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Gwinnett Coalition wins United Way diversity award

LAWRENCEVILLE - For 17 years, The Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services has worked to promote community diversity. Those efforts were recognized Thursday when the Coalition earned the United Way Valuing Diversity Award at the United Way Atlanta's annual meeting.

The ceremony was held in the Oceans Ballroom of the Georgia Aquarium. The Coalition will receive a $1,500 grant as part of the award.

"We talk about diversity in all kinds of ways," said Ellen Gerstein, the Coalition's executive director, who accepted the award. "Diversity includes gender, age, mental health and physical disabilities as well as race and ethnicity."

The Coalition applied for the award on the basis of a number of unique programs it offers and data collection strategies it implements, like the Gwinnett Help Line (770-995-3339), a free confidential service through which someone can get assistance with life's pressing needs.

"Most callers have emergency financial needs, are homeless or hungry," Gerstein said. "We connect them with appropriate agencies."

The Coalition also sponsors the Gwinnett Great Days of Service in October that works with 6,200 community service projects and manages 50,000 volunteers. The 13-year-old Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute, a nine-month course, brings together diverse community members, introduces them to community leaders and teaches them how to make a difference in their community.

"The biggest thing I learned is how to interact with different, diverse people," Don Pickard said. "I am real passionate about the program because it does make a difference and it builds our future leaders." Pickard is a graduate of the course.

The GNLI is recruiting for its next class beginning in August. For more information, call 770-995-3339.