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Treva Wood Community Activist

Presented to an individual who has dedicated themselves to fight for the empowerment of the low-income members of our community.  This individual works tirelessly for the rights and the opportunities for success of each individual.


2019 Award Recipient: David Mathis

Mr. David L. Mathis is Mohawk Valley Community Action Agency’s 2019 Treva Wood Community Activist Award Winner.  A native of Utica, Mr. Mathis has strong roots throughout the community.  Currently he is the Director of the Oneida County Workforce Development Office where he oversees the coordination and administration of the Workforce Investment Act services and programs in Oneida County.  During the 33+ years that he has held this position Mr. Mathis has had the opportunity to touch many lives, and to bring them hope and opportunity.  Mr. Mathis’ influence has not been solely through his professional career, however.  He is a very active member of the community, having served as a counselor, mentor, board member, and advocate throughout his adult life.  His most recent achievements include serving on the Association of Community College Trustees Board of Directors as Vice-Chair, New York State Workforce Development Board of Directors, Mohawk Valley Community College Alumni Association Board of Directors President, Insight House Drug Treatment Center Vice-Chair, Hope Chapel AME Zion Church Board of Trustees Treasurer, Oneida County NAACP Treasurer, Stanley Center of the Arts Board of Directors, Upstate Health Center Board of Directors Treasurer, Oneida County Federal Credit Union Board of Directors Treasurer, and Utica College Young Scholars Selection Committee.

Mr. Mathis served on Mohawk Valley Community Action Agency’s Board of Directors from 2000-2008 and again 2010-2019 and served as Chair of MVCAA’s board from 2006-2008.  As a Board member, Mr. Mathis guided the Agency through multiple changes and substantial growth.  He guided the anti-poverty agency’s initiatives and was a true advocate for low income families and youth throughout Oneida County.  Mr. Mathis lives in Utica with his wife, the former Dorothy Liggins; they have 4 children, David, Darren (deceased), Denise, and Doreen, and they have six grandchildren.



Community Builder

This award is given to a business or group that has contributed unselfishly to the betterment of our community.  This business/group is involved in the local community and committed to making a difference.


2019 Award Recipient:  Dr. Joanne Joseph & Dr. Veronica Tichenor,

on behalf of SUNY PolyTechnic Institute

Dr. Joanne Joseph is a Professor of Psychology at SUNYPOLY where she instructs courses in both the Community and Behavioral Health and Psychology programs.  Dr. Joseph earned a BA in Psychology from Canisius College and a PHD from SUNY Albany.  She is the author a number of scholarly publications including the books: The Resilient Child and Voices of Resilience.   Dr. Joseph consults regularly with Sitrin Rehabilitation Center, and Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare Center.

Dr. Joseph is the recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Genesis Teaching Award, SUNY POLY’s Women Who Inspire award, the Chancellor’s Award for Service, The Robert J. Uplinger Distinguished Service Award, and the YWCA Salute to Outstanding Women Healthcare award.   She resides in Clinton, New York with her husband, Michael Moore.    The couple have three children, Dr. Catherine Moore, Dr. Jessica Moore and Mr. Alexander Moore and 8 beautiful grandchildren.



Dr. Veronica (Ronni) Tichenor is an Associate Professor of Sociology at SUNY-Polytechnic Institute, and the coordinator of its Community and Behavioral Health program. She received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan. Her teaching and research interests revolve around a wide range of dynamics in families and communities, as well as complementary and alternative healing modalities.  Her book, Earning More and Getting Less: Why Successful Wives Can’t Buy Equality, illuminates the conflicts and power dynamics in marriages where wives earn substantially more than their husbands.  More recent research examines the importance of motherhood and fatherhood in contemporary society, as well the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on a range of behaviors and health outcomes, including bullying and pregnancy complications.  Her research has appeared in the Journal of Marriage and Family, Gender and Society, and Sex Roles.  Dr. Tichenor is the recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellent in Teaching, a three-time recipient of the SUNY Poly Student Association Excellence in Teaching Award, and the SUNY Poly Women Who Inspire Award.  Dr. Tichenor has also participated in anti-racist work in the local community, as well as with Sociologists for Women in Society, an international professional organization for feminist scholars and activists.  Dr. Tichenor lives in Clinton with her husband, Dr. James Tichenor.  They have one daughter, Michael, who recently delivered their first grandchild, James.



Community Visionary

This award is given to an individual who has contributed unselfishly to the betterment of our community as a whole, and works toward the goal of ending poverty in our community.


2019 Award Recipient: Bill Phillips


Mr. Bill Phillips served the City of Utica for many years before succombing to cancer in March of this year.  A dedicated advocate for families, Mr. Philips was Councilman for the City of Utica’s 5th District for 11 years.  He served as the Chair of the Public Safety, Law and Judiciary Committee and sat on the Codes Committee and Recreation, Youth, Parks, Seniors, Veterans, and Education Committee.  Mr. Phillips worked tirelessly to improve not only his district, but the lives of the entire community.  While on the Council, he championed home ownership, community policing, park revitalization and infrastructure improvements.  A dedicated father and husband, Mr. Phillips was also a coach, grandfather, uncle and friend.   Mr. Phillips was a vocal advocate for youth, seniors, and veterans, and was most noted for his big heart and open door.  He prided himself on finding value in every single person he came across.  A true champion for the community, his legacy will continue for generations to come.




Community Achiever

Presented to a family or individual who has overcome poverty to become an active member of the community.  This family/individual has met their challenges with confidence, sought guidance and support, and is now actively creating a better life for their family and giving back to their community.


2019 Award Recipients:  Frances Davis; Jessica Mosca; Henrietta Osew


Frances Davis was born and raised in Utica, a 1991 graduate of Proctor High School.  She is the 5th of 7 children born to Sharon and Nelson Davis.  She grew up in subsidized housing.  She and her family moved out of public housing when she was in the 8th grade and moved to Cornhill.  After high school she moved to Atlanta, GA and worked 3 jobs there until she had her first child in 1994.  She was a single mother and had faced some obstacles which caused her to move back home to Utica, where she lived with her mother and father for a while.  In 1995, her mom purchased her first home, and Frances obtained her CNA certificate.  Frances worked at a local nursing home as a CAN for a year before moving into subsidized housing with her daughter.  In 2000 she became employed as a Customer Support Representative.  She was able to buy her first car and support her and her daughter, and she realized she was actually coming out of poverty. She obtained a better position at another local company, where she worked until 2016.  Due to scheduling restraints at this job and daycare time limitations, she had to leave her position.  She had to work temp jobs until February 1, 2018 when she was hired as a Housing Specialist at MVCAA, Inc.  Since being in this role, Frances may still face some challenges, but she has a job that accommodates her work and life situations while still allowing her to earn a steady income.  She has helped many elderly and disabled clients by going to their homes on the weekend and going grocery shopping for them.  Frances has helped walk-in clients purchase food by giving them money out of her own pocket, despite her own personal struggles. She goes above and beyond the call of duty for all her clients. She is always positive, helpful, and resourceful.  Frances is the proud mother of 2 children, Mariah and London.



Jessica Mosca has been a Head Start parent for two years. Her twin daughters, Kylee and Jolee, attended their moving on ceremony in June 2018, and the girls are now in kindergarten. She now has her son, Logan, in the MVCAA River Road Head Start Program.  Jessica was born into poverty, she and her mother lived in public housing until her mother gave birth to Jessica's terminally ill sister.  During this time Jessica, who was 6 years old, spent a lot of time with family, and helped her mother take care of her sister, including feeding her through a feeding tube, until her sister passed away.  When Jessica was 20 she became pregnant with twins.  Even with the struggle of twin girls at home, Jessica continued to work along with the twins’ father, Kyle.  A year later she had a baby boy.  Now a mom of three, all in diapers, she still did her best to work full time while receiving little to no government assistance.  When her son was to start pre K she brought him to his yearly physical for school and was given the news that no parent ever wants to hear.  At this time her world was forever changed!  While the physician was doing a routine physical exam, he noticed something that did not feel right.  Within minutes Jessica and Logan were sent to Syracuse immediately due to a mass found in Logan's belly. After hours in Syracuse she found out he had bilateral Wilma tumors.  This is a cancerous tumor on both kidneys labeled stage five.  There was immediate chemotherapy every week and countless trips to Syracuse in the middle of the night due to high fevers.  Both Jessica and Kyle continued working full time.  Months later Logan had surgery to remove both tumors.  To date Logan has 3 chemotherapy appointments left and will receive what we hope will be his last scan.  The doctors, family, and friends remain hopeful, however, the last scan showed something on the images that can either be scar tissue or more of the mass.  Jessica and Kyle have faith this is not another tumor, but currently do not know.  After all of this, Logan has returned to his classroom.  Jessica is hoping to give him as much of a normal childhood as possible.  The teachers and children have all welcomed him with open arms.  Jessica works hard and to do the best she can to give all her children a good home.


Henrietta Osew has overcome many obstacles to provide a safe, nurturing home for her children, as well as, a bright future for herself and her family.  Ms. Osew and her family arrived in Utica last May with nothing but each other.  They had to leave everything they had behind in Ghana and were hoping to start fresh in a new country.  Her husband had a medical background in Ghana, but his degrees were not valid in the United States.  He enrolled in Utica College, attending classes in Syracuse to become a Nurse.  This meant a long commute and student loans.  Ms. Osew could not speak English and was a stranger in her new city.  She did not have a job and wasn’t able to go to school because she had to care for her 2 small children.  A friend from church referred her to MVCAA for help.  She was able to enroll her oldest child in Head Start at MVCAA’s River Road facility, and her youngest was enrolled in Early Head Start.  This meant that every morning her husband would drop her and the children off at the Agency early on his way to Syracuse, before the Agency was open, where Ms. Osew would read to the children in the waiting room until her oldest could go to class.  Then she would take the bus with her youngest back home, taking the bus back again to pick him up at the end of the day.  Ms. Osew didn’t stop there, however!  She enrolled at BOCES and took classes to obtain her GED.  She went on to receive her CNA, and she has obtained employment at a local nursing facility.  Ms. Osew continues to ensure that she and her family continue their education and has truly become a role model for all of us.  She has come a very long way in just 1 year. 




2019 Gala

9882 River Road, Utica, NY 13502 Phone: (315) 624-9930 DonateDonate