South Florida childcare pioneer Irma Hunter Wesley received The Jim Moran Foundation Award for 2004 yesterday from Jim Moran, the organization's founder and honorary chairman of automotive company JM Family Enterprises and his wife Jan Moran, chairman and president of The Foundation. Wesley received the award for lifetime achievement and community service at a special ceremony held at the African-American research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale. Guests who gathered for the ceremony included community leaders, friends, family, co-workers and proud parents of children in Wesley's care.
Wesley was honored for her work as executive director of the Irma Hunter Wesley Ft. Lauderdale Child Development Center (the Center) for more than 30 years. In recognition of her many accomplishments on behalf of children and families, Wesley received a $25,000 non-restricted grant that she has designated to the Center as well as an engraved bronze sculpture of a child.
"I respect you so much for what you've done and I congratulate you," said Jim Moran. "She's dedicated herself for over 31 years to children. What she's done for the kids in this community is something that very few people have ever done. We are so pleased and so proud to be able to do this for her."
"Thank you for choosing me to receive this prestigious award," said Wesley. "This sculpture will always remind me of my mission. I did it out of my heart and never thought I'd receive an award. The $25,000 will help the Center to buy books that will enhance the reading and literacy program at our school. We'll also buy some playground equipment and other materials that will enhance the children's development."
Wesley, 64, has been executive director of the Center since she founded it in 1973. Under her leadership, the facility is dedicated to developing children through tender loving care. It has been praised for its innovative programs that help children at a very early age to develop skills that provide a base for reading and writing in later years and that provide therapeutic intervention for abused, neglected and drug-exposed children.
In 2000, Wesley received JM Family's prestigious African-American Achiever Award in the Health and Family Services category. Previously, the City of Fort Lauderdale proclaimed April 1st to be Irma Hunter Wesley Day. She has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Nova University and a certificate in Early Childhood Development from Florida Atlantic University. A resident of South Florida for more than 40 years, Wesley currently lives in Fort Lauderdale and is married to Sylvester G. Wesley. They have five children and six grandchildren.
The Jim Moran Foundation Award honors individuals who have an established history of giving back to their community through active service and personal commitment. The honoree must exemplify the characteristics of the mission of The Foundation, reflect proven accomplishments that address real community needs and/or concerns and exhibit a spirit that inspires and encourages others to embrace civic and charitable responsibility in meeting the needs of their community. The award selection committee is comprised of the Governance Committee of The Jim Moran Foundation.