By: Bridget Fallon
An event was held for the ACCESS of WNY’s ten year anniversary at Acqua Restaurant (2192 Niagara St, Buffalo, NY 14207) on Saturday October 30th.
Arab-American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) of WNY is a non-profit organization seeking to advocate understanding and upholding the bonds of faith and friendship between members of the Arab-American community by bridging it to people of other nationalities and cultures living within America.
ACCESS was formed in 2005 after Arab-American parents being concerned about the safety and treatment of their children in the post-9/11 era of America. It has evolved into an all-encompassing organization that offers many services for children, immigrants, refugees, seniors and members of the community, regardless of their background. Services include Case Management, Advocacy, Citizenship and Immigration, Youth Program, Professional Development, Domestic Violence, Parenting, Health Care Access, Counseling, Financial Assistance, Employment, Tax Preparation, as well as Community Services and Civic Engagement.
Prior to dinner, attendees were served delicious hors d’oeuvres as they admired the Art Exhibit and banners from the Arab American National Museum. Patrons laced bids on the items and baskets up for auction. A three course meal was served throughout the awards ceremony filmed by True Intent Productions and hosted by Emam Dawoud Abdous-Sabur Adeyola.
Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon presented the Outstanding Community Member Award to Ali Juran’s son who accepted it on his father’s behalf who noted “You won’t find harder working people. He is truly about Lackawanna, Buffalo and is about community.”Juran has always made service to his community a priority and has worked on projects like Beautifying Lackawanna and the Back to school pack giveaway.
The Service Collaborative of Western New York received the Golden Award for Most Outstanding Community Support because of the opportunities it gives for individuals to serve their community.
The Golden Award for Exemplary Network was presented to the Muslim Public Affairs Counsel (MPAC) by Counsel Secretary Yasin Omar. The MPAC’s purpose is to help Muslims and Americans co-exist and is often looked to from government, media, business, educational and policy institutions. Omar said “considering the events and political climate over these past fifteen years, I don’t know what we would have done without them. They have greatly enhanced community and harmony of Western New York.”
The Golden Award for Youth Empowerment was presented by Abdul Zaid to the Erie County Youth Bureau’s vice president Ben Hilligas. Hilligas has done a lot to facilitate service opportunities for Lackawanna, a town where a lot of people who benefit from ACCESS of WNY live in.
Chairman of the Board Mohamed Albanna presented the Golden Award for Excellence in Philanthropy to the John R. Oishei Foundation. Besides being a large financial donor, the foundation helps educate and train people to better serve their communities. Larry Cook, who accepted the award on the foundation’s behalf noted their foundation is “very proud” to be working with ACCESS of WNY.
Senator Tim Kennedy spoke about how vital the organization is to not only Muslims but to Buffalo as a whole. “ACCESS is about–helping people. No matter who they are, where they’re from, what they look like, what their socio-economic background is and what is going on in their life– and with no questions asked, ACCESS is there for the people of Western New York and for that our entire community as one owes ACCESS an extraordinary debt of gratitude. The organization has taken the lead and has advocated for a group that needs help.”
Co-founder of ACCESS of WNY Muna Munnassar, presented the Golden Award For Excellence in Connecting Diverse Communities to the National Network from Arab American Communities (NNAAC). NNAAC assists ACCESS of WNY to advocate community development, youth development and unify the community.
Highlights of the celebration included personal testimonies about the impact ACCESS of WNY has had on lives. A student attending gave an emotional testimony when giving former teacher Shagufta Zubairi the Commitment to Youth Education Award about how much she helped her and encouraged her success. Mohammad Mashykhi fled from warn torn Iraq, losing everything when he immigrated to the United States in 2012. Feeling alienated upon arriving to America, he sought out ACCESS to get service. “ACCESS helped me get a job, helped get insurance for me and my family and helped me learn english.”
ACCESS board director member Ester Clabeaux was inspired to join the board after her experiences with being an immigrant from Taiwan. She said “there is a lot of information immigrants need upon their arrival to America– something I did not have.” Clabeaux is passionate about ACCESS of WNY because they are there to help with the transition.