The Sterling Heights Ethnic Community Committee awarded six honorees at its 15th annual Diversity Distinction Awards dinner on Sept. 14 at the Macedonian Cultural Center.
The Sterling Heights Ethnic Community Committee proudly partnered with the Sterling Heights City Council in presenting these awards, provided through the generosity of Comcast, to deserving individuals, organizations and businesses that make a difference in the community.
Sarah Itoh – Sarah Itoh is a resident of Sterling Heights, and graduated from Sterling Heights High School in 2014. Sarah joined the city of Sterling Heights CommUNITY Alliance in its inaugural year because she wanted to be a part of helping with inclusion and acceptance in her community. While serving on the commission, she gave 100% to help the group achieve its mission of creating an inclusive environment that is intentional about celebrating acceptance of all people through education, exposure and events to help make Sterling Heights a destination for all. Sarah has also been involved with the Michigan and National Special Olympics. She has also presented to various civic groups and medical professionals to share what it’s like to have Down Syndrome.
Glamazon - Glamazon is one of 13 affinity groups that bring Amazon employees together across the many locations throughout the world to support diversity and inclusion. The local chapter of Glamazon, led by Chris Norkeiwicz, mentors employees, and promotes diversity and visibility with recruiting on a local level. The members of Glamazon empower Amazon employees, including the Sterling Heights facility, to bring their authentic self to the workplace and with their community. Since joining Sterling Heights, Amazon and the Glamazon group recently supported and participated in the SterlingFAST 5K and plan on being a permanent advocate and supporter of Sterling Heights events as well as local non-profit charities.
Jawwad Khan - Jawwad is a resident of Sterling Heights and is currently a board member with South Asian American Voices for Impact. SAAVI is a non-profit and non-partisan community organization that services members of their community through advocacy, education and outreach efforts. Members of SAAVI not only work in coalition with places of worship and cultural organizations, but also with city, county and state agencies. Mr. Khan works hard to promote diversity, harmony and understanding in his community, and helps new immigrants integrate to society to improve their quality of life. Mr. Khan has collaborated with other non-profits to provide English as a second language training and to promote citizenship workshops. Mr. Khan is a supporter of the Ethnic Community Committee and their events.
Dr. Gehan Girgis - Dr. Girgis has been a dentist for nearly 30 years and is now practicing at River Square Family Dentistry, located in Rochester Hills. After graduating from the Cairo University School of Dentistry in Cairo, Egypt in 1984, she continued her schooling at the University of Michigan. Dr. Girgis takes pride in serving patients from the entire tri-county area, representing many cultures and employs a diverse group of employees. Dr. Girgis has donated her time and services with local charities and churches by participating in health clinics, where she promotes dental awareness and often provides free teeth cleaning. Dr. Girgis always radiates warmth, friendliness, open mindedness and cheerfulness, regardless of her patient’s ethnicity or background.
Faris Yono, owner of Larsa Palace Restaurant & Banquet - Larsa Palace opened its doors in 2017 and is located in Sterling Heights at 3995 14 Mile Road. Larsa owner Faris Yono frequently assists local non-profit organizations and charities, offering significant discounts for their events. Mr. Yono, along with his family members and employees, are always willing to help out when possible, regardless of race or cultural differences. The employees at Larsa Palace cater to all ethnic backgrounds with their vast array of food options to suit the diverse make-up of Sterling Heights and the surrounding community. They go above and beyond to make sure all customers are happy with their event. Mr. Yono also owns the two Dream Markets in Sterling Heights. Faris Yono prides himself in offering a wide variety of delicacies to his customers of all ethnicities.
Ali Ghali Majeed and Faide Bols Bahnam, Ishtar Restaurant – Mr. Majeed and Mr. Bahnam own Ishtar Restaurant, located at 3625 15 Mile Road in Sterling Heights. Together with family close members and employees, Ali and Faide have frequently helped needy families over the years, mainly donating food for those less fortunate. They have held fundraisers at Ishtar for mosques and other houses of worship, in addition to other organizations such as the Sisters Committee from the American Islamic Community Center and the Macomb County Warming Center. They have also distributed food baskets to several senior housing facilities, and offered drive-up, carry-out meals during the Covid pandemic. Ali and Faide never hesitate to help others in their community.
Sterling Heights Ethnic Community Committee Chair Kozeta Elzhenni said the committee takes great pride in selecting and honoring individuals, organizations and businesses for their efforts in promoting diversity throughout the city. “All of these honorees strengthen Sterling Heights’ quality of life through their dedication to making Sterling Heights a community of inclusion and cultural understanding,” Elzhenni said. “Each winner of this year’s award has earned distinction, and we are very pleased to join the City Council in sharing their accomplishments with the community.”