President’s message for 2020
NIA’s 2020 history was marred by the limitation in gathering due to Covid 19. However, before the
lockdown., NIS held the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday committee service which was held at the
McKinley arts and Cultural Center. As is tradition, the event encompassed music, multifaith prayers and
reflections and the presentation of the Onie Cooper Humanitarian award which went this year to
Bernice Matthews, a long time resident of Reno and Nevada. Mrs. Mathews was recognized for her
many, many contributions including former state senator and administrator of higher education.
Receiving the award, Mrs. Mathews admonished the audience to do more to support and mentor the
youth of our community who are the promise of the future. She added to her spotlight moment by
sharing her wit and charm, delighting the audience with her comments.
In place of the Nevada Prayer Breakfast, a unique prayer service program, presented remotely from
each participant’s home or place of worship, was crafted together and presented. It was noted that the
number of viewers for this first ever virtual experience was considerable. Our Coordinating Council
members, Rabbi Ben Zober and Rev. Matthew Fisher’s technical skill enabled NIA to present this
outreach to the community during this stressful time on Facebook.
The official election of officers took place. Pastor Sara Johnson was elected president, Pamela
Kellerstrass as secretary, and Patricia Meidell, past present, as treasurer. Father Chuck Durante was
elected to the Council replacing Sean Savoy who resigned from the Coordinating Council but who
remains as the liaison in our partnership with the Renown Spiritual Center and technical advisor to NIA
as needed for events.
Following the state mandated restriction for socially distancing and the ability not to gather, the annual
Thanksgiving Program was remotely filmed for each participant and crafted together for presentation on
Facebook by the assistance of JB Benna. Father Chuck Durante was the featured speaker with his
message entitled, “One in Origin, One in Healing” and Father William Stomski presented the history of
the Thanksgiving holiday. Musical numbers graced the program. Galena High School President, Taylor
Pickett, was the youth participant and represented the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
In all, 2020 was challenging for each council member’s religious affiliation. The coordinating council
missed the camaraderie that we share by coming together in fellowship and support as a group.
“Zooming” became our communication medium as we strived to keep the momentum of NIA going.
The holding of a youth leadership conference was out of the question but due to our guest speaker’s
availability for the 2019 event, it was held February 2020 before Covid 19 hit with all its closure and
restrictions. We are hoping to get back on track in 2022 with another Youth event.
Due to the added pressures of work during the Pandemic, as well as family and health issues, Pastor
Sarah Johnson requested to remain on the Coordinating Council but to relinquish her position as
President. A special meeting of the Coordinating Council was held and an interim president was
appointment until next year’s election in April. Past president, Pat Meidell, agreed to resume the
President’s duties until that time when Father Chuck Durante was proposed to full that position in our
regular election year.
Submitted by Pat Meidell, President