Diocesan groups get human rights award

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Each year, the Arlington County Human Rights Commission presents the James B. Hunter Award to "individuals, community groups, nonprofit organizations and business establishments that promote cultural diversity and equal rights for all residents."

The award is named for a former Arlington board member who dedicated his life to helping people access government services designed to protect their rights.

At a recent ceremony in the Arlington County Board Room, Arlington Catholic Charities' Hogar Immigrant Services and Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Arlington received two of four James B. Hunter awards presented for 2015.

Hogar Immigrant Services has more than 800 volunteers who help immigrants with education and legal services.

The group was nominated for the award by human rights commissioner Mao Lin.

Brooke Hammond Pérez, program director for Hogar Immigrant Services, said that Lin nominated Hogar after researching groups who help immigrants. Lin, who came from a family of immigrants, recognized their work in education and legal services. He said there were groups who do legal work and groups that do educational work, but Hogar does both.

"We are a one-stop shop," said Pérez, who accepted the award on behalf of Hogar. Also in attendance for the ceremony was Art Bennett, CEO and president of Catholic Charities; Cathy Hassinger, director of community services for Catholic Charities; as well as about 10 Hogar staff members.

Our Lady Queen of Peace Church received an award because of its long-term commitment to defending the human rights and dignity of Arlington residents. Spiritan Father Timothy J. Hickey, pastor, accepted the award on behalf of the parish.

Also present was Michelle Knight, social justice and outreach minister, and about 12 parishioners.

"It's quite an honor to have been recognized for our commitment to human rights and dignity," said Father Hickey.

Father Hickey said that the award is not just for the work the parish has done recently but the work that's been done for the past 70 years.

Awardees received a plaque and a letter of congratulations from Virginia Senator Mark Warner.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015