WEST PALM BEACH – Estella Pyfrom never knew that simply extending her hand to help others would land her at the White House. And it wasn’t just any White House visit. It was for a bipartisan ceremony in which President Barack Obama, a Democrat, honored former President George H. W. Bush, a Republican, for creating the Daily Points of Light program that recognizes ordinary citizens who have helped generate meaningful change in communities across America.
Pyfrom, 76, of West Palm Beach, daughter of migrant workers, was selected as the 4,998th Daily Point of Light for her “Brilliant Bus,” a tour bus which she purchased with her retirement savings and outfitted as a traveling computer lab for low-income people. “It was an honor to be recognized. I’m grateful that I was invited,” she said shortly after returning from the July 15 ceremony held in the East Room of the White House. Her husband Willie accompanied her on the trip.
“To dine with two presidents … it doesn’t get any better than that,” he said. “In our lifetime, we never thought we’d live to see [a black president] and, then, to be dining with him, it was just awesome.”
Obama and Bush came together to honor the 5,000th Daily Point of Light to an Iowa couple, farmers Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton, whose organization has provided 232 million free meals to children all over the world.
Pyfrom was among eight Points of Light honorees who attended the ceremony. Obama acknowledged their efforts.
“Today we can say that our country is a better and stronger force for good in the world because, more and more, we are a people that serve,” Obama said, according to reports. “And, for that, we have to thank President Bush and his better half, Barbara, who is just as committed as her husband to service and has dedicated her life to it as well.” First Lady Michelle Obama and
former First Lady Barbara Bush were in attendance.
Obama praised the former president for acknowledging the ingenuity of ordinary citizens. “In times of tight budgets and some very tough problems, we know that the greatest resource we have is the limitless energy and ingenuity of our citizens,” he said.
And it was Pyfrom’s ingenuity in putting 17 high-tech computers on a tour bus and traveling to poor neighborhoods, offering everything from GED to college preparation, that won her notice.
She says she is determined to bridge the digital divide by helping anyone from 3 years old to senior citizens to learn how to navigate the computer world. Her efforts also recently won her another honor as a CNN Hero and the cable channel featured her internationally on its broadcasts. CNN wanted to do so two years earlier but she was too shy to deal with any fuss over her. The network persisted and, this year, she put aside her reluctance to deal with the media attention.
Besides local media, Jet magazine featured her this spring and earlier in the year the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams brought her to the attention of its viewers. The Steve Harvey Show and Anderson Live, the daily talk show hosted by CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper also want her as a guest. A few weeks ago, a production crew from the new Queen Latifah talk show visited her for a segment that will air this fall.
“I’m so appreciative of all the media coverage. I’m very grateful to my supporters. Their contributions do and will make a difference. There’s no way I could have afforded the kind of prime time media exposure,” Pyfrom said.
*MORE BRILLIANCE: Estella Pyfrom at the White House.