Next month an annual awards banquet will honor the influential work and initiatives of 13 African-American individuals and organizations.
Grand Rapids Community College’s Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center will present the 33rd annual Giants Awards and Banquet celebration at 6 p.m., Feb. 7, at DeVos Place, to recognize 13 African-American honorees for their contributions to the Greater Grand Rapids community.
Each year individuals and organizations are nominated for recognition in 13 categories named after local individuals in honor of their memory and their initiatives in areas such as education, human rights, youth advocacy, human health and prosperity, religion, community service and business.
The 2015 Giants Award honorees include: Rev. Michelle Lloyd-Paige, Floyd Skinner Justice Award; Floyd Wilson Jr., Walter Coe Public Service Award; Larry Arnold Brewer, Eugene Browning Medical Service Award; Dallas Lenear, W.W. Plummer Humanitarian Award; Lawrence N. Redd, Ethel Coe Humanities Award; Keli Christopher, Milo Brown Business Award; Dianne Green-Smith, Phyllis Scott Activist Award; Beverly Grant and George Grant Jr., William Glenn Trailblazer Award; Rev. Joseph D. Jones, Raymond Tardy Community Service Award; New Hope Baptist Church, H.C. Toliver Religious Life Award; and Diane J. McMillan, Hattie Beverly Education Award.
The remaining two awards are the Martha Reynolds Labor Award, which will not be awarded this year, and the Giant Among Giants Award, which will be announced during the banquet celebration.
Christina Arnold, director of the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center, said the lack of events specifically honoring African-American contributions to the community sparked the development of the Giants Awards.
“There was not an awards banquet specifically recognizing African-Americans for their contributions to the Greater Grand Rapids community,” said Arnold. “It has always been a Grand Rapids Community College event, along with a community committee.”
The nomination process begins shortly after the previous year’s event and requires a leadership profile, details of the candidate’s community involvement, goals and ability to identify problems or solutions. The selection committee then meets to choose the honorees based on criteria in each of the various awards.
Honorees are selected based on their portrayal of a number of characteristics such as integrity, honesty, credibility, perseverance, measurable excellence, leadership, impact, innovator, advocacy, and “is head and shoulders above the crowd.”
“I think it is a significant event people throughout the community look forward to,” said Arnold. “It is important to recognize individuals for their contributions and for making sure the commitment is there to sustain the legacy of those giants, of those first initial trailblazers who certainly paved a path for so many to continue to lead.”
Banquet highlights include announcing the Giant Among Giants Award and awarding two annual scholarships from the Milo M. Brown Memorial Scholarship Fund, according to Arnold. The Giant Among Giants award recognizes an individual or group whose achievements not only influence the community and beyond, but who previously were honored with a Giants Award.
“A Giants Among Giants is awarded every year, and that individual is someone who was a previous Giant — that is the Giant who stands among them all. Nobody knows who that is until it is awarded that night, so it really leads up to excitement for the event,” said Arnold. “Awarding students the scholarships the night of the event is a highlight of the program, as well.”
Proceeds from the event are donated to the GRCC Milo M. Brown Scholarship Fund, which is then used to award one male and one female scholarships as returning full-time sophomores who have achieved a minimum of a 2.75 grade point average.
Originally founded in 1983 by Dr. Patricia Pulliam and Cedric Ward, the banquet has grown over the years to attract more than 800 business leaders and community leaders to the 2014 event. The event relocated from the Ford Field House on GRCC’s campus to DeVos Place in 2010 to accommodate the increase in attendance.
“I think what we are most proud of as a committee and as the college is how the event has grown throughout the years,” said Arnold. “Because of the support and growth of the program, we were able to partner with DeVos Place … so we could increase our numbers and really give the program the recognition it deserves.”
The event begins with a reception at 6 p.m.; dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. The 2015 Giants Awards and Banquet event has a number of sponsorship opportunities: The $1,800 Champion includes a table and dinner for 10 and company recognition; the $1,500 Patron, an eight-person table and dinner, and the company name in program; and the $150 Individual Supporter, which includes program recognition. Individual tickets are $75, with the option of purchasing an eight-person and 10-person table for $600 and $750, respectively.