Detroit — To kick off its 37th year of service and for the first time in 25 years without Ismael Ahmed as its executive director, ACCESS held its annual dinner — probably the largest Arab American dinner in the country — May 10 at the Detroit Marriot.
ACCESS spokespeople said nearly 2,000 attended.
The group handed out awards to three people, including Ahmed, who now heads the Michigan Department of Human Services.
Ahmed was named Arab American of the Year, U.S. Rep. John Dingell received a special tribute award and philanthropist Russell Ebeid, director of Guardian Industries, was presented the Making an Impact Award.
Ebeid was honored for his charitable efforts, including a $750,000 fund he recently established through the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan to be used to support various causes, like 71 four-year scholarships for Arab American students attending Kettering University.
Dingell was awarded for, the group said, never shying away from Arab and Arab American issues in Congress.
Ahmed was awarded for reaching a position as influential as director of the Michigan DHS and for his decades of leadership within ACCESS.
In his remarks he said “We live in a world today of, frankly, war, empire, starvation… We live in a pretty difficult world and very difficult here, too, in Michigan. There are about a fifth of the people who live here in Michigan are in or near poverty and one out of three people are considered low income. What that really means is they don’t make enough money to live. This is not a time for us to be sedated. It is a time where we need to stand up to these questions… Working with the people at ACCESS, I’ve come to believe that each person can make a serious difference… I’ve also learned that a dedicated group of people, even a small group of people, can change this world.”