The Arizona Women’s Education & Employment (AWEE) celebrated its 20th anniversary of The Faces of Success Luncheon hosted at the Arizona Biltmore Resort on Thursday.

AWEE is an organization dedicated to helping the community by fighting the inequality barriers in the workforce and providing support to women and other citizens in need of a career.

A 2014 Faces of Success recipient, and a woman who personally received help from the AWEE, Janee Jackson, was one of three to tell their story and speak on the influence the program had on their life.

Jackson, similar to the other women who shared their stories, spoke very highly of the program and said it rescued her.

“The most incredible thing though is not just getting the job, it was when I got the job. I only had three days left before my mortgage program was going to end and I was going into foreclosure,” she said. “It was all because of AWEE. It helped me so much. My son, he saw what we went though, he saw that bad things can happen to good people, but he learned you have to have a plan. He learned not to be too prideful to ask for help.”

AWEE is lead by President and CEO Marie Sullivan. She now dedicates her life to this purpose of helping others and today it paid off.

During the ceremony on Thursday, Sullivan was named the recipient of the 2014 Jeanne Lind Herberger Award.

“Marie Sullivan, what an awesome leader for this community, who we appreciate and is receiving a well-deserved honor here today,” said emcee of the event and radio personality Tim Hattrick. “She is one of our top leaders, not just of nonprofit leaders but all around business leaders.”

He followed with a short introduction of her previous experience and then introduced her to the crowd, who welcomed her with a cheering and a standing ovation that lasted more than 30 seconds.

Sullivan began her acceptance speech in tears as she thanked the room and spoke of her first time meeting Jeanne Herberger.

“I am humbled and also a bit embarrassed,” she said. “I met Jeanne Herberger 17 years ago. I was impressed with her grace, her dignity and her intelligence. I knew Jeanne as a philanthropist, many of you know her as well, if you have been to her theater or other buildings throughout our communities, you’ll realize the Herbergers are generous. Not only are they generous with their money and assets however, Jeanne was very generous with her time.”

Sullivan said her biggest reason for admiring Herberger was her mission to leave an impact in the life of women.

“As I came to know her, I understood that she also had a personal mission. It was to make a positive mark on the health and well-being of women and their families, hence her involvement with organizations such as AWEE and The Arizona Foundation for Women,” she said.

Sullivan became emotional as she spoke of how this award she was receiving embodied Herberger’s mission and represented women everywhere.

“The Herberger award has been named for, and has been received by, truly remarkable women; women who have built legacies for women and what is possible for them,” Sullivan said. “When I think back on who these women are, I observe a common thread among them: each of them has stood on the shoulders of people who have come before them, and each have given a knee up for those who blazed a trail after them.”

Sullivan finished her speech by reminding the crowd of the core values all of these influential women share, including spirit and passion.

“And therein lies the heart of the Jeanne L. Herberger award. It celebrates and emphasizes that we are all in this together, working for and on behalf of women everywhere, regardless of the barriers they face, to live and achieve their full potential,” she said. “So I stand here today, because of many of you in this room, because of your strong shoulder, and your agile knees.”