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--- Issued June 21, 2012

Erie Housing Authority Executive Director John E. Horan was honored
at the Ambassador Hotel Thursday night as the 2012 recipient of the United Way’s Tocqueville Award for his 44 years of volunteer efforts, which include the March of Dimes and Walk for Babies.



The prestigious Tocqueville Award award, the United Way's highest honor, recognizes outstanding volunteer service to the community through personal leadership and long-time commitment. The award dinner brought together Tocqueville Society members, agency directors, past award recipients, and guests of Horan.

Those chosen for the award must be: committed to a voluntary system of human services; show creative effort in devising new and better ways of performing volunteer assignments or in meeting community needs; demonstrate outstanding leadership in volunteer service as well as serving in the ranks; perform sustained service over a period of years, not necessarily in one post or organization; provide inspirational activities and quality of performance that stimulates others to serve and work harder; provide service that may be local, regional, or national, but in scope should be of significance to the Erie community.

“This is a very rigorous list of requirements,” said Donald E. Wright, Jr. who with his wife, Gayle, nominated Horan for the Tocqueville award. “Gayle and I have both noted that in all these areas, John Horan excels and for that, we, and many others, believe he deserves recognition for his 44 years of volunteerism.”

Since 2000, Horan has served as a volunteer on the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Council of Trustees. In 2011, he was elected chairman and now leads the Council. He has also served as a member of the Presidential selection committees for Edinboro’s last two presidential searches. Edinboro University is the largest public university in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

The recently publicized problem of teen violence has been Horan’s concern for many years. His one-to-one mentoring strategies have garnered support and participation from scores of Erie professionals. Horan and his volunteer mentors have seen many positive results from the following initiatives that can be replicated throughout Erie and beyond, such as:

  • Night at the Ballpark – every year Mr. Horan and other volunteers take children from low income families to a “Night at the Ballpark” to watch an Erie Seawolves.
  • Learn to Fish – Mr. Horan and other volunteers mentor children of low-income families in an annual summer “Learn to Fish” program where children are taught how to fish. For many, it is the first time in their lives they have ever been fishing.
  • Learn to Golf -- Mr. Horan and 20 other adult mentors volunteer each summer to help teach boys and girls how to play golf. This includes teaching the fundamentals of golf and the rules of golf, and stressing honesty and courtesy.

Horan is probably best known for his award winning work during the last 36 years as the executive director of the Erie Housing Authority. He has overseen and guided the transformation of public housing in Erie from “housing of last resort” to dignified, safe and affordable housing for families, seniors and persons with disabilities. He has obtained over $200 million in federal funds to transform World War II barracks-type housing into beautiful and modern townhouses that are now an asset to the community and the neighborhoods where they are located.

The Housing Authority’s programs of affordable housing have increased by 67% under Mr. Horan watch. In 1977 the Authority provided housing for 1,878 families. Today, 3,138 families (over 8,000 individuals) receive housing from the Authority.

Horan feels his best work is providing support services for the families who live in public housing to help them get on their feet financially and move up the economic ladder. He has pioneered a full-range of convenient on-site services designed to remove barriers to self-sufficiency, including: Head Start, child care, adult education, English as a Second Language, Job training, job opportunities, education incentives, as well as scholarships, internships, medical clinics, youth centers, libraries, art clubs, theater club, boat building and sailing, scouting, mental health counseling, and even therapeutic horseback riding. A new on-site dental clinic will open later this summer.

Horan was one of the founding volunteer members of the Ellen Curry Foundation, established in 1996 to enhance and improve the general education level of children of lower income families residing in the City of Erie. He helped establish the Foundation to act as the umbrella organization for the Ellen Curry Scholarships and the Louis J. Tullio Memorial Scholarships.

He is the chairman and principal fundraiser for the Foundation. Since 1998, the foundation has awarded $429,219 in parochial elementary school and college scholarships to 171 school aged children.

Horan has volunteered to raise funds for Erie County United Way campaigns from 1977 through 2011. Through his volunteer efforts, over $214,000 has been raised for the United Way. His fund raising methods have been cited by the United Way as a “best practice.”

He been very active with, and for, the March of Dimes. Since 1992, he has been a major volunteer fundraiser for the March of Dimes for Northwest Pennsylvania. He has been responsible for raising $141,000 over 20 years to help prevent birth defects.

Under his leadership, in 2012 The Erie Housing Authority, for the third year in a row, placed among the top three teams in this year’s March for babies fund raiser. HACE volunteers beat last year’s all-time record by $1,391.

Horan has shown his commitment to the voluntary system of human services for 44 years by leading and participating in organizations and causes that provide services and opportunities for the entire Erie community, and particularly for the children of low-income families. His volunteer efforts have resulted in contributions of nearly $1 million for various charitable causes that benefit adults and children of Erie County.

Leaders of public bodies and social service agencies agree that Horan has a way of obtaining “buy-in” by both the rank and file as well as leaders for causes that benefit the community and various non-profit agencies.

Bishop Dwane Brock of the Victory Christian Center, for example, says, “If John Horan backs a cause, it must be a good one. When he sets a course, other volunteers are sure to follow. I can’t think of a fund raising effort that he has supported that hasn’t been a success. Whether it’s for education of low income children, the arts, the United Way, March of Dimes, John knows how to get the job done.”

Horan was one of the early volunteer board members of Housing and Neighborhood Development Services, Inc. (HANDS) a private non-profit organization that started providing housing assistance to low-income families in 1969.

He served on the Erie Civic Center Authority Board during the formative years from 1978 to 1983 when the Authority was first organized to provide a cultural and entertainment center in downtown Erie – the Warner Theater and the Louis J. Tullio Arena.

Horan served on the United State Bicentennial Committee for the City of Erie in 1976. This committee established Erie’s first trail of history tour of downtown Erie and a video history of Erie produced by WQLN TV. He also served as vice chairman for the Erie Bicentennial Commission for the celebration of Erie’s 200th anniversary in 1995. The legacy from that effort was Erie’s landmark Bicentennial Tower.

He established and served as coordinator of more than100 volunteers for the annual “We Love Erie” 10-kilometer foot race from 1978 to 1990. This race was the premier running event in Erie for many years, reaching a plateau of 1,800 runners in 1985. From 1988 through 1997, Mr. Horan coached boys and girls Cross Country teams at the Cathedral Center School.

Horan has been recognized for his inspirational service to the Erie community by various social service and educational organizations, including:

  • GECAC’s Paul P. Martin 1991 Award for Community Service;
  • The United Brothers and Sisters of Erie 1993 Award for voluntary efforts to obtain summer employment for low-income minority youths in local industries.
  • The Erie County Bar Association 1999 Liberty Bell Award in recognition of community service that has strengthened the American system of freedom under law.
  • Stairways Behavioral Health 2002 Award for providing services to individuals with chronic mental health problems.
  • Edinboro University’s 2008 Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for outstanding commitment to enhancing access to opportunity for all members of the community.
  • HANDS 2011 Community Service Award for demonstrated leadership and volunteerism in the Erie community.


Horan's 44 years of volunteerism have helped make Erie a better place to live, work and raise a family. His volunteer efforts have touched many lives and benefited the entire community, from those who enjoy cultural and sporting events at the Warner Theater and the Louis J. Tullio Arena, to children of low income families taken by him to their first baseball game.