On October 29, 2020, we lost Danitza, Director of our Family Support Center in Adelphi for nearly 20 years. It seemed impossible that a light that shined so bright, that gave light to others, that reflected off of everything around her like the sea in dazzling sunlight, could have possibly been extinguished.
Last spring, when COVID was new, and we were all working from home, trying to find our way through the fear of the unknown, I struggled a lot, as everyone did. Then in April 2020, PGCRC got called upon to manage a massive food distribution at Cool Spring Elementary School. Every Thursday during May and June, Danitza and I coordinated volunteers, tents, police serving as traffic guards, and arrival of up to 1200 boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables.
A thousand times I have thought about how I LOVED that time with her. It was early days of the Pandemic, and I was anxious about being out in the world. But I remember being with Danitza for the first time (after not really being with anyone for two months!) and my spirits immediately lifted. She had this joyful, humble presence that made everyone feel seen. What I remember most? Her nails were painted and amazing, just like always. Somehow the normalcy of Danitza’s beautiful nails gave me a little courage.
When we lost Danitza last October, we talked a lot about how her legacy would live on. Now that she has been gone a year, I want those who loved her to know that it was not just something we said. It is real. She poured herself into the staff she led, and they are pouring into others. All of her colleagues – both at PGCRC and in partnering organizations – were impacted by her, and I see evidence of it all the time. I want those who didn’t know her to understand that they missed out on knowing one of the very best people.
If you have any connection to PGCRC, you are getting a little piece of her. She made all of us better.
We announced earlier this year that PGCRC will hold an annual Danitza Simpson Symposium for Community Engagement. There was no one more gifted at serving, celebrating, and advocating for her community. We want to continue to learn from her, and as soon as we can do it safely, we will schedule and share the date.