ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Longtime community leader Ruby Lockhart received the New York State Senate Commendation Award from state Senator Jeremy Cooney Friday.

A circle of friends, mentees, family, former co-workers and employees celebrated Lockhart during the ceremony held at the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Headquarters in Rochester.

Several speakers described her as a true community gem and fierce advocate with a cool, calm and collected demeanor.

“Qualities like decisiveness, integrity, honesty, dedication to good purposes, strong head for business and understanding that discipline is freedom,” remarked Connie Walker. Others noted her courage and described her as a good cook who gives the best hugs.

Lockhart who was born in Albany spent 23 years as a Labor Relations Specialist with NYSUT.

“Being a black woman in the 1970’s, when I started in the labor business, I was the only black female working in this position and negotiating on behalf of teachers. I loved it because I was always underestimated,” Lockhart said as she accepted the award.

She later served as the Executive Director of Garth Fagan Dance. She was a prominent business owner who’s store “All Day Sunday” in midtown Rochester also served as a refuge for young people.

“You made us believe in ourselves, you made us understand and accept that we don’t have to be anything else but ourselves be true to ourselves.” recalled Michelle Daniels who held up books about African American history and other books that she first discovered at Lockhart’s business.

“We didn’t have to pretend to be anything else we could be loved just by being us.” Daniels said.

Lockhart spoke about the pride she feels watching Daniels and other young people she mentored grow into successful adults who she says are now pouring into their own children and the community as she did.

As Senator Cooney presented Lockhart with the award he remarked, “This is not just recognition of accomplishments it is the generational impact that we are hearing about.” Lockhart provided college scholarships for students as part of the “Schools Come First” program.

She also served as the first African American President of the Midtown tenants Association and was responsible for the first Black Santa at Midtown Plaza.