Houston is a growing city with vast opportunities. But amid our sprawling metropolis, there are people and places in need of help. That’s why eight city employees have made it their mission to make a difference in our city. And it’s why they each earned a Bravo Award at the Houston City Council meeting May 2.
“These are the best of the best,” said Council Member Jack Christie of the 2017 Bravo Awards winners.
An annual employee recognition program, Bravo Awards honor exemplary city employees who volunteer time outside of work to social causes.
Mayor Pro Tem Ellen R. Cohen and Vice Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Davis took turns introducing the winners, before presenting them with a framed certificate that recognizes their great accomplishments.
“Their sense of service doesn't stop when they leave the office,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Cohen. “They continue to serve through community outreach and helping those less fortunate.”
The eight Bravo winners volunteer more than 60 combined hours each month to better their communities. Whether it’s raising funds for victims of domestic violence, organizing youth activities, patrolling communities, or uplifting others with their faith, they constantly seek out ways to improve the lives of others. For this we say “Bravo” to each of them.
“Thanks to each and every one of you for your service to the city,” District J Councilman Mike Laster said to the awardees. “We are a better city for it.”
Meet your 2017 Bravo Award Winners:
Housing and Community Development
Deputy Director of Planning, Grants Management and Support Services
A child advocate, Brenda Arnold-Scott is a shining example of what it means to give back. Since 2014, her efforts have helped to put shoes on the feet of children in need through her Happy Feet Project, an annual back-to-school shoe drive.
Founder of the Children’s Therapeutic Outreach Program, Arnold-Scott organizes efforts to donate stuffed animals to agencies that counsel abused children. She also serves as a pastor, is active in women’s outreach, and provides guidance to nonprofits that support various social causes.
Houston Emergency Center
Senior 911 Telecommunicator
Cheryl Kelly’s heroic efforts helped save the life of a child and her siblings during a 911 call. Her reassurance and guidance helped to locate the children and brought calmness to an otherwise tragic scene.
Her kind spirit is well known at the Cathedral of Faith Baptist Church, where she teaches children’s Bible lessons. She also educates the public about 911 services, including language and translation services and text-to-911 technology.
General Services Department
Project Manager for Ddesign and Construction
As a volunteer deputy for the Harris County Sheriff's Office Reserve Command, Eric Rhoden patrols District 3 in East Harris County several days a week. His volunteerism ensures the safety of residents during welfare checks, domestic violence calls, vehicle accidents and much more.
Rhoden completed 13 months of training in the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Training Academy. He was among 25 of 300 applicants selected, and one of only 13 to graduate.
Deputy Assistant Director of Financial Reporting and Operations
For more than 25 years, Gloria Moreno has volunteered at St. Patrick Catholic Church teaching catechism classes. She also serves on the board of directors of Avenue 360 Health and Wellness, a nonprofit that improves health outcomes for patients seeking medical care and people living with the HIV/AIDS virus.
Moreno not only advocates for those in need, but she serves her community as a precinct chair for the Harris County Democratic Party, a member of the Second Ward Super Neighborhood and as co-founder of Pantsuit Republic East Harris County.
Municipal Courts Department
Division Manager, Public Information Office
A spiritual person, Gwendolyn Goins has been an active member of the Fifth Ward Church of Christ for more than 35 years. She has worked closely with the church’s Ladies Day Program, the Children’s Bible Hour, and assisted with youth groups.
Goins also mentors dramatic arts students, donates annually to University of Houston-Downtown Drama Department’s scholarship fund, and has served on UHD’s Board of Directors for Alumni Community Engagement. Recently, Goins spearheaded a local youth symposium.
Vital Statistics, Registrar
Kellen Sweny’s interactions with both internal and external clients have increased their access to vital services. Active in her church, she cares for children in the nursery, leads a Bible study, and serves on her church’s community outreach committee.
Sweny’s current cause, Movers for Moms, raises awareness for domestic violence victims. The nonprofit group relocates victims from dangerous situations. Sweny not only raises funds for this nonprofit organization, but also actively seeks donations of hygiene supplies for local women’s shelters.
Public Works and Engineering
Section Chief Operator, Wastewater
With a city career that spans two decades, Reginald Taylor is seen as a mentor. His passion for mentoring compels him to help overlooked communities. Every Saturday for the last 17 years, Taylor has driven to the Texas State Petitionary in Huntsville to lead the Prison Outreach Ministry. Taylor, who serves as a deacon at New Faith Baptist Church, also coordinates Date with Dads. The annual event aims to reconnect incarcerated men with their families.
For the past eight years, Taylor has helped an elderly acquaintance by driving him to church on Sundays. He also regularly visits him at his assisted living facility. Taylor’s faith guides his efforts to change lives for the better.
Assistant Director, Administrative Office of City Council
Vernita Jones is a vital asset to Houston City Council and its staff. When not managing the needs of Council, she’s busy volunteering at McGee Missionary Baptist Church. She provides sign language translation for the hearing-impaired at church services, serves on the usher board, is vice president of the Marriage Ministry, and serves as a church nurse.
In 2014, Jones helped design and implement the Council District Service Funds, which funds various council member projects including the installation of streetlights, the beautification of neighborhoods, after-school programs, and much more. Her commitment to her faith and family fuels her passion for public service.