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Office on Women Honors 13

Annual awards banquet packs the house.

More than 300 supporters of the Alexandria Office On Women packed the ballroom of the Holiday Inn & Suites on First Street Monday night to honor the winners of the Commission's 25th Annual Salute to Women Awards. Topping the list was the Marguerite Payez Lifetime Achievement Award given posthumously to Barbara Gilley.

Disabled as a child by polio, Gilley defied the odds, married and raised a family of four while working for a variety of federal agencies, according to Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper who announced the award. Gilley died this past December. The award was accepted by family members.

Gilley "devoted most of her life to advancing the rights of people with disabilities," according to the program. She served as a board member of the Alliance for the Physically Disabled, and chaired the Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities.

Another highlight of the evening was the renaming the Commission's Legislative and Public Policy Award to that of the Marian Van Landingham Award in tribute to the 45th legislative district state delegate who has served for the past 25 years. Van Landingham was also a founder of the Alexandria Torpedo Factory Art Center as well as an accomplished artist in her own right.

"SHE HAS BEEN a delegate in the General Assembly since 1981 and has established a record of legislative initiative to serve women," said Pepper in naming Van Landingham the recipient of the award. She is the first winner of the newly named award.

"This is truly amazing to get an award named after yourself," Van Landingham said as she accepted the honor. She also praised those other artists who have turned the once federal torpedo factory and warehouse into one of the nation's largest and most prestigious art centers.

Earlier in the evening Van Landingham was present with a proclamation for her service politically and locally. It saluted Van Landingham for her long service in the General Assembly and her role in establishing the Art Center.

Overall 21 individuals had been nominated to receive 13 awards in categories ranging from Women's Health and Safety to their role in business. The event is held each year during Women's History Month.

The evening's keynote speaker was Marie C. Johns, a managing member of L&L Consulting, LLC, and former president of Verizon Washington, D.C. She has been a Washington business leader for more than 20 years. She spoke of her efforts to strengthen education, health care and economic development systems.

FOR THE FIRST time in the event's history, it was billed as a fund-raiser. This year's proceeds will be donated to support the City's Sexual Assault Response and Awareness Program (SARA). "While SARA is a City program, it is heavily reliant on funding from grants and private donations," according to Lisa Baker, director, Office of Women.

Recipients of the other awards were:

• Women's Health and Safety Advocate Award: Jodie Markowitz a program manager with the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry.

• Youth Community Services Award: Given to adults and/or young people. Three awards were presented in this category:

Adult Winner: Officer Charlotte Mitchell-Young, Alexandria Police Department, for her work with youth especially in the Department's D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Program.

Youth Winner: Shannon Scott for her myriad volunteer activities in nursing homes, advocacy for the homeless, Alexandria's Breast Cancer Walk, and youth service organizations.

Youth Winner: Monowara Hossain, who came to the U.S. from Bangladesh as a 4th grader and has been an active volunteer since 8th grade. She has been active in a variety of organizations and the recipient of the T.C. Williams "Titan Pride" Award and Alexandria City Council's Community Service Award.

• Cultural Affairs Award: Janet Barnett and Marga Fripp. Barnett is deputy director, Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities. She was honored for her efforts in furthering the city's cultural activities such as the Ethnic Festivals, George Washington Parade and Celebration, and Scottish Walk.

Fripp, a former journalist, was cited for her advocacy of women's rights since her arrival her from Romania in 2001. As the founder of Empowered Women International she has served more than 350 immigrant and refugee women.

• Career Development and Education/Training Award: Karen Randall. A leader in vocal music in City schools for 30 years, Randall heads T.C. Williams' music department where she also serves as choral director and music theory teacher.

• Rising Star Award: Jennifer Ann Canaff-McNulty. Volunteer founder of Northern Virginia Dress for Success Program, she recently merged that organization with the Metropolitan Washington Chapter to help women nationally who are moving into the workforce by assisting them to obtain professional clothing for interviews and work.

• Women's Business Award: Joan Wheeler. A pre-school special education teacher, Wheeler works with children with disabilities. She has been a leader of the Child Find Team, dedicated teachers who go into the homes of these children to identify, test and advocate for their placement in special programs.

• Woman-to-Woman, Making a Difference Award: Rosemary Dillard. As a widow who lost her husband on Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, she helped found and lead the Pentagon Memorial Fund to establish a permanent memorial on the site. Dillard was an active participant in urging Congress to establish the 9/11 Commission. She also worked on the city's Community Services Board and helped oversee passage of the National Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act.

• Vola Lawson Award, given to honor a city employee: Sgt. Scott Gibson. He is credited with creating the city's first Domestic Violence Unit 15 years ago. Today the unit has four detectives, a social worker and support staff, all of whom work daily to keep women safe in Alexandria. The unit has become a national model.