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VOL. 126 | NO. 121 | Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Marlo Thomas Among Jefferson Award Recipients

JESSICA GRESKO | Associated Press

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WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actress Marlo Thomas and sports team owner Jerry M. Reinsdorf are among the people being honored with a national prize for public service.

The recipients of the 2011 Jefferson Awards will accept their honors Tuesday evening at the National Building Museum in Washington and Wednesday in New York City. The recipients of most of the 18 awards, dubbed a "Nobel Prize" for public service, are not celebrities. They include the founder of a nonprofit that works to end childhood hunger and a brother and sister who have distributed phone cards to U.S. troops overseas. The awards, now in their 39th year, were co-founded by former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and are named for founding father Thomas Jefferson.

The Jefferson Award for lifetime achievement is going to Thomas, an Emmy-award-winning actress known for her role in the TV series "That Girl" in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The wife of TV personality Phil Donahue and daughter of comedian Danny Thomas, she has worked with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis for the last 20 years, raising money for pediatric cancer research. She will be honored Wednesday.

Among those being honored Tuesday is Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls, who is being recognized for the efforts of his sports teams' foundations. Ginsburg is being honored for her legal career. Before she became the second female justice on the nation's high court in 1993, she was a judge, a professor and a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, where her work focused on gender equality.

Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn is receiving a Jefferson Award for outstanding athlete in service and philanthropy. Dunn, who played 12 seasons for the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is being recognized for the work of his foundation, which since 2002 has helped more than 100 single parents become first-time homeowners in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. Dunn, whose mom was a single mother until she was killed when he was 18, said he plans next to start a bereavement program for kids in Louisiana, where he was born. It will be called "Betty's Hope" in honor of his mother, a police officer.

Dunn said in a telephone interview before the ceremony that he hopes to continue to serve people and "stand up for things that are right and positive."

Non-celebrity honorees said the recognition would make their charitable efforts more visible. Bill Shore is founder of Washington-based Share Our Strength, which works to end childhood hunger. He said his organization, which for years has provided grants to local organizations, is also working directly to get children enrolled in public food assistance programs from states.

"I think the award shines a spotlight on the issue," Shore said.

Brittany Bergquist of Norwell, Mass., who with her brother Robbie Bergquist co-founded Cell Phones for Soldiers in 2004, said she hopes the publicity will help them offer more free phone calls to soldiers. Her charity collects old cell phones and exchanges them for funds to provide prepaid calling cards to U.S. troops. The 20-year-old Bergquist, who will be a college junior in the fall, says she and her brother missed school dances or hanging out with friends to run their nonprofit, but it's been worth it to help service members.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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