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Rhonda Meister Named NASW Public Citizen of the Year


California advocate honored for her dedication to underserved and homeless

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is pleased to name Rhonda Meister as the 2007 Public Citizen of the Year for her advocacy on behalf of low-income children and families and those individuals who are homeless or at risk for homelessness.

For the more than 20 years, Ms. Meister has served as Executive Director of St. Joseph Center, a comprehensive provider of support services for those who are struggling to overcome poverty and achieve self-sufficiency.  She has tirelessly advocated on a local and state level on issues surrounding poverty and homelessness.

Under her leadership, St. Joseph Center has experienced remarkable growth, with a four-fold increase in staff and budget and the addition of six programs to help meet the increasingly complex needs of low-income families and homeless persons who rely on the Center’s services.  In the midst of this incredible change, Ms. Meister’s commitment to “planting hope and growing lives” has been unwavering.

Ms. Meister is also the preeminent voice on Los Angeles’ Westside for those who are poor and marginalized.  Ms. Meister has served as the Chair of the Santa Monica Task Force on the Homeless, working with the community to dispel myths and to bring more services to those who need it most.  After many years of involvement, she recently stepped down from the Executive Committee of the Westside Shelter and Hunger Coalition, which is a regional alliance of service providers and faith-based organizations that are committed to ending hunger and homelessness through service coordination, public education and advocacy.

“Underlying all of these various activities is Rhonda’s determination to uphold respect for the dignity of every individual,” says Judy Alexander, associate director of St. Joseph Center.  “Her energy and commitment are an incredible gift to her community, her staff and to the many poor and marginalized men, women and children that her efforts have served so well.”

To interview Ms. Meister, please contact NASW Communications at media@naswdc.org.  For more information about NASW, please visit www.socialworkers.org. For more information about St. Joseph Center please visit www.stjosephctr.org.

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About the National Association of Social Workers
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, D.C., is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with 150,000 members.  It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers.  NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

About St. Joseph Center
St. Joseph Center is an independent, non-profit 501 (c)(3), community-based organization whose mission is “to provide working poor families, as well as homeless men, women, and children of all ages, with the inner resources and tools to become productive, stable and self-supporting members of the community.” Although the Center was founded by and remains affiliated with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, it does not provide religious services or instruction and assists persons regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. The Center creates an environment that develops self-reliance and promotes action in people capable of becoming productive members of the community. The Center serves more than 6,500 individuals annually through 10 integrated programs and a Thrift Store, which offers used items for sale to the public and offers vouchers for free clothing and household goods to those in need.

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