Director, Meg Distler, was nominated for the Lifetime Achiever Award for her work to help establish the Burmese Advocacy Center and continued efforts to increase the number of trained interpreters and translators in the community.

The nomination stated, “Meg follows the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, the priorities of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, and her own heart when reaching out to make Fort Wayne a more welcoming community for immigrants and refugees.” The Welcoming Fort Wayne awards celebrate the achievements of exceptional immigrants and refugees, native community individuals, organizations, and companies that have demonstrated a strong commitment to multiculturalism. The awards are presented by Welcoming Fort Wayne, a chapter of Welcoming America and an initiative of Amani Family Services.