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Communitas Awards:

The 2007 Church in Ocean Park Communitas Awards were presented to recipients Reverend Jim Conn and Susan McCorry, Julie Lopez Dad, and State Senator Sheila James Kuehl at the church on Saturday, October 6.

Kuehl, who was elected to the California State Assembly in 1984 and then to the Senate in 2000, was honored for her outstanding record of upholding human rights and “economic justice” in her legislative career.

Former Santa Monica Mayor Dennis Zane introduced Kuehl as “the most talented legislator in the state of California over the last decade.” And Judy Abdo, another former mayor and close friend to Kuehl, said that “all of our lives are better because of what Sheila has been able to accomplish.”

Kuehl accepted the award with a speech in which she spoke of being in a serious mood due to recent travels that have reminded her of the hard times in other parts of the world. “In this country, we have not suffered as other countries have, but we have still been through some rough times.”

She showed the audience a “wedding ring” that she wears because she had taken an “oath” to help people.

“What makes this award really special to me,” she continued, “is that I think there is a physical communication between people who care. I don’t know what it is. There is something that makes life possible in a community, when other people love you, when they care about people they have never even met.“

Julie Lopez Dad, who currently serves on the Santa Monica Planning Commission, was cited for her long history of activism in Santa Monica. City Councilmember Kevin McKeown introduced Lopez Dad by relating how, when he himself was starting out in local politics in the early 1990s, he was inspired by Lopez Dad’s fight against big hotel development on the beach. He recalled that her own career in Santa Monica activism had begun in 1983 when “there was a knock on Julie’s door” by an OPCO (now OPCC) organizer.

“She answered the knock,” said McKeown, adding that she “still does.”

Lopez Dad said, “There are many issues to turn our hearts and minds to. This community is a place where we can give our hearts full run and actually accomplish [something] on these issues.”

Jim Conn and Susan McCorry were honored for their long history of contributions to Santa Monica. Conn is a former mayor and City Councilmember, as well as the former minister at the Church in Ocean Park, which he helped to build into a community organization. He was also one of the original Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights activists. McCorry has worked with OPCO-OPCC, with the Sojourn Battered Women’s Center, and has been working recently as a community gardener. When Joe Gerda introduced the couple, he quoted McCorry as saying, “Our work is to love the world, beginning with one another.”

McCorry urged the audience to get involved with the relief effort in New Orleans. “The people you meet will be so grateful to you that you showed up.”

Conn modestly thanked his longtime men’s group, and also the couples group he attends. “If it weren’t for them, Susan and I wouldn’t have met.”

The Communitas Awards grew out of the years of work for the community by the Church in Ocean Park. The name of the award pays homage to the original Communitas grant written by the Church in 1978, which provided funds to organize the communitay.

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