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Salvation Army Honors Longtime Community Philanthropist, Visionary, Influencer Lena Kennedy

Published on Friday, June 9, 2023 | 6:36 am

Lena Kennedy with Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo at Salvation Army Pasadena Tabernacle Corps’ 56th Annual “Others” Awards Luncheon on June 8, 2023. [Eddie Rivera/Pasadena Now]
Lena Kennedy was honored Thursday at the Salvation Army Pasadena Tabernacle Corps’ 56th Annual “Others”  Awards Luncheon before a packed ballroom at Noor Event Center. 

The Salvation Army traces the origins of the “Others” Award to 1912 when its founder, General William Booth, transmitted a succinct Christmas message consisting of a single word: “Others.” This longstanding award, established in the same year, venerates civic leaders and institutions who, through their exceptional endeavors, have emerged as shining exemplars of unwavering commitment to community service.

Kennedy’s brother was the late City Councilmember John J. Kennedy.

Numerous local leaders were on hand to honor Kennedy, including Mayor Victor Gordo, Vice-Mayor Felicia Williams, Councilmember Tyron Hampton, and Councilmember Jessica Rivas, along with City Manager Miguel Márquez, Fire Chief Chad Augustin, and representatives from the offices of State Senator Anthony Portantino, and State Assemblymember Chris Holden.

Following a vocal performance of Miles Davis’ and John Hendricks’ “Four,” by Zuri Alexander, Mayor Gordo said, “Lena represents a legacy in Pasadena, and that’s the Kennedy family, including our friend (former councilmember) John Kennedy.”

“I never cease to be amazed at where she pops up,” he continued. “Suddenly I’m at an event, and someone will say, ‘Oh yes, Lena put this together.’ Or, you’re looking at pictures of presidents of the United States, and there’s Lena.”

Echoing his familiar theme of Pasadena being “The center of the universe,” Gordo said, “We often talk about the great institutions and our great history in Pasadena, and how we have become such a great place, but I always remind people that it’s not the institutions, it’s not the history, it’s the people, it’s the individuals who took the time to make this a special place. It’s people like Lena Kennedy, who serve others.”

Following her grateful reception of her award from Salvation Army Majors Roy and Paula Wild, Kennedy opted to sit in her spot at the lead table and address the crowd from there. 

True to the name of the award, she thanked dozens of others for their help in her work, including her brother John, of whom she said, she “thinks about every day.”

She acknowledged the work of the Salvation Army, saying, “I think about how many lives you impact everyday, and give them the opportunity to reach for the moon and the stars. Your housing programs, your food programs, your women’s shelters, make a space for people to have dignity. The God that guides you is the God that I serve.”  

Kennedy is currently the president and CEO of L. Kennedy and Associates consulting firm, and serves as CEO of Community Women Vital Voices, a nonprofit organization that specializes in community building strategies, philanthropic consulting, women’s and children’s health, and leadership development. Her 38 years of consulting include collaborating with numerous corporate executives, city governments, and local state and federal elected officials.

In addition to her consulting work, Lena has an extensive history in serving on various boards, including the Kennedy Center for the Arts, the Pasadena Arts Council as national vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, Pasadena NAACP, Pasadena Playhouse Diversity Committee, as well as the Community Health Alliance Of Pasadena, just to name a few.

Kennedy closed the event by reading from a poem by Mother Teresa, which read, in part, “People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them, anyway.

“If you are kind, people may accuse you of being selfish, or have an ulterior motive. Be kind, anyway.

“If you are successful, you will gain friends, and I promise you, you will have a lot of enemies. Succeed, anyway.

 “If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest, and frank, anyway.”

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