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Six recognized for community work in Rockdale, Newton

2011 Luminary Luncheon Winners, (l-r) Marquis Grissom, Shirley Chesser, Phinia Aten, Forrest Sawyer, Representative for Judge Sheri Roberts and Dr. David Jones.

2011 Luminary Luncheon Winners, (l-r) Marquis Grissom, Shirley Chesser, Phinia Aten, Forrest Sawyer, Representative for Judge Sheri Roberts and Dr. David Jones.

CONYERS -- Former Atlanta Braves outfielder Marquis Grissom joined five local residents to be recognized for their work in the community by the Rockdale/Newton Chapter of the Georgia Federation of Democratic Women as the inaugural recipients of the group's Community Luminary Awards.

Elaine Davis-Nickens, president of the Rockdale/Newton Chapter of GFDW, explained the awards were designed to highlight local individuals working to make the community a better place.

"We have several unsung heroes in our community who work to change the lives of residents in Rockdale and Newton counties. While they touch the lives of many, they are rarely recognized for their efforts," Davis-Nickens said. "With our inaugural luncheon, we highlight the work of a few of these extraordinary individuals who exemplify service to our community."

The Luminary Awards luncheon was held Saturday at the Hawthorne Suites by Wyndam in the Georgia International Horse Park. Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden gave the keynote address. Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown and Sen. Ronald Ramsey also attended.

Awards were presented in six areas of service -- civic engagement, youth, education, health, business and community service.

Grissom received the Community Service Award for his work with youth in Rockdale County and the east Atlanta region through the Grissom Field of Dreams complex in Conyers.

Forrest Sawyer Jr. was presented with the Civic Engagement Award. He was recognized for his long service as a civil rights activist and was instrumental in the desegregation and integration of Covington's schools. He is also president of the African-American Historical Association of Newton County.

Newton County Juvenile Court Judge Sheri Roberts was presented with the Youth Award for her "leadership and dedication to the youth of Newton County," according to a press release.

Shirley Chesser was presented with the Education Award. Chesser is principal of Honey Creek Elementary School in Rockdale County and has been recognized for her work at Honey Creek and Peek's Chapel Elementary schools.

Dr. David Jones was presented with the Health Award. He was recognized for his work with children in Rockdale and the surrounding counties as the chief pediatrician of three Kaiser Permanente facilities.

Phinia Aten was presented with the Business Award. She is an attorney and president of the NewRock Legal Society, a volunteer bar association that serves Rockdale and Newton counties. Aten was recognized for work to represent the underserved and poorly served in the justice system.

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2011 Luminary Luncheon Winners, (l-r) Marquis Grissom, Shirley Chesser, Phinia Aten, Forrest Sawyer, Representative for Judge Sheri Roberts and Dr. David Jones.