Sue Wexler, director of Bread of Life Food Pantry, Rye Neck High School senior Clara Reis, who works to support areas of Southern Westchester through the Key Club, and Paulina Tepan, a Rye High School senior and president of the Be the Change Club are the recipients of the 2023 Rye Human Rights Awards.
The winners, who received their awards at the Rye City Council meeting on Jan. 24, are an adult and two teens but all share a passion for feeding the hungry. The award honors those who have made a significant contribution to promoting human rights and relations. Winners from Rye and Rye Neck are recognized.
Bread of Life, organized to provide food and essential goods to those in need, has done important work, particularly with low-income seniors. More than 25 percent of Bread of Life’s food recipients are seniors.
“Unfortunately, they are one of the most forgotten groups of people in our society,” Wexler said. “Many of them struggle with health issues, loneliness, and do not have enough money to pay their bills or buy food.”
As Key Club president, Reis helped raise $260,000 for the polar plunge supporting the Special Olympics. She also works on the food drives that are part of the club’s mission.
“I started my missionary work in Mexico at a very young age with my family,” Reis recalled. “We would go and spend weekends in less-privileged villages and spend time with families. It was always an eye-opening and rewarding experience to be part of this initiative. It taught me about gratitude, service to others, and the value of community work.”
Tepan previously was honored with the Rye Youth Award for her work on inclusivity as the president of the Be the Change club, which works to create a welcoming environment at Rye High School.
“It’s important to have a positive environment at school for each student’s success,” Tepan said. “Putting in the effort to be kind to someone you don’t know, or reaching out to someone who’s struggling, can make a big difference in their life.”
Another way Tepan connects with others is through baking. “I began posting dessert recipes on my Instagram blog in 2020, and, shortly after, began selling my baked goods through my baking business, Sw33t Brand,” she explained. “I also bake for the Bread of Life food pantry, preparing roughly 150 servings of baked goods to include in their bags. Baking, though it began as a passion to me, has branched out into a means to connect with my community.”
Receiving this award has reinforced her love for Rye’s community, Tepan added. “I’m honored to represent Rye’s youth and hope to inspire more children and teens to share their passions with their community to make a positive impact.”
Paulina Tepan, Sue Wexler, and Clara Reis