30 Jan 2016 – Every year starting in the Fall and leading up to the Friday before Martin Luther King’s Day in January, the FAL office hums with excitement and anxiety. “Our anniversary celebrations are a big deal for us to celebrate our history and success.” Shares Sue Cortopassi, FAL’s current CEO. This year, as FAL’s 22nd anniversary neared, it was no different. There were flyers to be posted, local newspapers to be informed and the agenda to be set. But, most importantly, the 2016 David Lewis award winner had to be chosen by the FAL Board.
David Lewis was a nationally recognized educator and leader in the field of substance abuse recovery and prisoner rehabilitation. He co-founded FAL in 1993 in order to address the drug and violence issues in East Palo Alto in the 90s. When he passed away in 2010, he left behind a legacy of community-powered self-healing and hope. Today, FAL honors that legacy every year through the David Lewis award. Previous recipients of the award included Vicki Smothers (co-founder and board member of FAL), Robert Hoover (board member of FAL) and Priya Haji (tech entrepreneur, co-founder and first CEO of FAL). Keeping the spirit alive, the 2016 award recipient was Dorsey Nunn, the Executive Director of LSPC (Legal Services for Prisoners with Children) well known for his work towards the national ban the box campaign. As the award recipient, as a co-founder of FAL and as a current board member, his participation in the anniversary celebrations was eagerly anticipated.
The day of the 22nd FAL anniversary celebrations was Friday the 29th of January 2016. The venue was the room usually used for 12-step meetings. It however, transformed into a beautiful large event room for a group of hundred and fifty enthusiastic people dressed for the occasion. The crowd included recent FAL program grads, alumni, partners, friends, family, FAL staff, FAL board, local officials and other well-wishers. The celebrations were kicked off with hors d’oeuvres and several American and international dance performances by FAL clients, supporters and friends.
Shortly after the colorful dance routines, Rev. Mary Fraiser, the founder of East Palo Alto’s Bread of Life Worship Center addressed the crowd. A graduate of Rhema Bible training center, Rev. Mary Fraiser, founded this organization to focus on prison and hospital outreach. Soon, Dorsey Nunn took to the podium to continue the words of wisdom, inspiration and recognition of the milestones achieved by the audience and the local community. The night’s events ended with a 12 step meeting as a way to put to action the encouragement and support received from all directions.