Alvirita Little Award

Alvirita Little contributed more than 50 years of professional and volunteer service in support of youth and families in Seattle. Her legacy of community involvement has been an inspiration to all of us at Therapeutic Health Services.

In 1988, in honor of her selfless dedication and tireless commitment, the Board of Directors of Therapeutic Health Services created the Alvirita Little Award. The award honors an individual or organization that has contributed continuously and selflessly to help at-risk children, youth, adults and families — especially those affected by chemical dependency and mental illness.

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Alvirita Victoria Wells Little (1913 -2006)

Alvirita Victoria Wells Little was an international advocate for youth and a nationally recognized Lay Leader in the United Methodist Church.  Little was born in Spring, Texas as the eighth of nine children to Charlie and Minnie Wells.  Born during extreme separate and unequal circumstances during segregation in the United States, Little through tireless volunteer work was relentless in serving the youth of her community and her dearly cherished United Methodist Church.

Building bridges for young people of diverse backgrounds and cultures was Little’s specialty.  In 1969, when parents of latchkey children contacted Little about the lack of activities for Seattle Central Area girls, she approached several rapidly expanding youth organizations, like the Boys Club, but was not able to convince them to include girls.  She gathered resources from personal speaking engagements, Boeing Good Neighbors Fund, Medina Foundation, Downtown Rotary, Seattle United Methodist Churches (UMC), and other organizations to incorporate a new Girls Club of Puget Sound organization to provide girls with needed services; eventually purchasing a building for centralized activities at one of the sites.

Upon retirement, Little transferred the ownership of the building and its programs to Seattle YWCA for the Girls, Inc. program which is a vibrant Seattle resource.  Additionally, “The Alvirita Little Center for Girls” on Martin Luther King Jr. Way remains one of a limited number of Seattle structures named after African Americans.  In 1988, the Alvirita Little Award was inaugurated by Therapeutic Health Services. The following  year the award was given to Mother Hale of NYC (for outstanding work with babies born with drug addiction), and other extraordinary individuals dedicated to helping youth achieve their goals.

Further, Little placed substantial efforts on visionary changes to increase funding for programs for boys while on the Board of the Seattle Council of Boy Scouts; earning her the Boy Scouts’ distinctive Silver Beaver Service Award.  During her reign as President of the University of Washington (UW) Foundation for International Understanding Through Students (FIUTS), Little championed international understanding, especially for youth, and was a major influence in establishing the FIUTS Host Family program which welcomed international students at the UW.  Over time, Little hosted over 218 students from 44 countries through the Foundation,  and received the Raymond Huff Award, the first Bishop Foundation Youth Leadership Award, the Frank Shigemura Award and the International Red Cross Humanity Award for outstanding efforts in creating global friendship and goodwill.

Little began her Christian work at age 17 when she formed a UMC Ladies Aid Society in Spring, Texas.  As an adult and the wife of a career military soldier, Sergeant Major Frank Little, she was deeply involved in the local Methodist Church wherever they were stationed.  In post-war Japan, she found a crucial role in rebuilding Methodist missions near Tokyo. Permanently stationed in Seattle and dedicated longterm to her church community, Little volunteered for the UMC at the local level, Pacific Northwest Conference, Western Region of the UMC, Western Jurisdiction of the UMC and at national level General Conference.  Her proliferous outstanding work at each of these levels is shown in the “Who’s Who in the United Methodist Church.  While working at national level, she Chaired the UMC Committee that determined UMC funding for the Historical Black Colleges.  Little’s work earned her numerous UMC Honors.   In 1986, she was one of the only 17 honorees still living to be chosen as 100 Most Influential Women in United Methodist Women’s History.

Alvirita Little Award Recipients

The Alvirita Little Award has been awarded 16 times since its inception in 1988:

Mother Hale of New York City for her work with drug-addicted babies.

The Alcohol/Drug 24 Hour Helpline for its all-volunteer crisis, information and referral service to the residents of Western Washington.

Senator George McGovern for his advocacy on behalf of individuals and families affected by chemical dependency.

Tsuguo “Ike” Ikeda for his contribution of over 50 years of professional and volunteer service to under-represented communities in Western Washington State, including 33 years as the Executive Director for the Atlantic Street Center.

Elizabeth Thomas, ARNP, for her leadership and advocacy on behalf of children and families and her work with children as a pediatric nurse practitioner with the Odessa Brown Clinic and Children’s Hospital.

Steve Pool of KOMO 4 TV for his advocacy and fundraising work to ensure that all children in the community have access to medical care, regardless of their financial situation.

Patrick Gogerty, former Executive Director of Childhaven, for his tireless and passionate advocacy on behalf of abused and neglected children.

Alan Sugiyama, founder and Executive Director of the Center for Career Alternatives, focusing on youth employment.

Dr. Maxine Mimms, founder of the Maxine Mimms Academies, a leader in a “transformative model of education” designed for underperforming students.

Patti Skelton-McGougan, Executive Director of Youth Eastside Services in Bellevue since 1997, for her work with at-risk, underserved youth.

Phil Smart, Sr., for his many years of philanthropic and volunteer service in Puget Sound, including over 30 years of reading to young patients at Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Constance Rice, a longtime civic volunteer and community advocate on behalf of youth in foster care and those with HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Dr. Carol Simmons, for her 35 years of service within Seattle Public Schools and for her tireless dedication as a community activist for quality education for all students.

Trish Millines-Dziko, realizing an unmet need within the public school system for rigorous, relevant technology training she founded Technology Access Foundation (TAF). TAF’s goal is to increase access to STEM education, especially among kids of color, girls and young women.

Mona Bailey, worked throughout thirty-two year career in public education, to promote equity and excellence for all students especially for those most at risk for not achieving their academic potential.

Justice Bobbe Bridge, Retired, is the Founding President/CEO of the Center for Children & Youth Justice, a nonprofit organization she created in 2006 to reform Washington State’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems. She served on the State Supreme Court from 2000 to 2008 and the King County Superior Court from 1990 to 2000, where she was Chief Juvenile Court Judge for three years.

Edith Chavers Elion, Executive Director of Atlantic Street Center, which under Edith’s leadership created programs and services for children, youth and families in areas of education, homelessness, family support, adolescent development, violence prevention and mental health.

Alvirita provided some great leadership here in this community without an enormous amount of notice. She just went ahead and did things.

Dan Evans, Former Washington State Governor

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