November 29, 2014
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Heroes of faith to be celebrated at Oct. 31 breakfast
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AWARD RECIPIENT: Kathleen Taylor, along with other advocates, will receive an award for her work in building her local religious community. This photo of Taylor and her daughter Sakeena Khan was taken in 2009 when she was honored by the Young Women's Christian Association.

Naming an award after a person is an immense honor, one that Rev. Dr. Donald C. Anderson says the late George Dickson Kenney deserves.

Kenney, the president of Kenney Manufacturing, a family-run business, is being remembered with the George Dickson Kenney Stewardship Award for his philanthropic efforts at the 4th annual Heroes of Faith Awards Breakfast Oct. 31.

“Throughout his life, he was a man of faith,” said Anderson, the executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches (RISCC), a collection of ministers, chaplains, priests and religious people of a variety of denominations who discuss issues that are important to people of faith.

Anderson, who was Kenney’s pastor at the First Baptist Church at East Greenwich before joining the RISCC six years ago, said Kenney was a great example of a person of faith who used his means to better society.

“Not everyone who gets this award is someone of means,” he said. “They are also someone who is generous with their time, talent and energy.”

Two local women who have made a positive difference in the community, including Kathleen Taylor and Kathleen McKeon, along with four other influential people, are also receiving awards for their dedication toward helping others.

The women will each receive the Community and Faith Service Award for integrating their faith with social services. Taylor, who is the founder and co-chair of Healthy Families Initiative, is thrilled of the award.

“I was honored and humbled at the same time because I never seek recognition for the work I do in the Muslim Community,” said Taylor, a Warwick resident. “Other faiths are recognizing and honoring what we do.”

Taylor started the initiative in 2009 to educate Muslims and non-Muslims alike about the true Islamic perspective on domestic violence in the religion. The goal is not only to assist individuals in need, but also banish the stereotype that the religion advocates abuse.

“Unfortunately, Islam gets a bad rep saying that women are opposed,” she said. “The religion doesn’t do that; people do that and it’s usually because their culture is teaching them that, not the religion. It doesn’t tolerate it or promote it. There are a lot of cultural misconceptions and myths that people think are reality when it’s not. Domestic violence is about one person having power and control over another person or a group of people.”

Taylor was inspired to start the initiative after experiencing a series of events. About four years ago, a New York woman was murdered by her husband the day she filed for divorce. She had been in an abusive relationship for several years.

Shortly after, Taylor received a call from a friend seeking advice about domestic violence counseling. Upon doing research, Taylor came across a shocking discovery.

During that time, she was recently divorced and recognized she had been a victim of domestic violence, as well. From there, she decided to start the group.

“We try to provide men and women with the resources they are looking for, whether it be counseling or social services,” said Taylor. “We do everything according to Islamic guidelines. We don’t advocate for divorce, but we tell people their choices.”

The initiative started with support from the Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement, but Taylor is in the process of establishing it as an independent non-profit organization. For more information about various programs, visit ricma.org.

McKeon, who grew up in Warwick and lives in Cranston, works for The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. She is being honored for her efforts of advocating for the elderly, caretakers, as well as helping individuals who are recovering from substance abuse.

“It’s an honor because it comes from the Council of Churches,” she said. “They have helped us get our message out about services that we provide. It’s a group of people that I respect and work closely with, and hope to work closely with in the future.”

Aside from Kenney, Taylor and McKeon, Cranston resident Rabbi Amy Levin is also being honored. Levin, who heads Temple Torat Yisrael in East Greenwich, formerly based on Park Avenue in Cranston, will receive the Faith Leader of the Year Award for her many accomplishments.

In addition to successfully relocating the congregation, she is the president of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island, the second woman to be ordained by the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, the rabbinic seminary of the Israeli Masorti Movement, and has served as a congregational rabbi in Jerusalem.

“To pick up a congregation from one community and move it to another is a task of enormous proportion,” said Anderson, who grew up in Cranston. “She’s done it with great skill and grace, and is a really good leader.”

Rabbi Levin said she was speechless and “deeply honored” when she was notified of the award. She respects the RISCC and is pleased they are acknowledging her.

“The State Council of Churches is an organization that I deeply admire,” she said. “I’ve been to other Heroes of Faith Breakfasts and the people who have been honored have been extraordinary role models of interfaith cooperation, compassion and care. To be counted among them is a huge honor.”

As noted, other people of faith are receiving awards. They include Swami Yogatmananda, who will be honored with the Interfaith Award, as well as Dr. Marian Styles-McClintock and the late Rev. Hebert W. Bolles, who have each earned a Life Achievement Award. This award has been named in honor of Bollis as the Rev. Hebert W. Bolles Life Achievement Award.

“He was a real leader for a number of years here in Rhode Island,” Anderson said of Bolles, an Episcopal priest that served as a Chaplin in the United States Navy and was engaged in interfaith work.

Anderson also praised Yogatmananda for being a “very good example of a faith leader who actively engages in interfaith activity,” as well as Dr. Styles-McClintock’s dedication to the United Methodist Church and her commitment to community organizing and social change.

In addition, faith communities and other non-profits are able to honor recipients of their choice with a Partners in Faith Award. The Partners in Faith (PIF) Program gives non-profit organizations who work with the faith community the opportunity to honor one member or couple who made a significant contribution to the life of their community. Visit CouncilOfChurches.org for information on making a submission.

For tickets, which are $35 each, visit heroesofaith2013.eventbrite.com. The breakfast will be held from 7:45 to 10 a.m. at the West Valley Inn at 4 Blossom Street in West Warwick. Pork products will not be served. Contact the RISCC office at 461-5558 or e-mail riscc@councilof

churchesri.org for more information.


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