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ACCESS names Arab Americans of the Year, Champion of Justice for 45th anniversary

posted on: Apr 25, 2016

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ACCESS commemorates landmark anniversary with special recognition of Flint, Detroit at Annual Dinner

This year marks a major milestone for ACCESS, the nation’s largest Arab American community nonprofit organization, as it celebrated 45 years of service at its Annual Dinner on April 23, 2016, at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.

ACCESS’ theme for its 45th Annual Dinner, From the Neighborhood to the Nation, commemorated its growth during four and a half decades of service to communities across the U.S. The organization’s unique wraparound model, now comprised of nearly 100 programs, aims to meet the needs of people through a holistic approach. ACCESS used this landmark anniversary to acknowledge its expanding national reach while also recognizing the local talent and champions in its Southeast Michigan home, with a special focus on Flint and Detroit, which have been in the national spotlight this past year and have stood strong in the face of immense hardship.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Flint-area pediatrician and hero of the Flint water crisis, received ACCESS’ inaugural Champion of Justice award. Dr. Hanna-Attisha is widely recognized as the whistle-blower who forced the state of Michigan to acknowledge toxic levels of lead in Flint’s water supply, and has been the voice of the children of Flint throughout the crisis. She is championing the cause of public health and encouraging others to join her in providing assistance to Flint’s residents.

“As a first generation Iraqi-American, I am honored and humbled to receive this award from ACCESS, an organization that has heroically championed justice for decades,” said Dr. Hanna-Attisha. “What happened in Flint is a story of profound injustice; however, Flint is full of champions that are fighting every day for a brighter tomorrow. Our work is just beginning.”

ACCESS also recognized its Arab Americans of the Year Ghassan and Manal Saab for their commitment to Flint and international causes. The Saabs’ unwavering support of institutions that are changing lives across the world embodies the compassion that is at the heart of ACCESS’ mission to empower communities. The husband-and-wife team exemplifies the theme From the Neighborhood to the Nation through their dedication to the revitalization of the City of Flint and as international philanthropists.

Ghassan Saab founded Uptown Development Group, which works to rejuvenate and rebuild downtown Flint, and has been celebrated for his personal and professional accomplishments, including receiving the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Manal Saab serves on the Board of Trustees with the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, which is coordinating the Flint Water Crisis Response. She is also a longstanding patron and Emeritus member of the Board of Governors of ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the nation’s leading hospital in cancer research for children.

“We are tremendously honored to accept the 2016 ACCESS Arab American of the Year award. ACCESS is a remarkable organization that my wife and I have been proud to support for many years,” said Ghassan Saab.

“To be honored by ACCESS for doing our duty towards our community is humbling indeed because we truly believe that ‘we take to make a living, but have to give to make a life’,” said Manal Saab.

In addition to recognizing change-makers in Flint, ACCESS highlighted some of Detroit’s best and brightest students by kicking off the Annual Dinner with a performance by two Detroit Public Schools choirs. The students from the Cody Academy of Public Leadership and Renaissance High School performed the Motown classic Ain’t No Mountain High Enough at the event.

The choirs’ performance embodied ACCESS’ commitment to the revitalization of the City of Detroit and youth empowerment. The Detroit Public Schools district, comprised of 106 schools, is a longtime partner of ACCESS. Cody and Renaissance boast two of the most talented choirs in Detroit, and are led by directors Allecia Gates of the Voices of Cody Ensemble and Patrice Debose of the Detroit Varsity Renaissance Choir.

“ACCESS is proud to recognize the courage, advocacy and perseverance of our awardees and our featured performers. We are honored that they joined us at our 45th Annual Dinner, because they serve as a source of inspiration to us all,” said Hassan Jaber, ACCESS Chief Executive Officer.