2020 in Review: 11 Winners (and No Losers) from Philly’s Strange Year

Now that 2020 is (mercifully) more or less behind us, it's time to take a look back at the year that was.

Ala Stafford, Dottie of Dottie's Serenade Service, and Kathleen Hall

Ala Stanford, Dot Levine and Kathleen Hall Jamieson are a few of our 2020 winners in Philadelphia. Photos by (from left) Kriston Jae Bethel/Dottie’s Serenade Service/Eric Sucar

Now that 2020 is (mercifully) more or less behind us, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was. Around here, that usually involves compiling a list of the city’s biggest winners and biggest losers. Of course, 2020 has been a very different kind of year, so we’re going to do things a bit differently.

First and foremost: the real winners are all of those unsung heroes out there who have been keeping us alive or just making our lives more livable, from the teachers and grocery-store cashiers to the doctors, scientists and public health officials. We truly salute you.

We covered some other winners throughout the year, and we call them out below. There were also, of course, some real losers. But in the spirit of leading by example, and because we want to end 2020 on a high note, we’re leaving them off the list this year.

Winner: Ala Stanford

Surgeon Ala Stanford launched the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium in mid-April. Photo by Kriston Jae Bethel

The founder of Philly’s Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium has done more than any other single person to help the Black community through the pandemic.

Winner: Rachel Levine

Rachel Levine, the secretary of health for Pennsylvania, is leading the state’s charge in the fight against the coronavirus. Photo by Daniel Zampogna

In the face of unending bigotry, Pennsylvania’s health secretary, who is a trans woman, has led and continues to lead the state through the crisis while holding her head high.

Winner: Tom Farley

indoor dining philly

Health commissioner Tom Farley at a coronavirus press briefing in March. Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Getty Images

A public health expert who handled the city’s COVID outbreak like a pro, even if a lot of people didn’t like what he had to say.

Winner: Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Kathleen Hall Jamieson is on the front lines combating misinformation. Photo by Eric Sucar

More than ever before, God bless the fact checkers.

Winner: Al Schmidt

al schmidt

City commissioner Al Schmidt was thrust into the spotlight in the 2020 election. Photo by Spencer Platt/Staff/Getty Images

The Republican city commissioner led us through one of the biggest and most controversial elections we’ve ever seen (and hopefully ever will see), fending off personal attacks from Donald Trump and his rabid followers in the process. And he did so seemingly without breaking a sweat. We need more elected officials like him.

Winner: Rebecca Rhynhart

city controller rebecca rhynhart

City controller Rebecca Rhynhart had a big year Photo courtesy of City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart’s office

In her role as city controller, she continues to try her best to keep Philly honest. Or at least honester. In May, she released a counter-proposal to Jim Kenney’s “painful” pandemic budget revision, sounding downright mayoral in the process. In our November issue, we declared her the third most influential Philadelphian.

Winner: Black Main Line Speaks

Clockwise from top left: Friends’ Central School via the Montgomery County Planning Commission; Black Main Line Speaks via Instagram; the Haverford School via the Montgomery County Planning Commission; Harriton High School in Lower Merion via the Montgomery County Planning Commission

This essential Instagram account shines a light on racism at Main Line schools. Needed now more than ever.

Winner: The ChristmasPrism Inventor

a screenshot of holiday lights near philadelphia from the new app christmasprism, which allows you to find holiday light displays in your area

A screenshot of holiday lights near Philadelphia from the new app ChristmasPrism, which helps you find holiday light displays in your area.

In previous years, we never knew where to find the best neighborhood Christmas lights. Delco dad Mike Kane solved that problem for us with his new app, ChristmasPrism, which crowdsources the best Christmas lights near you. He’s bringing holiday joy to lots of people right when they need it.

Winner: Terrill Haigler

Philly trashman Terrill Haigler, a.k.a. @_yafavtrashman on Instagram. Photos courtesy of Terrill Haigler

He became the sympathetic face of Philly sanitation workers during the city’s massive trash crisis.

Winner: Dot Levine

Dot Levine of Dottie's Serenade Service performing live

Dot Levine of Dottie’s Serenade Service. Photo courtesy of Dottie’s Serenade Service

There’s nothing quite like a singing telegram to bring you out of the dumps, as this Philly performer has taught us during the pandemic.

Winner: Patti LaBelle

Patti LaBelle performs for the 40th Anniversary of “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS on July 04, 2020. Photo by Getty Images for Capitol Concerts

Now and forever. She completely stole the show at that Philly COVID benefit show, which raised $1.5 million for COVID relief here. And the local soul diva was just profiled in the New York Times Style Magazine, which she used as an opportunity to absolutely gush about Philly. (And honestly? Those $4 Patti LaBelle sweet potato pies at Walmart are not half bad.)