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on April 19, 2014 at 6:02 PM, updated April 19, 2014 at 6:05 PM
Don't let the spelling fool you. There is no "I" in Millie Charles.
Whenever the legendary social worker talks about her long life, in which she has confronted the forces of segregation, taught generations of students and done as much as she could to ensure that poor people got a fair shake, it's always in terms of a group.
"We always did things as a group," she said on a recent afternoon. "It was never an 'I'; it was always a 'we.' . . . I didn't do any of this by myself. Not any. . . . We had to work together to accomplish things. One person can't do it alone."
That statement is typical of her attitude, said Ronald McClain, president and chief executive officer of Family Service of Greater New Orleans, who earned a master's degree in social work when Charles was dean of the School of Social Work at Southern University at New Orleans.
"It's never about her," he said.
But this time, it is about her because Charles, 90, has been chosen to receive The Times-Picayune Loving Cup for 2013. The Loving Cup has been awarded since 1901 to men and women who have worked unselfishly for the community without expectation of public recognition or material reward.
"I was really surprised" by the accolade, Charles said. "I appreciate that so much, but there were so many of us together. It wasn't just one person; it was the togetherness we had."
Throughout Charles' career, "her commitment to children and families and vulnerable populations has been amazing," McClain said. "For a long, long time, she has been committed to being a change agent, to committing her life to changing things for the better."
The New Orleans-born daughter of a Baptist preacher and a woman who believed in the value of education, Millie Ruth McClelland entered Dillard University when she was only 15 and graduated with a degree in secondary education.
Click to read more at NOLA.com