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Many local women were honored for their contributions to the community, and women’s wisdom was noted by the guest speaker at the fourth annual Luncheon and Salute to Excellence Awards Gala of the Concerned Black Women of Calvert County on Saturday at the Rod ‘N’ Reel Restaurant in Chesapeake Beach.

The more than 100 attendees, mostly dressed in business suits and dresses, listened to author Dorothy Bailey talk about the wisdom and life stories of a few of the 90 women she interviewed for her book titled, “In a Different Light: Reflections and Beauty of Wise Women of Color.” The book showcases beauty, wisdom and tenacity that these women portray, she said. She talked about overcoming struggles about which some of the women she interviewed spoke, and how they raised their heads high and overcame prejudices against them and personal adversities to become successful, positive women.

“That’s the legacy we stand on,” Bailey said.

She told the ladies present to share their own stories and what they have learned through life with younger women.

“We are more beautiful and more profound than we think we are. ... You have to tell your story, pass it down,” she said.

Gloria Lawlah, a former state senator, was the mistress of ceremony, and Bailey spoke about her, saying she is a good example of what black women can achieve. Lawlah, who is currently the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Aging and is the recipient of several awards and honors, gave opening remarks, and the Rev. Doris T. McGuffey of the Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development of Silver Spring gave the invocation.

Awards presented

Doris Cammack-Spencer and Annette Funn, co-founders of the Concerned Black Women of Calvert County, talked about the accomplishments of the award recipients as they presented the plaques to the women. Executive officers Nicole Cooksey, Randi Parker, Daniella Lenzly and Gwendolyn James were also on stage assisting in the awards presentations. The gala’s colorfully printed program gave biographies and photos of each of the award winners, and it displayed advertisements from local businesses and politicians who support the organization.

The Harriet Tubman Woman of the Year Award was presented to Gladys Jones, who has served as the director of administrative services at the College of Southern Maryland’s Prince Frederick campus since November 2005. Jones acknowledged her co-workers, saying she could not do the job alone.

“I stand on the shoulders of some strong women,” she said.

“She is the very first African-American woman to head the Calvert County Chamber of Commerce,” Cammack-Spencer said.

Shanell Nero, who Cammack-Spencer said has tutored and mentored students for seven years in math and engineering, was presented the Madam C.J. Walker Business Award. Nero said she was honored to receive the award and was very appreciative.

Sheila Moore, who taught business in Calvert County Public Schools for 25 years, retiring in 2007, was presented the Harriet Elizabeth Brown Education Award.

“To God be the glory. Thank God for this award,” Moore said after she accepted the plaque, and she said that she wants to continue to use her gift to teach children and is praying for another opportunity to work with children.

Winner of the Myrtle M. Patten Health Award, Laurette Grier retired from the federal government after 36 years of service, working for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for 26 years.

“The Concerned Black Women work very hard; and I do appreciate them,” she said as she accepted the award.

The Ailene Stamper Youth Award was presented to Randl Dent, a recent graduate of Northern High School who made the honor roll every quarter all four years, and now is attending Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. Dent was president of the Key Club during her senior year of high school and was instrumental in helping with several community service projects, such as a homecoming for soldiers and canned food drives.

Dent, who said it was her first weekend home from college this semester, said, “I can’t think of a better occasion to come home for,” and thanked everyone for the award.

The Community Excellence Award recognizes one organization and one business, Funn explained before she called Marie Andrews to the stage, calling her the president of the Calvert Collaborative for Children and Youth, formerly the Calvert Crusade for Children. Funn said that the nonprofit is a wonderful advocate for county youth, adding, “I can’t think of anyone who works harder” than Andrews. Funn mentioned that Andrews spearheaded the campaign that earned Calvert the title of “100 Best Communities for Young People” in 2010 and the county is a finalist this year, with the communities being announced this week.

“We want to be the best we can be for our youth,” Andrews said as she accepted the award. Andrews, who said she was president for eight years, said Guffrie Smith is now president for CCCY. She received applause when she said she was 97 years old and a World War II bride from Australia.

Volunteers can make so much difference in the lives of children and youth, she said, and she asked the audience for mentors, especially in the area of science, technology, engineering and math, to volunteer for a program linked to Patuxent High School. Volunteers can interact with kids in a positive, supportive environment and make a difference, she said.

Roland’s Supermarket in Chesapeake Beach was presented the Community Excellence Award, with Shirley and Sandy Pelletier, the founders’ daughter, accepting the award.

Roland’s exemplifies the commitment to a stronger and inclusive community for all, said Cammack-Spencer, who added that the supermarket represents the community through hiring young, old, black and white.

“It’s family, and you’re made to feel important,” she said.

Shirley Pelletier, who said the store is 21 years old, thanked everyone for the award and for being customers.

“Our mother raised us to treat everyone the same,” she said.

Scholarship award recipients

Each year the Concerned Black Women hands out four scholarships, one from each county high school, around graduation in May. This year, thanks to a $5,000 donation from Dominion Corp. and other community sponsors, each girl received $2,000, doubling prior amounts, according to the program. The winners also received an award letter from CBW and a congressional citation from U.S. Senate Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th).

Scholarship award recipients are: Chantelle Beachum, a Patuxent High School graduate who is currently attending Penn State University; LaTara Swan, a Calvert High School graduate who is currently attending Morgan State University; Sonya Crane, a Northern High School graduate who is currently attending Towson University; and Christa Allen, a Huntingtown High School graduate who is currently attending Meredith College in North Carolina.

charvat@somdnews.com