County of Marin - News Releases - MLK Day Gala

For Immediate Release
January 07, 2015

Annual MLK Awards Dinner Gala Set for January 22

Human Rights Commission hosts event to honor humanitarian achievements

San Rafael, CA – The Marin Human Rights Commission will honor 10 key contributors for their humanitarian achievements January 22 at the 33rd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner Gala at the Embassy Suites Hotel in San Rafael.

A close-up view of the cover of last year's MLK Day program that was distributed on tables at the event.The awards are presented to individuals who have distinguished themselves in the areas of human and civil rights and made a significant impact in Marin County. This year’s recipients are:

Adult Humanitarian Award: Linda Allen, Maxwell Drever, Paul Fordham, Ruth Nenaber, Connie Marie Page

Youth Award: Isabelle Gardner, Nassim Kabbara, Jake Mates, Davon Smith

Community Service Award: Jes Richardson

(See more biographical information on the recipients below)

The multitalented Noah Griffin will serve as this year’s keynote speaker. The Harvard-educated Tiburon resident is a renowned singer, author, poet, historian, teacher, journalist, publicist, inspirational speaker and the recipient of many awards and certificates.

Individuals who live or work in Marin may be nominated for awards by any member of the community, and the Human Rights Commission makes the selections. In addition to the award, the Marin Community Foundation provides a monetary stipend that is divided among the adult recipients and donated, in their names, to nonprofit agencies of their choice. Youth recipients receive scholarships for post-secondary education.

The event starts at 5:30 p.m. with no-host cocktails and is expected to conclude at 8:30 p.m. Embassy Suites is at 101 McInnis Parkway in San Rafael. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at or by contacting Kara Amestoy at or 415-473-4172.

The commission was established in April 1966 by a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors to promote measures to eliminate prejudice, intolerance and discrimination against any group because of race, religion, national origin, sex, age, cultural background, sexual orientation or disability. Learn more at



Adult Humanitarian Awards

Linda Allen, a member of the Suicide Prevention & Community Counseling hotline (SP&CC) staff for 25 years and Director since 2002. Linda has provided extensive training to hotline volunteers, has kept the hotline attended 24/7, and sustained the hotline financially through lean years. She has steered the significant expansion of the program to North Bay counties, overseen the installment of a state-of-the-art telephone system, and managed an 84 percent increase in callers. As part of Linda’s role as Director of SP&CC, she also manages the Family Service Agency’s (FSA) Grief Counseling services, which includes specialized services for survivors of suicide loss. In addition to crisis hotline, Linda supervises training staff and often participates in providing Community Education workshops which reached 1,346 youth and adults last year. These educational programs taught Marin educators, first responders, health providers and others to identify the warning signs of suicide and how to best intervene to prevent suicide. Linda has demonstrated outstanding leadership and extraordinary commitment to the prevention of suicide in Marin County. Her efforts have directly and indirectly saved lives.

Maxwell Drever, who heads the Drever Family Foundation, is an exceptional contributor to humanitarian efforts. His contributions to the health, safety, education and well-being of children are innumerable. He creates opportunities for other to give generously while giving himself.  He has sponsored several fundraising events in support of Ten Thousand Degrees, a foundation whose mission is to achieve educational equity and support students with need, to access and complete higher education, to positively impact their communities and the world. Maxwell has supported efforts on a local, national and international level. He has worked with the Nepal Youth Foundation providing shelter, education and healthcare for impoverished children in Nepal through the Turtlewill Foundation. This foundation is focused on protecting tribal dignity and identity, and has provided education, water and mobile healthcare clinics for the underrepresented and endangered tribal populations in Ethiopia, Niger and Mali.

Paul Fordham, is a local human rights champion to those in our community who are newly homeless and /or precariously housed because of social, economic and personal circumstances. He has devoted his career to serving the homeless. As Deputy Executive Director of Homeward Bound of Marin (HBM), Paul plays an integral role in the agency’s planning and fundraising, social enterprise development and program oversight. Fueled by his personal belief in the power and possibility of change, he has helped HBM to create groundbreaking, nationally replicated programs including – the Next Key Center offering transitional housing and job skills development, the award-winning Fresh Starts Culinary Academy vocational training program, numerous social enterprise projects that promote sustainability, the nation’s first nonprofit IPO, and the imminent Oma Village affordable housing development in Novato.

Ruth Nenaber, is the Program Manager & Site Supervisor for the Manzanita Child Development Center (MCDC), where she works with helping children. MCDC provides excellent after-school activities for children in the Southern Marin community. It is an outstanding and well-designed program to excite children about learning. Ruth oversees the program, the volunteers and staff who tutor the children. She motivates, inspires and helps build self-confidence in the children. She has a bilingual staff and offers cross-cultural approach to learning, activities which provide cognitive, behavioral and physical exercise. The MCDC has supervised playground activities that are provided with emphasis on hand-eye and motor skill development. There are appropriate staff/child ratios with qualified, caring, educated and experienced teachers and assistants. Ruth plays a vital role in the day-to-day activities, and her professional demeanor with both the children and the staff is excellent. She invigorates children and is highly supportive with positive reinforcement that aide in the children’s progress in math and reading.

Connie Marie Page (adult, posthumous) was a resident of Marin County for her entire life. She grew up in Marin City, which at the time was a predominantly African-American community, and she often witnessed both concealed and blatant racism.  This spurred her to action and Connie became an influential and well-regarded community activist. She played an integral part in getting Golden Gate Transit to provide bus service to the Marin City community. She was the head teacher for Marin Head Start, where she effectively ran the program for years. She was a member of the Marin City Community Development Corporation and was a leader in the design and implementation of the Gateway Shopping Center in Marin City. Connie was a Women’s Project Volunteer and Advocate for the Marin City Multi-Service Center. From 1983-1998 Connie was a Step II Educational/Vocational Project Advocate, volunteer and board member. In addition she was on the Marin City Drug Task Force in the 1980s. For the last ten years of her career, Connie worked for the Employment Development Department for the County of Marin, with which she was known for treating all individuals with compassion, dignity and respect while helping link them to job training and ultimately careers. She was also a dedicated member for 25 years of the Village Baptist Church, where she served as treasurer, worked in outreach ministry, taught Sunday School, and sang in the choir. Connie was known for dedicating herself whole-heartedly to every cause she volunteered for and donated not only her time but often her financial resources. She was described as being a “quiet storm” and the effects of her work are still felt today.

Community Service Award

James “Jes” Richardson is a peace activist, substitute teacher, board member of Social Justice of Marin and Founder/Director of Bridge of Hearts, an organization that promotes peace. Jes is known for his advocacy for peace. To represent peace and building bridges between nations, he built a ten-foot Gandhi puppet with the help of some high school students to support the Mill Valley Seniors for Peace and their demonstrations against the occupation of Iraq. The Seniors for Peace financed a six-week road tour of the Gandhi puppet to encourage people to vote. Jes continues to tours with the Gandhi puppet, promoting the peace and understanding that Gandhi taught. “We must me the change we wish to see in the world,” Jes said. Jes has been to Iran twice to promote peace. His Bridge of Hearts organization is dedicated to creating friendships between young people around the world. Gandhi was convinced that world peace is achievable and said, “If we are to have real peace, we must begin with the children.” Jes embodies the spirit of peace and cooperation, and he is an example to his students and the community.

Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Awards

Isabelle Gardner is a senior at Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield and is a tireless advocate for the rights of students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) as well as a volunteer for the Enriching Lives through Music program. Isabelle has worked to pass policies in the Novato and San Rafael school districts to establish stand-alone gender identity and sexual orientation policies for LGBTQ students.  She has helped to establish a countywide gay-straight alliance to help advocate for the rights of students. Because of her work with the Enriching Lives through Music program, children of the Canal area in San Rafael have had access to musical educational opportunities. In addition, Isabelle won Miss Marin County’s Outstanding Teen 2014 and used that platform to speak to local Rotary International clubs encouraging members of the community to consider LGBTQ rights and policies. Described as “radiant, bright, cheerful, and full of life,” Isabelle is an asset to the community with a bright future.

Nassim Kabbara is a senior at San Rafael High School and is the founder of the Bay Running Club, a Boy Scout, a varsity athlete, a referee, a Link Crew leader, and a back-to-school translator who is fluent in three languages. Described as “one of the most kind-hearted students I have ever met” by his teacher Lori Mearney, Nassim is an inspiration to those around him. His motivation for creating the Bay Running Club, which is located in the Canal, exemplifies this spirit. He wanted to share his passion for running with underprivileged youths and with the mindset that all kids should have exposure to the benefits of sport and know how to take advantage of the nature and paths in Marin. At the first meeting of the Bay Running Club, participants showed up with enthusiasm but lacked proper footwear. Nassim immediately started a shoe drive. When he realized that his runners didn’t have the proper fuel for nutritional replenishment after their runs, he began bringing extra water and orange slices for them. Nassim is an extraordinary individual whose kindheartedness will continue to be of great benefit to the Marin community.

Jake Mates is a senior at Redwood High School and for the past two years has served as the President of the Redwood High School’s Gay, Straight, Transgender Alliance (GTSA) chapter, which focuses on fighting homophobia and transphobia through a variety of activities and campaigns. His accomplishments include assisting with the implementation of a gender-neutral bathroom at Redwood High School and he is continuing to work on codifying that practice at the district level. Jake was elected to the Marin County Youth Commission, for which he serves as the Chair of the Educational Equity Committee. He is using this platform to focus on raising awareness of racial and queer inequities in county schools. Despite encountering resistance to change in Marin, Jake has proven himself to be a strong advocate for the LBGTQ community and works with integrity and compassion and will continue to be asset to our community.

Davon Smith is a senior at Tamalpais High School, where he is a peer tutor in academic workshop classes and an active member of both the Black Student Union and the Phoenix project. He is motivated by a deep desire to help others succeed and continuously reaches out to others, demonstrating his gift of encouragement. For the past 11 years he has been involved with the Phoenix project, for which he has played an active role in mentoring children in elementary schools. Davon is described as a “light on campus just by being himself and showing constant regard and acceptance to those around him.” With his great capacity for leadership, Davon is truly an asset to those around him and to Marin County.


Christine Shaw
Equal Employment Specialist
Human Resources

Marin County Civic Center
3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 415
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6189
Email: Christine Shaw