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Two receive first community service awards

President Charles M. Vest presented awards for service to the Cambridge community to two individuals, one an MIT employee and one a member of the Cambridge community, at a reception in their honor last week.

MIT President's Awards for Community Service were given to Yvonne L. Gittens, associate director of MIT's Student Financial Aid Office, and Gordon N. Gottsche, executive director of Just-A-Start Corporation, a multi-service agency. November 22 was also proclaimed Cambridge Community Service Day at MIT by President Vest.

"The strong spirit of volunteerism and commitment to community service that is evident throughout Cambridge is the result of the ongoing efforts of citizens, elected officials, community organizations, businesses and academic institutions that have made community service a priority," President Vest said in his proclamation. The ceremony was hosted by President Vest and Rebecca Vest and the Office of Government and Community Relations at the president's house.

The President's Award for Community Service was established this year as an annual award. The recipients were chosen either on the basis of their dedication to enhancing educational and personal development opportunities for Cambridge youth, or as a result of their unselfish giving of time, talent, and resources to enhance the quality of life in Cambridge neighborhoods, according to the proclamation.

In addition to the two honorees, President and Mrs. Vest, Cambridge Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves, Cambridge City Councillor Jonathan S. Myers and Paul Parravano, MIT Assistant for Community Relations, all spoke at the awards presentation.

Ms. Gittens, a lifelong Cambridge resident, has volunteered in the community for more than 20 years serving on the Board of Trustees of the Cambridge Community Center, the Harriett Wigfall Scholarship Committee, the Western Avenue Baptist Church, the MIT Community Service Fund and the MIT Upward Bound Program. She has also been a member of the Riverside Neighborhood Planning Committee and the Cambridge African-American Heritage Trail Committee among a number of other groups. Commenting on how she got so involved in the community, Gittens said, "I just said yes one day and just like at MIT, it gets hard to say no."

Mayor Reeves commented that Ms. Gittens "has been the true glue that has kept the Cambridge Community Center alive."

Gordon Gottsche of Medfield established Just-A-Start, which has provided food, shelter and support for more than 130 teenage mothers and their children, given basic and remedial education to some 3,000 adults, and placed more than 500 teenagers in private sector jobs. Just-A-Start also has provided a support structure for 1,250 youth volunteers. Mr. Gottsche has served as executive director since 1968.

According to the resolution honoring Mr. Gottsche, his creative initiatives and strong desire to enhance employment and educational opportunities for Cambridge youth clearly distinguishes him as a role model. Although it is not a requirement that the award winner from the Cambridge community have a link to MIT, Mr. Gottsche is an alumnus with a Master of City Planning degree.

In addition to the award from President Vest, Ms. Gittens and Mr. Gottsche also received letters of congratulations from the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

A version of this article appeared in the November 30, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 13).

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