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Albany ARC dinner honors Annette Bowling

Annette Bowling, public policy consultant and former executive director of the Albany Advocacy Resource Center, was honored at a dinner held Thursday evening at the Hilton Garden Inn (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

Annette Bowling, public policy consultant and former executive director of the Albany Advocacy Resource Center, was honored at a dinner held Thursday evening at the Hilton Garden Inn (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

ALBANY — In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Albany Advocacy Resource Center comes another milestone — 40 years of service to the organization from Annette Bowling.

Bowling, now serving as a public policy consultant since Susan Trueblood took over as executive director in August, was given tribute at a reception and dinner held at the Hilton Garden Inn Thursday evening. Present were several employees and clients of the Albany ARC as well as a number of dignitaries and friends she has crossed paths with over the years.

Aside from presentations from members of the Albany ARC staff and board of directors, there were tributes given by more than 20 people. Serving as master of ceremonies was former lieutenant governor Mark Taylor.

Among the people attending was state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who described Bowling and herself as “sisters” because they were both concerned about the same issues.

“Our friendship has endured, and we have helped so many people together,” she said.

The last several decades have brought with it to Albany ARC services such as a preschool program, Project ARC, a residential program — which has since expanded to roughly 70 units — and House of Hope, many under Bowling’s direction.

The first tribute of the evening was offered by U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany. He was unable to attend, but recorded his thoughts in a video message.

“Your work has made a difference in the lives of many Georgians,” he said. “You’ve been the driving force behind rehabilitation services to those who need it to catch up.

“All you tireless work (has reinforced) your message that those with disabilities can be (valuable) members of service.”

Kenneth Cutts, a representative from Bishop’s office, said during Thursday’s program that a congressional record in honor of Bowling had been entered by the congressman. Later on in the evening, she received a resolution from both the state House and Senate bodies, as well as a framed letter from Gov. Nathan Deal.

State Rep. Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, also spoke of the resolve Bowling has demonstrated in making sure the rights of those with disabilities were supported.

“She worked the halls of the legislature, bringing to the forefront an issue that has been swept under the rug,” he said. “Annette, don’t think you are going anywhere anytime soon, but we know your dash has been long. Our community will always be indebted to you.”

In the event’s program, there also were special messages written to Annette from those not in attendance Thursday. Among them was Court of Appeals Chief Judge Herbert Phipps.

“I remember when Annette Bowling first came to what is now Albany ARC,” he said in the statement. “Since that first day, her dedication to the cause has been an inspiration to me and a model of excellence in advocacy for people with disabilities. Since I have been on the Court of Appeals, I have seen her across the street at the State Capital tirelessly advocating to governors and legislators on behalf of people with disabilities. In Georgia, Annette is the best thing that ever happened to people with disabilities.”

The day following the ceremony, Bowling had nothing but gratitude to express for the reflections shared on the impact her work has had over the last four decades.

“I was overwhelmed to be honored like that,” she said. “To see people drive 100 miles for it … to see them come back and relive some of the history … some of the things they brought up I had forgotten about.

“Just to have the community of Albany to be there to help me celebrate … to have commissioners (and others) to share the occasion, it was wonderful.”