Lorenzo Merritt LCSW, DSW, 85, of Los Angeles, passed away on Sept. 25, 2017 in Los Angeles, California from complications of chronic heart disease. His career evolved from working as a certified marine mechanic on aircraft carriers in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to obtaining a Doctorate in Social Work from Adelphi University in 1977.
Over the course of his life, Dr. Merritt was a community advocate whose astute leadership and fearlessly strident voice led to the development of numerous high impact social programs. He deeply believed “in the capacity of young people to grow emotionally, intellectually and socially through guidance, encouragement, enlightenment and challenge” and made it his personal mission to develop that potential in every young person he encountered.
He founded the Northshore Guidance Center and Tri-County Community Action Programs, was former Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk County, and he became board chair of the Economic Opportunity Commission of Nassau County, NY with overall program planning and evaluation of a multi-million dollar agency and management of a staff of 500. After relocating to California, he continued his work as a family therapist at Foothills Family Services from 1985 until 2015, and also served as the Executive Director of Project Heavy West, a Juvenile Diversion agency with case management, graffiti removal, counseling and referral services positively impacting thousands of youth and their families’ lives from 1987 to 2003. He was recognized for his leadership and outstanding work as NABSW Social Worker of the Year in 1973 and recipient of a Builder of Brotherhood Award at the National Conference of Christians and Jews, among many other awards received over the course of his life. An instructor at a variety of institutions including Adelphi University, State University of New York School of Social Work in Old Westbury, and the USC School of Social Work in Los Angeles, California, over the last half century, Dr. Merritt was a mentor to hundreds of students, culminating in his most recent role as a Doctoral Committee Member for the University of Southern California.
Dr. Merritt is preceded in death by his brother, Charles Jr., sisters Denise, Charlene and Wanda. He is survived by his wife Juanita Coleman-Merritt, siblings Delores Kyle, Michael Hodges, Michelle Hodges, Judy Merritt, and children Lori Merritt, Dr. Lisa Merritt, Kofi Merritt, stepchildren Kamau Coleman, Nattu Coleman, Kweli Coleman, nine grandchildren and many loving cousins, nieces, nephews, friends and colleagues. Memorial services commemorating his life were held in Culver City on Oct. 28 and will be held on Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. at Thomasina’s Event Space, 205-35 Linden Blvd., St. Albans, New York. The family extends gratitude to Dr. Aaron Ward and Cedars Sinai Medical Group for helping to maintain his quality of life for three decades of care and in lieu of flowers, requests donations be made to the National Association of Black Social Workers.