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Local couple honored at MLK Jr. celebration

OCEANSIDE — Diana and Dennis Cleary were honored with the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Award at the 21st annual celebration held at MiraCosta College on Jan. 16.
The Clearys were recognized for their community contribution as volunteers at the Fraternity House, which provides housing and supportive services for men and women living with HIV/AIDS.
The event celebrated the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with song, dance, and motivational speakers.
Ceremonies closed with the presentation of the Civic Award to the Clearys for their community work.
At the Fraternity House Diana Cleary, a retired Army major, manages the Resident Advocacy Program and Dennis Cleary, who is a retired attorney, provides free legal advice to residents when needed.
Dennis Cleary also drives residents to weekly shopping trips, errands and medical appointments. “Every week I take them shopping,” he said. “I’ve gotten quite close to them. I’ve met their families, we’ve had dinner together, they have come to our house.”
“Really, it’s just treating them as people,” Diana Cleary said.
The Fraternity House has two local locations, in Elfin Forest and Vista, which serve 20 people who are in different stages of HIV/AIDS. “Some have just been diagnosed and are getting used to the medications,” Diana Cleary said. “Some have come here to die. They want to be ‘home’ to die.”
Hospice workers come to the house to work with residents who have advanced stages of the disease. “It’s for people who need a caring, loving place,” Diana Cleary said.
The Clearys said they volunteer to make the day-to-day lives of the residents easier and more comfortable. They said they feel that they have grown personally by helping others and learning from them.
Other organizations the Clearys volunteer for are the Community Resource Center, North County Solutions for Change, Carlsbad High School Teen Mother Program and Tri-City Medical Center.
The annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration is hosted by the North San Diego County Branch of the NAACP and is dedicated to honoring civil rights.
The local NAACP focuses on encouraging students to gain a college education and supports the Back to School Stay in School Program, which tutors students through high school, and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship program.