The West Haven Black Coalition put a spotlight Feb. 24 on area students, volunteers and others who are doing service for the community.

Hundreds of people attended the 32nd Annual Carroll E. Brown Scholarship & Community Awards Dinner at the Fantasia Banquet Facility on Washington Avenue. The event is the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year.

The event’s masters of ceremonies were news anchor Keith Kountz and co-chief meteorologist Gil Simmons of WTNH-TV (News 8).

Brown, thanking attendees and the dinner’s sponsors and scholarship donors for their support, told them, “You support this organization ... because everything we do is for the good of the community.”

While in its early years the coalition only gave scholarships to West Haven youth, it has branched out as time has gone on, Brown said.

Nowadays, “If you’re African American and you go to college,” you’re eligible, Brown said.

“We want our kids to get in school and stay in school,” she said.

This year, there were four student scholarship recipients who received $1,000 each to attend University of Connecticut, Southern Connecticut State University and University of New Haven.

The recipients included Jania Stewart-James, who received the People’s Bank Scholarship; Nichelle Sade Mattox, who received the Carroll E. Brown Scholarship; Dillon Swaine, which received the Chief Donald R. Scott Scholarship, and Richard Miller, who received the Ronald Quagliani Scholarship.

Mattox also received a new $500 Bollettieri Book Award.

The coalition also presented Developing Tomorrow’s Professionals awards to West Haven High School students, including Michael Afful, Pablo Bastida, John Cruz, Matthew French, Matthew Moody, Obaloluwa Olowe and Jason Ramirez.

At the other end of the age spectrum,the coalition presented an all-new “A Woman of Distinction Award” to Annie Louther, who is “103 years young” and known as “the mother of Dixwell United Church of Christ” in New Haven.

“This award will be presented in the future as the ‘Annie Louther Woman of Distriction Award’” to a woman who has earned the respect of the community, left her mark on her community, is well known, well liked, respected and carries herself with dignity, Brown said.

The coalition’s highest award, The Rev. Dr. Edwin R. Edmonds Humanitarian Award, was presented to Curtis McBride.

McBride helped organize the Brothers Getting Busy program that challenged the drug trade and worked to improve the quality of life in New Haven, and has served for more than 15 years on the Board of Directors for Immanuel Baptist Church’s Emergency Management Services shelter.

“Thank you for honoring me here tonight. Everything I do is out of love for the community,” McBride told the crowd.

“We know that more needs to be done to improve the living conditions of our neighbors who are at risk...” McBridge said. “Our mission at Emergency Management Services is to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and house the homeless.”

The coalition honored Donald Lewis with the West Haven Black Coalition Athletic Hall of Fame award.

This year’s four Community Service Award recipients were Edwin Blackwell, Troy Tappin, and Joseph Gibson and James L. Chapman Jr., aka “D.J. Tootskee.”

Newly elected New Haven Judge of Probate Clifton E. Graves, Jr. was honored with the Distinguished Citizens Award.

Military veterans Unique Flynn and Ronald H. Douglas were presented with the two Distinguished Military Service Awards.

Speakers in addition to Brown included U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, Mayor Nancy Rossi and Esther Armmand, aide to New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.

“There are a lot of flowers in the room tonight,” but “the real flowers are the young people, who are blossoming...” said Blumenthal. “And they get it from you.” He thanked the parents and educators who helped to raise this year’s scholarship recipients.

“The people in this room are rising because of education” and the Black Coalition’s Carroll E. Brown Foundation” is helping to make that happen, Blumenthal said.

DeLauro praised the a Black Coaltion for the work it does to improve the lives of others, and told Brown, “Carroll, you’re always been waging a war for the vulnerable.”

DeLauro told Louther, “Your generation is a generation that changed the world ... You’ve never accepted ‘no’ for an answer ... and for that ... thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Mayor Rossi presented a proclamation marking Saturday as the 32nd Anniversary of the Carroll E. Brown Scholarship & Awards Dinner.

Armmand said Harp — who usually attends the dinner — was sorry she couldn’t make it this year. Armmand congratulated everyone at the dinner “for showing up and supporting this event,” and said on behalf of Harp that Brown “represents a shining star in our community — because she has been at this for 30 years.”