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Human rights unit honors protectors

Published Oct. 16, 2005

Bill Newell believes human rights are only as good as the human beingswho safeguard them.

So do other members of Hernando County's Brotherhood/Sisterhood Committee, which on Sunday night plans to honor seven county citizens for their contributions in the field.

"A lot more people are more likely to trample on human rights than would protect them," said Newell, who also is chairman of the Bahai Group of West Hernando County. Bahai is a worldwide religious group that stresses the spiritual unity of all people.

The seven Hernando residents, whose contributions range from work with the Boy Scouts to child advocacy, will be honored at a 6:30 p.m. banquet Sunday at the Slovene Club, 13383 County Line Road, three and a half miles west of U.S. 41.

Dr. Roy Kaplan, regional director of the National Conference for Christians and Jews in the Tampa Bay region, will give the keynote address.

Sunday's sold-out dinner will be the second sponsored by the committee, said co-founder Israel Kacanek. He said nearly 400 tickets, at $15 each, have been sold, more than three times last year's attendance.

"This will be the first year we might have some money left over," he said. Any extra proceeds will be used for "scholarships of one sort or another."

Newell, who joined the Bahai faith while a student at the University of South Florida in the 1960s, said the only way to maintain human rights is to not take them for granted.

"We must always be vigilant or it will get worse," he said. "The KKK and skinheads that have rallied in our Brooksville, these are the type of things we're very much opposed to," he said.

Some three dozen Ku Klux Klan members and white supremacists known as "skinheads" held a march Oct. 28 in Brooksville. While the gathering was jeered and ridiculed by more than 100 people, human rights activists noted that it was the third Klan rally in the county in less than two years.

At Sunday's banquet, humanitarian awards will be given to Coastal

Engineering Associates Inc. and Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, both of which donated time and labor for a three-year VISTA project of Kacanek's that brought water to 12 rural families in Lacoochee, a small town in Pasco County.

"We're always reading about what a bunch of so-and-sos they are and never give them a worthwhile pat on the back," Kacanek said of the companies.

The St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church in Holiday also will receive an award for its help in Kacanek's project.

The seven Hernando County citizens to be honored are Dale Bennett, founder of the Blanche Cambric Academy, a school for young blacks;

Daystar volunteers Chester and Jean Czyznik; Michael Kupec, for his 35 years in scouting; child advocate Cynthia Moore; Paul Simmons, described as someone willing to help just about anyone in need; and registered nurse Helen Werme.

The Brotherhood/Sisterhood Committee has meetings at 7:30 p.m. the third Thursday of each month at the sheriff's substation on Forest Oaks Boulevard in Spring Hill.