In my mind, when the words “awards,” “ceremony,” “buffet,” “speeches” “plaques” and “suburbs” are combined in one sentence, I’m already getting nervous and wondering what iPhone activity I can do to while away the time while the speeches drone on.

In Howard County, each year for the past 35 years, there is exactly one of these events. It’s called the Audrey Robbins Humanitarian Awards Luncheon. And, for a combination of reasons, I’ve attended this event for several years running. The awards ceremony is put on by the Association of Community Services of Howard County (ACS). ACS is a membership organization that works at the nexus of over 120 local service organizations, and its members range from non-profit health and human services groups, to government agencies, to for-profit businesses, to faith-based organizations, to concerned community advocates.

In other words, it’s the member organization for a host not-to-sexy organizations doing a lot of not-so-shiny work for a spectrum of people often in a not-so-great place in their lives. Are you getting a picture of the organization, its members and what the awards ceremony could be like?

But, really, it’s not so bad. ACS, in tandem with volunteers and participants from the community, scans the local scene of health and human services workers and then, in its awards ceremony, sings the praises of people and organizations that typically don’t get a lot of recognition, economic (salary) rewards, or support (rich funding); then ACS takes their work, their diligence, their care and concern; and reflects it back to the award recipient and the community at large in my favorite “the event I love to hate.”

Each person’s story and why they were selected for the award is told with a video in which the recipients and many others in their professional lives are interviewed. It’s lovely. And heartwarming. I find it much easier to listen to stories than it is to listen to speeches; and my mind is naturally more curious when I’m allowed to look at a subject from more than one perspective.

So, ladies and gentlemen, without further adieu, the 35th Annual Audrey Robbins Humanitarian Awards Luncheon 2010 Honorees are Donna Wells of the Howard County Mental Health Authority, this year’s Employee of the Year winner; Kathleen Dugan of C.A.S.E., Volunteer of the Year; and NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Health, Howard County chapter), the Howard County Volunteer Team of the Year. In addition, former director of the Howard County Department of Citizen Services, Susan Rosenbaum, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

If you’re more or a show-me-the-video type of person, a link to the video story about each recipient is found by clicking on their names, above.

Oh, and remember: next time you’re at a buffet luncheon awards ceremony, don’t eat too much bread. It might make you sleepy for the rest of the afternoon ... assuming, of course, the droning speeches haven’t done so already.

Rock on.