Tag Archives: community service

A Lifetime of Civic Improvement: Honoring Libby Sharpe

Libby Sharpe

The Libby Sharpe Memorial Fund, established by Irwin Sharpe to honor his late wife, has made it possible for the League of Women Voters of New Jersey to continue doing the work that she valued most—training members to become leaders in the League; in the workplace; and in elected and appointed office.  The training materials she developed, and which were donated to LWVUS, were incorporated into the 2005 publication, “Citizens Building Communities: the ABC’s of Public Dialog.”

Libby Sharpe was brilliant, vivacious, hard working, and passionate about good government. When she spoke at a celebration of the League’s 75th birthday in 1995, at which she was honored for 50 years of community service, she described the League as “patient and tenacious.” She certainly was.

Libby age 17 or 18

Entering Hunter College at 14, she received a B.A. at 18, and earned an M.A. from the University of Chicago, studying sociology, political science, and economics.  Fresh out of school and attracted to the League by its role in changing the Federal Civil Service from a spoils system to one of merit appointments, she joined the Central Queens Branch of the League in 1944.

In the late 40’s she worked on local political reform in New York, helping expose the inefficiency and corruption of its yearly voter registration system. She was assigned to the Hell’s Kitchen area, where she investigated voter lists, finding that many names were listed as living in non-existent buildings or were people who had moved or died.

When she moved to West Orange in 1950, she immediately joined the League there where she held many positions, including the presidency, and remained active until her death. She worked as an educator and activist on many critical local issues. Among them was the form of West Orange’s government. The effort she and other League members began in 1957, first studying then advocating for a change from a Commission form to Mayor-Council form, was finally accomplished in 1968.

She also led the formation of the West Orange Campaign Ethics Committee and the establishment of a Code of Ethics that candidates for Council and the Mayoralty pledged (in front of a judge) to abide by, including campaign spending. This brought big changes in the tenor of local campaigns, which continues today.

She actively supported the United Nations and helped educate local citizens and political representatives in the 1950’s about the importance of international trade as a way to encourage global peace and help New Jersey develop.  She helped organize a League survey of 419 manufacturing firms in the 10th, 11th and 12th Congressional Districts to analyze the importance of foreign trade on jobs and growth in the State.

She also persuaded her League and PTA to join forces in raising money for UNICEF (the U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund). They converted half pint milk containers in school cafeterias into collection boxes to help children in war-torn Europe, an effort that preceded the ubiquitous orange “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF” boxes that many children around the country carried on Halloween for years.

After serving on the West Orange Citizens Charter Association during the effort to change the charter in the 60’s, Libby worked with the League to establish a town Department of Planning headed by a capable, certified professional planner.  She then served on the West Orange Citizens Advisory Committee and later on the Zoning Board of Adjustment from 1977-1985, working closely with the first town planners hired.

Libby worked as a marketing manager and as office administrator for the family’s consulting firm; and her involvement in the League and her community was a second, unpaid full-time job, her family being the first. She was a devoted wife to Irwin and raised four children—Kenneth, Bonnie, Peter, and Debbie—and eventually had four grandchildren. All were shaped by her involvement in civic affairs.

Libby leading a discussion group

Honored by the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, the town of West Orange (which declared a “Libby Sharpe Day”) and the New Jersey State Assembly in 1995, Libby was also commemorated by a resolution of the joint Senate and Assembly of the State of New Jersey when she died in 2003, for her more than half-century of public service through the League of Women Voters.

Libby rarely took the limelight in reform efforts.  She usually worked behind the scenes, working the telephones, mobilizing others, quietly convincing public officials of the soundness and decency of her arguments, and above all educating and training others to be leaders.  She often said that her proudest accomplishment was training women to be leaders in the League and watching them go on to hold elective and appointive public office and become leaders in other volunteer organizations and professions.

Libby’s lifetime of League and civic achievements serve as a model for all. Her selfless devotion to civic improvement encapsulates the best of the League of Women Voters and her memorial fund further extends her work for civil dialog and good government. The League is wholeheartedly grateful for both her service and the opportunity to continue her good work through this Fund.

Please consider visiting www.lwvnj.org or mailing a check to 204 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08608 to give a gift honoring Libby or any other person who has contributed much to the work of the League.

League member honored, shares story of Dr. King

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From  L to R: Gail Roberts, MLK committee member, Dion Davis, MLK committee member, Winnefred Rowell-Bullard, 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Recipient, Vanessa Jenkins, MLK committee member and Thomas Seddon, Superintendent of Schools, Gloucester Township Public School District and MLK committee member.

League of Women Voters of New Jersey member Winnefred Rowell-Bullard received the 2012 Community Award from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Committee of the Gloucester Township Public Schools. Congratulations to Winne on this well deserved honor. Her acceptance speech was incredibly moving and it is my pleasure to be able to share it with you (below).

It is with gratitude and appreciation that I say, “Thank You” to the members of The Gloucester   Township Public Schools Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Committee.  My heart is filled with, cherished appreciation, and unforgettable gratefulness because you have selected me to receive this prestigious honor.

Today, along with you, I, too, look back and reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr…

My reflection shows me when I was a college freshman attending Allen University, which is located in Columbia, South Carolina, Two days before going home for the Christmas holidays,  I along with 20 other college students participated in a non-violent, sit-in demonstration at a segregated movie theater in downtown Columbia. After paying for our tickets, we took our seats downstairs in the White only section. Immediately, we were told to go up stairs and sit in the Colored only section. We refused to leave our seats to go and sit in the Colored section. Then, harshly, we were told we would be arrested and taken to jail, if we did not sit in the Colored section. WE REFUSED TO MOVE. In addition, the TICKET ATTENDANT CALLED THE LAW. DURING THAT DECADE, LAW MEANT POLICE. WE SAT IN THAT WHITE ONLY SECTION UNTIL THE LAW CAME to take us to jail, but instead of being taken to jail, we were finger printed and taken to the state penitentiary- the  place for convicted criminals. We learned later that as soon as Dr. King received the word that twenty African American college students in Columbia, South Carolina had been taken to the State Penitentiary and locked up for refusing to sit up stairs in a segregated movie balcony in downtown Columbia, early the next morning, he traveled from Atlanta, Ga. to the State Penitentiary to have our finger prints exonerated and to set us free. From that remarkable visit, I never forgot Dr. King’s strong words, and I quote: “From this day forward, you will always be proud of yourselves, because you have taken a direct stand for social justice by demonstrating non-violently and peacefully against the social ills of inequality toward humankind. From this day forward, I want you to continue to take a stand and to advocate for social justice.”

After returning from dinner with Dr. King, we formed a big circle on campus, we asked Dr. King to stand in the middle of the circle, and then we sang together, loudly, WE SHALL OVERCOME. From that memorable day, and over the decades to follow, to this day, I have taken a stand for social justice and as a giver of knowledge,  my goals as an educator and as an instructional and community leader have been to make a positive difference in the lives of my students and others.  I remain active in many community service organizations such as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., South Jersey Alumnae Chapter, The League of Women Voters of Camden County, and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. Each of these organizations works  to offer community services for the betterment of humankind.( and I say thank you to some of the members who have come today to show support and to give congratulations).

In closing, I will forever cherish meeting Dr. King, listening to his strong, everlasting words, and becoming an advocate for social justice. Dr. Kings’ visionary dreams of social justice remain strongly prevalent today. Thus, I will continue my work in the community for the cause of direct action for social justice. Again, I thank the Gloucester Township Public Schools Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Service Committee for honoring my call to be a community advocate in the name of service for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

– Winnefred Rowell-Bullard

Statewide Voter Registration Weekend

Need to register to vote, change your address, or request a vote by mail ballot? The League of Women Voters of New Jersey will be out in communities around the state this weekend registering voters and answering questions! Find a drive near you:

Essex County

September 11, LWV of Maplewood – South Orange will be registering voters during Newcomers Day in Meadowland Park in South Orange from 1 pm – 4 pm.

September 11, LWV of Newark will be registering voters in Mildred Helms Park in Newark from 12 pm – 4 pm.

September 11, LWV of the Nutley Area will be registering voters at the Nutley Shop Rite from 10 am – 3 pm.

September 11 & 12, LWV of Montclair will be registering voters during the Fine Arts and Crafts Fair in Anderson Park in Montclair from 10 am – 3 pm.

September 13, LWV of Livingston will be registering voters during the Welcome of Livingston Picnic at the Livingston Senior Community Center from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm.

Bergen County

September 11 & 12, LWV of Teaneck will be registering voters at the Teaneck Stop & Shop from 10 am – 2 pm.

Monmouth County

September 12, LWV of Western Monmouth will be registering voters during Marlboro Day at the Marlboro Municipal Complex from 12 pm – 5 pm.

September 20 – 25, LWV of the Greater Red Bank Area will be registering voters all week at the Monmouth Mall in Eatontown from 10 am – 9 pm.

Middlesex County

September 11, LWV of Monroe Township will be registering voters at the Monroe Township Post Office on Perrineville Road from 10 am – 2 pm.

Mercer County

September 11, LWV of Princeton will be registering voters at the Princeton Library from 10:30 am – 4:30 pm and in Tiger Park from 11 am – 5 pm.

September 12, LWV of Lawrence Township will be registering voters at the Lawrenceville Farmers Market (16 Gordon Ave) from 9 am – 1 pm.

Camden County

(Tentative) September 11, LWV of Camden County will be registering voters at Shoprite in Cherry Hill from 10 am – 3 pm.

September 16, LWV of Camden County will be registering voters during naturalization ceremonies at the Federal Courthouse in Camden at 10 am.

September 22, LWV of Camden County will be registering voters at Camden County College in Camden from 12 pm – 2 pm.

September 29, LWV of Camden County will be registering voters at Camden County College in Blackwood from 12 pm – 2 pm.

Atlantic County

September 11 & 12, LWV of Atlantic County will be registering voters at the Shore Mall in Egg Harbor Township from 11 am – 5 pm on Saturday and 12 pm – 5 pm on Sunday.

Not sure if you are registered to vote or need to change your address? Now you can check for that information online!

More drives to be added soon, and don’t forget you can call the League of Women Voters of New Jersey at 1-800-792-VOTE with any of your voting questions!