Public service is often a thankless job. Even so, there are many who answer the call to service right here in Houston. They spend their days fielding calls from residents, serving as essential workers on the frontlines, or working in the background to keep our city running.
Among them are six city employees who stand out from the rest. These employees carry their spirit of service into the community, volunteering time outside of work to social causes and projects.
From ensuring sustainable practices and providing job search and training, to saving lives, mentoring youth, or creating spiritual connections, these six city employees go above and beyond in more than one way. That’s why they were chosen as 2020 Bravo Award recipients.
Bravo Awards recognize city employees whose volunteerism in the community and service to the city are making a positive impact in people’s lives. The awards are among the ways the city celebrates Public Service Recognition Week, celebrated annually in the first week of May (beginning on the first Sunday of the month) to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees.
This year the COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays in PSRW events, but recognizing city employees’ good work and dedication is important. All awards and events are proceeding on an adjusted schedule.
Here are your 2020 Bravo winners:
Jeremy Lahar, Sergeant, Houston Police Department
Jeremy Lahar believes in our youth. In 2017, he founded The Houston Prestige Project, a nonprofit organization that seeks to engage, encourage, and educate at-risk youth through mentorship. Lahar also volunteers his time to the Ascending to Men Project, mentoring students at Waltrip High School and Oak Forest Elementary.
In addition to his assigned workload, Lahar has devoted time to the development of five high-impact special projects: At-Risk Youth Mentoring, Badges and Bears, Feet on the Street, the Triple C Podcast, and a senior citizen interaction program. These programs provide much needed services to our city’s most vulnerable populations, at-risk children and the elderly. His volunteer work and role on the frontlines ensures the success of our youth, safe community environments for our elderly population, and the public safety and well-being of residents and communities.
Lynn Henson, Planning Manager, Planning and Development Department
For more than a decade, Lynn Henson has volunteered her time and talent to helping Houstonians. As a steering committee member for the Northern Planning Project, she helps with the strategic planning of community development in Third Ward. Most recently, she served as a board member for Project Houses, a nonprofit that enriches lives through art with an emphasis on cultural identity.
Henson’s passion for the environment shows in her volunteerism with Houston Urban Gardeners, the Last Organic Outpost, and the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, all nonprofits devoted to sustainable and environmental practices that are redefining the urban landscape. Her role for the city has helped to impact community programs, bringing in more than $1million in grant money, ensuring availability of essential services to under resourced Super Neighborhoods. Henson also serves as a community liaison, helping to create lines of communication between residents, the city, and community stakeholders.
Norma Meadows, Administrative Specialist, Office of Business Opportunity
Norma Meadows has a heart for serving others. She is currently the acting president for the Alves LaFleur Community Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to providing services to residents of Sunnyside, one of the neighborhoods in Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Complete Communities program. Through this organization, Norma and other members distribute food to residents, assist them with resume writing and job searches, and offer training to enhance their computer skills.
Since 2017 Meadows has volunteered as a member of the supervisory committee for the Houston Metropolitan Federal Credit Union. She performs audit functions, which ensures HMFCU improves the economic position and quality of life for City of Houston and Harris County employees. As project lead for the city’s Turnaround Houston Initiative, Meadows creates partnerships with other city departments and community stakeholders to help jobseekers who have had difficulty finding work with job training, resume writing, social service agencies, educational institutions and counseling. Recently, Meadows has taken the initiative to build out a virtual version of Turnaround Houston to serve the workforce development needs of Houstonians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rob Howelton, System Support Analyst, Legal Department
For the past 18 years, Rob Howelton has volunteered his time and video skills to The Church Without Walls, producing a weekly Sunday service broadcast that reaches thousands of its members. His volunteerism ensures the church’s message reaches those looking for spiritual guidance and prayer, but who are unable to attend services.
Howelton also volunteered his time to the Greater Houston Builders Association, helping to build and repair homes and buildings in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, Wounded Warriors, and the Mission of Yahweh. These nonprofit organizations provide outreach services, programs, and affordable housing to low-income families and injured veterans who might otherwise not otherwise have access.
Roger Brookes, Superintendent, Houston Public Works
Roger Brooks volunteers his time fighting fires. Since 2004 he has served as a volunteer firefighter with City of Cleveland. Brookes volunteers several hours, multiple days a week managing complex emergency scenes as an incident commander. In 2015, he was promoted to assistant fire chief. His selfless volunteerism has saved CFD over $100,000 a year for the last four years in personnel cost.
Brookes also provides fire safety, emergency scene management, and proper search and rescue training to CFD and surrounding fire departments. His knowledge of municipal and rural area water supply systems allows him to relay real experiences to an emergency scene. When Roger is not working at the fire station, he is an active member of the Liberty County Fire Fighter Association. He has also served as the CFD chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Fill the boot campaign, collecting over $8,000 in donations under his leadership.
Sharon Reese, Environmental Investigator, Health Department
Sharon Reese has a true passion for showing love and care to all. For the past 24 years, she has served in leadership roles with the Legion of Mary, a catholic volunteer association that provides prayer for the homebound and sick. Reese attends weekly meetings at the Fatima House in downtown Houston, where she prays with the homeless and organizes prayer and communion visits. Reese also leads groups that provide provides spiritual guidance to those suffering from illness and visits them in the hospital and in their homes.
Reese also volunteers with Project Saving Smiles, a partnership between the city, the Houston Health Foundation, and other community partners that work together to provide free dental screening and services to local at-risk second-graders.