LOVE Awards 2021: Editor’s Awards
Three incredible neighbors who leveraged their creativity, relationships, and kindness to make Philly a better place in an unprecedented year.
The LOVE Awards are always a favorite time of year— it is so rewarding to help readers take advantage of all Philly has to offer, from events to great resources that help make our jobs as parents a little easier. Our brand started with a desire for connection, and we are so grateful that thousands of you in our community group continue to share your lives, struggles, celebrations, and advice with us.
But now, they will also have a strange asterisk. We met back in February 2020 to decide on last year’s winners, poring over heartfelt testimonies, having some spirited discussions, and looking forward to our annual celebration at World Café Live. You’re in the future also, so you know how that story ended. We canceled our party and our Best For Families guide, as everyone scrambled to become homeschool teachers, Zoom experts, and mask seamstresses while keeping our brands going. The 2020 LOVE Awards were an online affair, with our Founder and CEO Sarah Bond virtually “presenting” plaques to some of our winners on our social media channels. For 2021, we are anticipating the reverse: decision meetings were over Zoom, but we look forward to a creative in-person pivot for the celebration (stay tuned)!
Now there’s a word that got used in 2020: “pivot.” We’ve exhausted words like that—and of course “unprecedented”—to try to sum up and make sense of a pandemic that transcended language, and that words truly fail to capture. 2020 was a year of loss and hope, of isolation and connection.
Because 2020 was such a unique year, our LOVE Awards covering that year are also unique. We added categories to reflect creative endeavors that helped us get through the year, such as “Virtual Birthday Party,” “Online Children’s Programming,” and “Outdoor Dining.”
We also made the decision to forgo Parent of the Year awards this year, for the simple reason that we are all Parents of the Year. With limited in-person school, events, and playdates parents were our kids’ whole freaking year. And in a year that was devastating for parents—particularly mothers, who disproportionately left the workforce to take on added childcare and schooling responsibilities—you are Parent of the Year just for surviving.
Instead of big events in 2020, we found ourselves covering virtual events and highlighting ways local businesses and community members stayed connected and helped one another through the darkness. There were so many inspiring examples, and I am grateful to have such incredible neighbors who leveraged their creativity, relationships, and kindness to make Philly a better place. Without further ado, here are just three picks for special recognition.
“I want to send a message to the community that we are all united. I want more and more people to get involved.”
Broken windows can be fixed—broken hearts will take a lot more work, at every level, to enact meaningful change. In the wake of last summer’s riots that followed nationwide protests reacting to the murder of George Floyd, artist Samuel Rodriguez decided to take the property damage and turn it into a way to inspire, communicate, and beautify the city. His Walls for Justice initiative worked with local businesses affected by the protests who wished to use their storefronts as canvases to support for the movement and spread messages of unity. Read our story here.
“I am so honored to be able to help make [kids’] dreams come true – and it’s all about bringing joy and light into their lives. During the COVID crisis, I wasn’t going to let that joy be taken away. It wasn’t a question of would I keep doing this, but instead was a question about how could I pivot and do it an entirely new way.”
If we told you in 2019 that a 21+ swim club would be descended upon by tiny princesses with facemasks, you would have a lot of questions. But like Queen Elsa herself, Aisha Maria Loeks knows how to make some real magic when all seems lost. Loeks partnered with Germantown Garden Grill to have outdoor Snow Queen brunches in their poolside igloos, a pivot as popular as it was brilliant. She also continues to run her nonprofit branch and volunteers her time with free virtual storytimes for local nonprofits like the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. Read our story here.
“I never saw it as a dream for myself, because I never thought we could do it, but he inspired me that we could.”
In November 2019, Chiquita’s Pizzeria—named for Christa and Adolfo Estrada’s two little girls—opened in South Philly. By March 2020, an unprecedented global pandemic would force it to pivot and adapt. Despite hard times, the Estradas have not lost their sense of community and gratitude, and giving back is always their way. Despite their new status and lack of access to COVID assistance, they were able to hire additional workers, and supported those workers in hard times. Chiquita’s also participated in the donation-driven Fuel the Fight initiative to provide free meals to healthcare workers at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Jefferson University Hospital, including gift cards with their deliveries. Read our story here.