A human rights organization in Benewah County has received this year’s Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations Civil Rights Award.
The Benewah Human Rights Coalition was presented the award Monday night at the annual human rights banquet hosted by the task force in Coeur d’Alene.
The coalition, founded two years ago, was singled out for its successful anti-bullying program with the St. Maries and Lakeside school districts. The nonprofit group also has worked to improve relations between members of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and nontribal residents.
“They’re trying to get all different segments of society to work together and cooperate and understand one another,” said Tony Stewart, who co-founded the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. “I think they’ve been very good at what they’re doing.”
Christina Crawford, president of the Benewah Human Rights Coalition, accepted the award. A writer and actor, Crawford is known for “Mommie Dearest,” her autobiographical account of growing up with her adoptive mother, film star Joan Crawford.
Gayle Hughes and Lauren Lepinski received this year’s Bill Wassmuth Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award for their work with the task force. Hughes and her professional design office provide free services for the organization’s materials, and Lepinski edits the group’s quarterly newsletter.
The Human Rights Education Institute’s Tony Stewart Human Rights Education Award went to Mandy Surratt-Florin, principal of West Ridge Elementary School in Post Falls, for helping coordinate the Post Falls School District’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. program for fifth-graders. Surratt-Florin will retire at the end of this school year.
The banquet’s keynote speaker was Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, an international organization dedicated to identifying and combating genocide.
Stanton spoke of the success of citizen movements in the fall of the regimes in the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia and Liberia, as well as the defeat of the Aryan Nations in North Idaho.