Chester Benton and Dee Petty


Board Member Donelda (Dee) Petty Retires

The First Recipient of the Diane Middleton Foundation
"Lifetime Achievement Award"
(Published July, 2003)

Dee began her career as a union organizer. In 1978 she became a community organizer with the Barton Hill Neighborhood Organization based in San Pedro.

She understood that an organization had to be built from the ground up and frequently took to the streets of San Pedro passing out flyers, attending home meetings and generally rallying the community around issues from welfare rights to elimination of low cost housing.

Understanding that the road to self-sufficiency could not be taken without a strong economic foundation, BHNO formed the Shipshape Housecleaning Services which provided jobs for many women that were considered unemployable either due to a language barrier or lack of transportation. Dee also developed Project Mobility, a program to help women transition from welfare to work.

During the last few years of her career, Dee worked to place residents from the Harbor Area in jobs with the Alameda Corridor Project. This resulted in many people gaining careers in the construction area.

There are thousands of folks like Dee across the country who do "good works," but that is not why we honored Dee. Rather, it is her understanding of the need for fundamental change in an economic system that allows billionaires to prosper while millions of working people see their standard of living decrease.

Dee dedicates her life to bringing people together. Her organizing knows no bounds of age, sex, or color. Her greatest strength is her never-ending struggle to develop the leadership of everyone around her. She doesn't just work harder than anyone else; she convinces us we can bring about change.

When our Board gathered to present Dee with her award and a check for $5,000, Board member Justine Arian noted, "Dee has been an inspiration to me. I have watched the impact she has on people's lives and it strengthens my resolve to make a difference." Dave Arian, Board member and former International President of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union stated, "There is a lot of ugliness in the world. Dee sets a good example of what it means to be on the right side of issues."

The world needs more people like Dee Petty. We salute her lifetime of commitment, caring and, most of all, struggle for change.

Dee has retired from the Barton Hill Neighborhood Organization but she will never retire from fighting for a better life for all working people.

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