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To the Point

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Fresh from winning an Emmy for her portrayal of President Allison Taylor on the hit TV series 24, actress Cherry Jones has another award to add to her mantle -- this time for who she is, not who she plays.

The Point Foundation, the nation's largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBT students, gave the Point Courage Award to Jones at its annual benefit held on September 26 at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel in Los Angeles.

"In addition to being one of the most respected actresses in her profession, Cherry Jones has lived her life unapologetically as an out lesbian and is a shining example of courage to all individuals fighting for equality. More importantly, Ms. Jones gives hope to young people everywhere, including our Point Scholars," said Jorge Valencia, executive director of the Point Foundation.

"It's humbling beyond words," says Jones of accepting the award at the Point Honors Benefit, "because I hadn't heard of the Point Foundation until I got the call that I was being honored -- I don't know where I've been. I may be a Johnny-come-lately, but I plan to be at [the Point Foundation's] beck and call for the rest of my days."

As Jones learned more about Point, which often helps LGBT students who have been kicked out of their homes, the nonprofit's mentor program stood out. "The mentors really do try to encourage the kids to keep trying to engage with their families, which to me is almost the most important thing that a mentor can do for a gay person who has been shunned by their family," says the two-time Tony winner. "The most empowering thing is to persevere: They've given up on you, but that doesn't mean you have to give up on them."

Jones also hopes to become a mentor herself. "My problems is I'm in seven different cities. ... I'd really like to [mentor]; I'm almost old enough where I think I could," says the 52-year-old actress.

The red-carpet gala -- also attended by actors Swoosie Kurtz, Michael Emerson (Lost), Carrie Preston (True Blood), and Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) -- gave Jones a chance to meet Point Scholars, who shared their stories with some 350 attendees about how Point changed their lives.

"Each of their stories is so compelling and so charismatic," says Jones. "They must have such will and such a responsibility to have made it this far as students and as scholars. I can't wait to meet them ... I'm dying to meet a scholar."

Actress Lily Tomlin presented Jones with her award, and as it turns out, the two have a long history.

"When I was 19 years old [Tomlin] did a concert near my college in Pittsburgh -- this was in about 1977," says Jones. "She was hosting a fund-raiser for the defense fund for a known lesbian on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh who was being denied tenure because of her sexuality."

Jones says she and some friends buddied up with Tomlin's tour manager to meet Tomlin after the show.

"We took her to a park, and we played in the snow till about 1:30 in the morning," says Jones. "It was 15 degrees outside; there was about a foot of snow ... We had the best time in the world. And I never saw her again until she came into my dressing room after a play I was doing in New York."

Through auctions and donations, the Point Honors Benefit raised close to $300,000 for the foundation. Also during the ceremony, Motorola received the Point Inspiration Award for their corporate inclusion of LGBT people.

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