|Photo by Iman al-Dabbagh|
[ORANGE, CA] – “I don’t think there are any dry eyes left in this room,” said emcee Hind Alhinnawy after Michigan State Rep. Rashida Tlaib gave a moving acceptance speech during the community celebration dinner at the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) conference, which left many in tears. The event took place on Saturday, December 6, at the Orange Doubletree hotel.
Tlaib, who was recently elected as State Representative for Michigan’s 12th District, was awarded the Emerging Leader award for her outstanding contribution to the Arab-American community in Michigan, and becoming the first Muslim woman elected to the legislature.
The Spirit of Service award, which was reserved for a local community activist, was presented to Maria Khani, a board member of Access California Services and a volunteer since the organization’s inception. Her dedication to serving those in need over the years has been priceless. For over a decade, Khani has been the Family Crisis Coordinator at Access California Services on a volunteer basis aiding those in dire need of basic necessities in the Arab American and Muslim communities. In addition, she serves on the advisory board of the Tustin Police Department and chairs the Women’s Committee of the Islamic Institute of Orange County. Over the years Khani was inspired by her mother –nicknamed Mother Teresa, and Mother Teresa as she stated during her speech, receiving a standing ovation.
The evening also included a keynote address by Ismael Ahmad, the Director of the Michigan Department of Human Services, and a co-founder of the Arab Community Center for Economic and social Services (ACCESS). His address inspired the 300 attendees at the banquet hall. Ahmad spoke of his long years working to serve the Arab American community and the community at large in Michigan.
The conference included intense educational workshop focusing on non-profit development including topics on Fundraising, grant seeking, board development, civic engagement, volunteer recruitment, youth leadership development, and much more. 19 NNAAC member organizations from 11 states attended the conference, in addition to many local leaders and activists. The conference was an opportunity for Arab American organizations and social service providers to come together to learn new skills, share approaches, learn about resources and renew energy to take back to their work. The staff of NNAAC, the hosting organization, Access California Services, and a local host committee chaired by Sergeant Mike Abdeen of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department organized the conference.
Among the attendees were California State Assemblyman Jose Solorio, who presented certificates to the award recipients, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Kaddo who introduced the keynote speaker, and San Carlos City Councilman Omar Ahmad.