The Morgantown Human Rights Commission will be spotlighting local residents and organizations that exemplify the spirit of diversity and human rights in the community with their annual Human Rights Day Awards. The award winners for 2021 will be Bob Pirner for the individual award and Milan Puskar Health Right for the group/organization award.
The awards will recognize contributions toward helping to make Morgantown a more inclusive community and to protect the human rights of all. The awards will be presented on December 7th at 7 p.m. during the Morgantown City Council meeting.
Award recipients will be speaking at a special ceremony on December 7th at 7:30 pm inside of the Monongalia Arts Center (MAC) on High Street; masks are mandatory. A Facebook live event will be streamed via the Human Rights Commission’s Facebook page (Facebook.com/MorgantownHRC). The community is invited to view the event online and celebrate Human Rights Day as well as the award winners. Reverend Zac Morton of the First Presbyterian Church of Morgantown will be the keynote speaker, and the award recipients will be recognized and will speak briefly about their experience.
Bob Pirner, a U. S. Navy veteran, is originally from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota and is one of an estimated 5,000 fluent speakers of the Lakota Sioux language. He has spent 32 years in West Virginia working to help people with disabilities find independence. Bob has made many contributions to human rights and community service organizations for many years. During his time as the Development Officer at SteppingStones, an organization that utilizes recreation as a means of helping people with disabilities, he was instrumental in the organization’s expansion. After his recovery from cancer in 2009, Bob then went on join PACE Enterprises, which helps disabled jobseekers find employment through evaluation, training, and placement, as their Director of Development. He is a co-founder of Operation Welcome Home, which offers employment resources and other services for military veterans, and Miracle League Baseball, which serves disabled children and adults who are excluded from conventional baseball leagues. Bob’s Lakota mentors taught him to see the good in everyone, even when it’s hard to see. His ethic of service to human rights has led him to work hard on disability issues, youth development, Native American causes, economic development, and community organizing.
Milan Puskar Health Right was founded in 1984, based on the belief that basic health care is a human right. What began as a “treat and street” clinic, has become a full-scale primary care clinic addressing physical, emotional and behavioral health needs and providing harm reduction/syringe access to some our most vulnerable citizens. Milan Puskar Health Right also operates two mental health recovery drop-in centers in Monongalia and Marion Counties (Friendship House and Friendship Fairmont) with an emphasis on peer recovery support and linkage to needed services as well as activities to strengthen recovery, self-esteem, and general well-being.
The purpose of the Human Rights Day Awards is to acknowledge outstanding works taking place in Morgantown and those who put forth the effort to make a difference and working toward the global purpose of Human Rights. These award recipients have provided outstanding leadership in the support and advocacy of human rights and have enabled the city to become a more inclusive community.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a shout across the world by the leading countries in the world, stating loud and clear that no matter where we live, what we believe, or how we love, we are each individually deserving of the most basic respect for human needs. Every year Human Rights Day marks conferences around the world dedicated to ensuring that these ideals are pursued, and that the basic Human Rights of every person is made a priority in the global community.
ABOUT THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
The purpose of the Human Rights Commission is to provide leadership for addressing community interaction and fairness concerns. It works to ensure that the City is not only providing services, but maintaining ways in which a community can live together inclusively, functionally, and justly despite differences, complexities, and conflicts. The Commission focuses on stewardship and service, but also on the quality of community life and the protection of the community from preventable unfair damage to the lives of individual citizens and families.