2009 Commonwealth Individual Award Winners

10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania has bestowed its prestigious Commonwealth Award on a state representative who advocated for Pennsylvania's "Elm Street" program and the CEO of a Harrisburg non-profit that has contributed greatly to the capital city's growth.

The Commonwealth Award for Contribution by a Public Official was won by Pennsylvania Representative Robert Freeman, D-Easton. Freeman wrote and sponsored the legislation that established Pennsylvania's "Elm Street" project to revitalize existing neighborhoods and compliment the "Main Street" program that assists older commercial districts. Freeman is also being honored for his 20 year-plus legislative career as a strong advocate of "Smart Growth" policies.

The president and CEO of the Harristown Development Corporation, Russell C. Ford, received the Commonwealth Award for Contribution by a Citizen for his contributions to the development of downtown Harrisburg, as evidenced by numerous new and rehabilitated structures, including the Strawberry Square office tower, the Harrisburg Hilton, the Harrisburg Transportation Center and the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts. Ford, a former city planner, is being honored for his visionary leadership.

In addition to selecting Freeman and Ford for the Commonwealth Awards, a five-member panel of the 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania board of directors also recognized two others with special jury presentations:

Becky Bradley, the director of planning for the City of Easton, who is being honored as a public official for a revision of the city’s zoning and development ordinances. The new ordinances, developed after a two-year task force led by Bradley, rejects suburban-style development and promotes walkable neighborhoods, mixed use of properties and economic growth.

Christopher Bennick, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley, is being recognized as a citizen for his leadership in acquiring $3 million to purchase 17 acres near the top of South Mountain in Bethlehem. On that site, 27 single homes were constructed at half the market cost thanks to volunteer labor and donated or discounted building materials. In addition, 12 of the 17 acres consisting of wildlife and woods were preserved as open space in the development.