Announcing our 2024 Gala Honorees!

At the 25th Annual AFE Gala Celebration on Saturday, April 20, 2024, the Vaughan Family Changemaker Award will be awarded to Kizzy Williams, and local youth organization Young Futures will receive the Community Partner Award. The Business Partner award will be awarded to John Keal Music Company. Our Gala Honorees were selected for the deep impact they have had on the lives of Albany’s students and the vitality of Albany’s schools. Become an Honorary Committee Member or Sponsor to show your appreciation for our honorees and their work!

Kizzy Williams is a leading area chef, expert on southern cooking, entrepreneur and community activist and organizer. In 2014, Kizzy opened Allie B’s Cozy Kitchen and shared the family recipes taught to her by her mother with New York’s Capital Region. Her passion is cooking and serving people and Allie B’s reflects this passion. When people eat at Allie B’s, they leave feeling nourished – in both their bodies and in their souls. Kizzy’s passion for feeding and taking care of people has impacted Albany’s students in many ways. Hungry kids who stop by do not leave hungry – even if they can’t pay for their meal.

Kizzy’s mission to serve her community is embodied by the Allie B’s Thanksgiving Giveaway, which provides more than 2,000 meals annually on Thanksgiving day. To further provide for her community, Kizzy created The Cultural Center, a non-profit resource center located at 64 Quail Street in Albany. The Center is a community space, with a food pantry on site, that specializes in identifying the needs of a given population and providing access to the resources and knowledge available to remedy those needs.

The Cultural Center now includes the Three Sister’s Orchard at 313 Orange Street, a public fruit orchard where neighbors can experience nature within their own community and receive education on nutritional eating habits and sustainable food sourcing. Kizzy also recently opened Allie B’s Fresh Fruits and Vegetables on Clinton Avenue, a produce store open seven days a week in this food desert neighborhood. Kids who stop in might find themselves sampling and discovering a new fondness for snap peas, or bringing home a bunch of bananas.

Kizzy/Allie B has been the recipient of numerous awards and accolades for both her delicious Southern cooking, and her community service. AFE is thrilled to add to the list of Kizzy’s honors by presenting her with the Vaughan Family Changemaker Award, which recognizes individuals whose commitment to improving their community and providing opportunities to our students embodies the spirit of AFE’s founder – Theresa Vaughan.

Young Futures was founded by James Mitchell in 2015 as a Social Enterprise offering innovative after-school programs to over 500 families, nurturing children’s coping, communication, and leadership skills. In 2020, James shifted the focus of the program to teaching financial literacy through the youth-friendly medium of art.

Through Young Futures, financial literacy is demystified, giving youth and their families access to a future where financial empowerment and independence are the norm, rather than the exception. Young Futures and James Mitchell are honored for their work inspiring and empowering hundreds of Albany school children, through in-school, after-school, and extra-curricular programs.

“I was fortunate to take part in many of the Young Futures lessons this summer as a teacher in the Albany School District summer program. The content taught to the students was invaluable. Young Futures not only taught them about money management, but they got them thinking about their relationship with money and the future impact their positive or negative decisions can have.”

– Kelly McNabb, Special Education Teacher, Hackett Middle School

John Keal Music has served the Albany community for more than ninety years – and the school music community for almost as long! This award celebrates the tenth anniversary of John Keal’s partnership with AFE to repair and restore donated instruments at a significantly discounted rate, allowing AFE to place more than 600 instruments in Albany City Schools for music students to use. Even at the advanced high school level, more than 50% of Albany musicians use school instruments rather than buying or renting instruments. AFE’s partnership with John Keal – and the generous donors who share their instruments with us – has been essential to providing these students with high quality instruments to play.

The Gala will also feature a special toast to honor longtime outgoing AFE Board members Onnolee Smith and Barry Walston, who together have served AFE for more than 41 years.

Come to enjoy delicious appetizers from local chefs and restaurants and celebrate our amazing honorees, and stay to party with the fabulous DJ Trumastr! Honorary Committee Memberships and Sponsorships can be purchased now, general admission tickets will be available mid-March.