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GFDW Luminary Luncheon honors six community leaders
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The Rockdale/Newton Chapter of the Georgia Federation of Democratic Women (GFDW) will shine a light on outstanding community leaders during its inaugural Luminary Luncheon on Saturday, Sept. 10, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Hawthorne Suites by Wyndam, 1659 Centennial Olympic Park in Conyers. 

“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,” said Elaine Davis-Nickens, President of the Rockdale/Newton Chapter of GFDW. “With our inaugural luncheon, we will highlight the work of a few of these extraordinary individuals who exemplify service to our community.”

Rockdale County Chairman and CEO Richard Oden will deliver this year's keynote address, and six recipients will be honored for their service in Rockdale and Newton Counties. 

The Civic Engagement Award recipient is Forrest Sawyer, Jr.  He has numerous accomplishments as a civil rights activist. The highlights of some of his accomplishments are his participation in and organization of several marches and demonstrations for human, civil and workers’ rights throughout his adult years.  He was also instrumental in the desegregation and integration of Covington’s schools.

The Youth Award recipient is the Honorable Judge Sheri Roberts. Judge Roberts presides over the Newton County Juvenile Court. She exemplifies her leadership and dedication to the youth of Newton County through her service in the Newton County Juvenile Court.

The Education Award recipient is Shirley Chesser.  She is a leader in the field of education in the Rockdale County School System. Chesser is the principal of Honey Creek Elementary School.  She has received several awards, such as the Highest Aspirations and Defying the Norm Awards under her leadership at Honey Creek Elementary and Peek’s Chapel Elementary.

The Health Award recipient is Dr. David Jones. He is dedicated to the children in Rockdale and the surrounding counties through his work as the chief pediatrician of three Kaiser Permanente facilities.  He is a leader who is committed to the health of the greater community.

The Business Award recipient is Phinia Aten. She is an attorney and president of the New Rock Legal Society, a volunteer bar association that serves Rockdale and Newton counties. Aten’s leadership is also demonstrated in her dedication to representing the underserved and poorly served in the justice system.

The Community Service Award recipient is Marquis Grissom, former Atlanta Braves All-Star baseball player.  Grissom has demonstrated his commitment to the youth in Rockdale County and the East Metro community through the Grissom Field of Dreams, a first-rate baseball complex located in Conyers. He further exhibits his commitment to community service by sponsoring a dozen little league baseball teams.  

For more information on the 2011 Luminary Luncheon, call Tisa Washington at 770-895-0938 or email