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Award recipients to be lauded Friday for efforts in health care, business growth and education

The Baltimore Sun

The Rev. Johnny R. Calhoun is overseeing the construction of a $3 million community center in Parole. State Sen. Verna L. Jones helped win an expansion of health care for the poor and elderly. Business executive James Pitts orchestrated the renovation of the Robinwood Community Center.

The three are among nine individuals and groups to be honored Friday night at Anne Arundel County's 20th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner. The event will also mark the 40th anniversary of King's assassination.

"This is the year of retrospection, how far we've come from the death of Martin Luther King and how far we have to go," said Carl O. Snowden, chairman of the event.

This year's keynote speaker is Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who is known for his research on minority participation and performance in science and math education.

The dinner honors King's legacy and those who keep his vision of racial equality alive through social activism. Proceeds will help pay off the loan used to build the King memorial at Anne Arundel Community College in 2006.

The $400,000 memorial was the first of its kind in Maryland.

Donald Roane, who will receive the Morris H. Blum Humanitarian Award, played a pivotal role in establishing the King memorial as an 18-year member of the college's board of trustees.

In addition, Roane has bought tickets so that young people can attend the dinner and learn about King.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler will receive the Dream Keeper's Award for creating the Office of Civil Rights in the attorney general's office. Snowden is the office's director. Gansler also is being honored for diversifying his staff during his eight years as Montgomery County's chief prosecutor.

Jones, who lives in Baltimore, has for years pursued an expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, federal- and state-funded programs that provide health care for senior citizens and the poor. Although her legislation did not pass, Gov. Martin O'Malley used it as a model for expanding health care in legislation passed during the recent General Assembly special session.

Jones called the award an honor but cautioned that the dinner celebration should reflect not only on the civil rights leader, but also on the challenges he set forth.

"It's really about the movement and changes that have taken place to make things more equitable," she said.

Calhoun, pastor of Mount Olive AME Church in Annapolis, will receive the Peace Maker Award.

Under his leadership, the church joined with Greenberg Gibbons Commerical Corp., which is building the Annapolis Towne Centre in Parole and donated $2 million in money and in-kind contributions to the church's community center.

Calhoun, who also won county, city and state financial support, hopes to use the center as a business incubator and to help prevent the gentrification of the historically black area.

Carroll H. Hynson Jr. will receive the We Share the Dream Award. He is one of the founders of the Anne Arundel County Black Chamber of Commerce and chief executive officer of a public relations company, a real estate business and a minority development firm. Hynson hopes to establish a charitable foundation to continue his charity work after his death.

"Hopefully, this award will inspire me to do even more," Hynson said.

YWCA representatives will present the first Coretta Scott King Award - named in honor of King's wife, who died in 2006 - which recognizes a person or group working for education, civil rights and racial and economic justice.

Alfa Stevens, president of the North Arundel County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, will accept the award for the group's work on voter registration and education drives, community health fairs and scholarships.

The Drum Major Award, which honors those who keep the King dream alive through words and actions, was presented to Pitts of Pasadena, president of Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector; Arlene Rankin, a loan officer in Annapolis and fundraiser for the King memorial; and Deborah Turner, former president of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and music director at Central Middle School in Edgewater.

In addition to donating a wireless network to the Robinwood Community Center in Annapolis, Pitts organized suppliers and employees to upgrade the electrical wiring and renovate the kitchen. Northrop Grumman employees mentor 20 at-risk children through the center and plan to provide computer literacy classes to parents.

The awards dinner, co-sponsored by St. John's College, will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the La Fontaine Bleu, 7514 S. Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie. Tickets are $50. 410-760-4115.

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