Mr. Purnell became the Executive Director of the Police Athletic League of Wilmington (PALW) in November 2019 after holding the position of Developmental Director for the three years prior.
A Wilmington, Delaware native, Mr. Purnell earned his Bachelor’s in Sports Management and a Master’s in Education Administration and Leadership from Wilmington University; along with other certificates and certifications.
Having worked in the education and recreation field for 26 years in various capacities, Mr. Purnell’s past experiences include Camp Counselor, Assistant Athletic Director, Prevention Coordinator, Physical Education Teacher, Dean of Discipline, Director of Transportation and Facilities, Assistant principal of a Middle School, Director of Operations and Athletic Director of a private High School. Mr. Purnell has also coached football, basketball, baseball and softball on the middle school and high school level.
Mr. Purnell’s unique past experiences, opportunities and mentors have all helped to prepare him for his current position.
Mr. Harris joined the Police Athletic League of Wilmington (PALW) in December 2019 as the Developmental Director.
Prior to the Police Athletic League of Wilmington, Joe was the Executive Director / Deputy Director of St. Patrick’s Center of Wilmington, DE from 2015 to 2019. During his tenure at St. Patrick’s Center, Mr. Harris helped the company raise funds, streamlined social services to the low-income community, and completed countless renovations.
Mr. Harris has over 20 years experience working in Mental Health, Substance Abuse Adjudicated Youth, Sex Offenders and Homeless arenas as Case Manager, Counselor, Coordinator, Director, Team Leader, Deputy and Executive Director.
Mr. Harris is a graduate of Wesley University and Wilmington University, where he majored in Business Management and Administration of Human Services. He currently lives in Wilmington, DE.
Kay-Dean Hayden assumed the role of Assistant Director of the Police Athletic League of Wilmington (PALW) in November of 2019.
An alumni of Howard High, Delaware Tech and Goldey Beacom-College; possessing a A.A.S. in Marketing Management and a B.S. in Financial Management, Ms. Hayden finally aligned with her love for youth and community advocacy while living in NYC.
Ms. Hayden has created and managed sustainable youth and volunteer based programs. She has over 15 years of youth and community building experience; working with youth ages 5-24 years old in various cities and environments.
Ms. Hayden has served as a: Mentor, Assistant & Substitute Teacher, Program Director, Program Coordinator and Educational Facilitator. She has also written e-books, blogs and hosts her own podcast.
If asked why PALW? She’d say “because I love the mission and vision of the PALW, the communities we serve and even more impacting youth within whose faces I can see myself.
Child Care Director
An alumni of Newark High School, Delaware Tech, and Ashworth-College; possessing an A. A. S. in Early Childhood Education, along with other State certificates and certifications.
Ms. Ricks comes highly qualified with lots of experience and a stellar reputation. She has spent the last 30 years in the childcare and development field holding several positions including an owner/operator of her own center. Her focus is always on providing a safe, fun, and enriching learning environment filled with caring staff members with the same passion for the community they serve.
Board of Directors
Captain Faheen Akil
Vincent Catanzaro, Esq.
Vaidra Johnson is a native of Winston-Salem, N.C. and was appointed to serve as Secretary of the Police Athletic League of Wilmington (PALW) in 2020.
Vaidra is a Realtor licensed in both Delaware and Pennsylvania. Prior to her role with the PALW, from 2009-2019, Ms. Johnson served many leadership roles and Executive Management positions with Sodexo.
She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Delaware State University (2009).
Vaidra resides in New Castle, Del. with her husband and two sons. In her leisure time she enjoys spending quality time with family and friends. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
A native of New Jersey, Vanessa Minor has lived in New Castle, Delaware for the past 40 years. She has served on the board of the Police Athletic League of Wilmington (PALW) since May 2012.
Vanessa received her Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Criminal Justice and a Master of Science degree with a concentration in Organizational Leadership.
Vanessa retired from the Wilmington Job Corps in August 2019 as an Admissions Counselor after a working career that spans forty-five years. Her professional experience has consisted of work in the Colonial School District, the Christiana School District, Hercules Incorporated, and ASAPP Healthcare, Inc.
Vanessa has a passion for young people and much of her volunteer work has afforded her the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many young people. Her volunteer experience includes two years of being a mentor for children of incarcerated parents, and over ten years as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for New Castle County. She has been a registrar for the State of Delaware for many years, and she is the personal secretary to the Reverend Aaron R. Moore of Manna Christian Fellowship Church in the City of Wilmington. Much of her pleasure is derived from knowing she has been the driving force for many young people.
Wilmington Fire Department
Alice Sawyer has had a distinguished 30-year career in the YMCA, retiring in 2008. She began with the YMCA of Delaware, specializing in marketing, membership and financial development.
After fourteen years of local work, Alice became a consultant with the YMCA of the USA.
Customer service and coaching individuals are Alice’s real passions. She is well known as the champion for “front-line” employees, where the “real work” of any organization resides. She has been trained as a life-coach, discovering the power of listening and coaching as an exciting way to empower individuals and organizations to find their own solutions.
A popular speaker and presenter at local and national conferences throughout the country, Alice is sought after for her motivational speeches, presentations and interactive trainings. She has created tools and other interactive resources to improve the “WOW” factor in the service experience, which also help to make the training events and learnings more action-oriented and memorable.
Since her retirement from the YMCA, Alice provides coaching, consulting and training services for personal and organizational development. She has proudly served on the PAWL board for over five years.
Leon Sawyers obtained his B.S. in Technology from North Carolina A&T State University and his M.B.A. from Drexel University.
Mr. Sawyers is a Sales and Marketing Manager at Tri-M Group where he manages twelve employees.
Leon has resided in Delaware for over ten years and has been involved with the Police Athletic League of Wilmington (PALW) for nearly as long. During this time, he has held several positions on the board but has been serving as Board President for the past seven years.
In addition to his professional and community efforts, Leon is also an active member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
Mr. Sawyer credits organizations like PALW, which offer local free activities, with keeping him out of trouble during his youth. It’s for this reason that Leon is passionate about giving back to the community.
Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at FideliTrade Incorporated. Grace is a graduate of Wesley College and serves as Treasurer for PALW.
In 1996 she started her career in precious metals with Wilmington Trust. Over the years Grace has held various positions in the organization and now serves on the company’s board. She is on the DE State Chamber’s Board of Governors, co-chair of the International Precious Metals Institute’s Legislative Affairs Committee and was also the Board Secretary for the Police Athletic League of Wilmington for three years.
Grace has two daughters enrolled at Temple University and Delaware State University. She was co-chair of the Education Committee for the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League Young Professionals, tutored at William Hicks Anderson Community Center and was a mentor with Goodwill. Grace is a native of New Jersey but has lived and worked in Delaware for over 20 years.
Shavonne H. White is the Director of the State of Delaware’s Office of Supplier Diversity (OSD).
The mission of the OSD is to enhance economic opportunities for the diverse business community of minority, women, veteran, service disabled veteran, individual with a disability owned businesses, as well as small businesses of unique size. Shavonne has worked in public service for over a decade, previously working in the administrations of Governors Jack Markell and John Carney. Shavonne’s son Shane is an active participant in Police Athletic League of Wilmington (PALW) programming and enjoys representing PALW on the basketball and flag football teams.