WARREN - A woman's message of love and paying it forward was remembered Saturday during a ball held in honor of the late Helen L. Albert.
"Everyone says she was a queen in her own right," said Roberta Cykon, executive director and founder of Integrity Beauty Women of Excellence, who is honoring her promise to Albert that her message will carry on.
Helen L. Albert became the first African-American registered nurse in Trumbull County in 1944. In 1960, she established Albert's Nursing Home in Warren and later opened the Albert's Family Care Center, a group home for mentally challenged individuals and senior citizens.
Cykon met her at Washington Square Nursing Home in Warren in 2007, two years before her passing in September 2009.
"She always had a tiara on her head. She said, 'Oh, yeah, baby, I always wear a tiara because I'm royalty,'" Cykon recalled with a smile.
Tiaras sparkled on the dance floor during Saturday's ball, which was Albert's birthday as well as the Helen Albert Memorial Day Pay it Forward. Cykon worked with the city to commemorate the day and also helped institute the Helen Albert Parkway.
Tribune Chronicle / Bonnie L. Hazen
SHE Squad member Alexis Carter, 8, looks on as Roberta Cykon, executive director and founder of Integrity Beauty Women of Excellence, sings Saturday during the third annual Helen L. Albert memorial celebration ball at the Hippodrome in Warren.
Every year on March 30, Cykon holds a special event to celebrate Albert's life and vision. Tiaras are included, as well as embroidered sashes.
"She would be very proud of this," said Melanie Jones, youth director of Integrity Beauty / Motivation for You.
During the ball, members of the Motivation for You Striving Higher Every Day (SHE) Squad - a group that promotes self-esteem and confidence in youths - performed alongside interpretive dancer Ryan Allen of Youngstown.
A Helen Albert fashion show also was presented by the squad, members of which were officially inducted into Integrity Beauty.
A special Integrity Beauty induction ceremony was held, and Tyler Butler was crowned a Young Woman of Excellence and Danajah Coleman was crowned a Young Inspiring Woman.
The Helen L. Albert Achievement award was presented to Madonna Chism Pinkard and the Helen L. Albert Legacy Award to Brenda Cook, registered nurse.
Members of the Albert family also were in attendance, and an auction of some of Albert's belongings was held, with proceeds to go toward next year's celebration.
"We've done the banquet, we've done the ball, and we want to do something different (next year)," Jones said, explaining that plans are underway to hold a special event for the mentally challenged. "That was her passion," she said.
While Cykon is looking ahead to next year's celebration, she said she is working to spread Albert's message 365 days a year.
"Right after the banquet (last year) I had a dream about her. She said to me, 'Baby, it's all done, you did what you were supposed to do' ... but I keep thinking about that time with her in August (2009) when I promised her that I would keep her message going," she said. "So many people say that they're going to do something and they're not accountable."
Cykon is trying to get the message out not only locally, but on a global level.
"She wanted everyone to be recognized, to have the same opportunities," she said.