Annie Higgins speaks on her "Sojourn in Syria"

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Annie C. Higgins, a graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, was the speaker at the annual meeting and brunch of the Oak Park Council on International Affairs on May 7 at the Carleton Hotel. The Council has been raising money to support Peace Corps library and school projects around the world for more than 40 years.

A visiting instructor of Arabic at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, Higgins spoke on "Sojourn in Syria." In 2003-04, a Fulbright grant took her to Lebanon and Syria to study poetry and posters in Palestinian refugee camps. Her mother, Priscilla Higgins, who joined her at the Council event, also traveled to Syria to visit Annie and other artists in the refugee camps. Annie became acquainted with refugee creativity while volunteering in Jenin Refugee Camp on Occupied Palestinian lands the year before. She holds a B.A. in geography from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago's Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

NAMI names new director

Bernadine Drew of River Forest has been named the new executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Metro Suburban. Selected after a long search by the board of directors of the local NAMI affiliate, Drew will also serve as the administrator of the drop-in center at 814 Harrison St. which is open six days a week from 4 to 8 p.m. for persons who have a mental illness and want to participate in activities and socialize with others in the same situation. Drew is a licensed clinical social worker who holds a master's degree in social work from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a B.S. in social work from Illinois State University at Normal. She plans to help make NAMI better known and better funded, as well as increasing its membership, with an emphasis on diversity in all forms.

McClelland is tops

Jane McClelland of RE/MAX in the Village, Oak Park, earned a Top 20 ranking in the annual RE/MAX Northern Illinois Top 20, for the second year in a row. Based on 2004 sales, McClelland ranked 12th among individual agents in sales. The RE/MAX Northern Illinois network consists of 3,800 associates and 154 individually owned and operated offices.

Garden Club blooms at state

The Garden Club of Oak Park and River Forest won two awards from the Garden Clubs of Illinois during the state convention in April. The local club's "September Song" Standard Flower Show, chaired by Jeff and Frances Kraft, tied for Flower Show of Excellence with one other show and qualified for the national awards, which will be announced this summer. Also, the Myrtle R. Walgreen Award for Civic Project first prize of $50 was awarded to the club for its Curb Appeal project, headed by Carol DeBoth.

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