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”Emotionally difficult” are the words Jeffrey Richardson uses to describe the 33rd Anniversary Leadership Awards for the Gertrude Stein Democrat Club, of which he is president.
Difficult because noticeably absent during the Oct. 29 event at the Women’s National Democratic Club will be Desi Deschaine. He was a Stein Club member who worked as the director of communications for Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), just 29 when, on July 14, he died in a drowning accident in Baltimore.
To honor Deschaine, whom Richardson credits for getting him involved in the Stein Club, the organization has created an award in his name: The Desi Deschaine Young Democrat of the Year Award, an idea that belongs to Lee Brian Reba, a Stein Club member who met Deschaine eight years ago when the two were working on former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams’s re-election campaign.
”Desi was a quintessential public servant,” Reba says.
”He never turned anybody down. He was always there for you. That’s what I’d like to think that this award will speak to in the years to come when Gertrude Stein selects other individuals to accept this award.”
Accepting the award on Oct. 29 will be Deschaine’s parents, Philip and Linda.
“I knew that this was an award that they would be honored to receive, but also receiving this award is part of the healing process for them.”
Richardson says the honor will help keep Deschaine’s legacy alive by honoring a young Democrat with similar enthusiasm. This year, a special recognition will be given to Brian Watson.
”Brian is a living example of what was so special about Desi,” Richardson says. ”He has worked at Transgender Health Empowerment and has worked with others in starting the Wanda Alston House, something that is so unique, so special and so needed for LGBT youth who are put out into the street.”
Other honorees include Hilary Rosen, to be honored with the Wanda Alston Democratic Service Award; Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), as this year’s Justice Award recipient; former Stein Club President Mario Acosta-Vélez, with the Heil-Balin Community Service Award; and Courtney Snowden, honored with the Richard Rausch Equality Award, named after a founding member of the Stein Club, who died in 2007.
”I’m still floored by the acknowledgement,” Snowden says. ”Richard was such a force in the community. He was well known, but he also kept his head down and did the work. To be honored with an award in his name is incredibly humbling, because he had years doing this work and I feel like in some ways I’m still just a baby in this movement.”
The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club 33rd Anniversary Leadership Awards is scheduled for 6:30-8:30 p.m., on Thursday, Oct. 29, at the Women’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Ave., N.W. Tickets are $75. For details, visit steindemocrats.org.