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MLK Prayer Breakfast

Sandra Gray, left, presents an award to Janice Peterson
Sandra Gray, left, presents an award to Voncile Stallworth

Stallworth, Peterson presented awards

News Staff Writer

About 30 people attended this year’s Unity Prayer Breakfast, part of the local commemoration of the birthday of Civil Rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The event, held January 19 at Atmore Community Hospital’s Mayson Auditorium, featured a hearty breakfast, a series of themed prayers from local and area ministers, and the presentation of two community service awards.
Atmore City Councilwoman Susan Smith and Sandra Gray — president of the breakfast’s sponsor, Concerned Citizens of Atmore — shared the mistress of ceremonies duties, and Mayor Jim Staff greeted attendees. Several in the crowd stood and recited quotes from King’s speeches and writings.
Four pastors — James Crook of Old Ship Baptist Church; Sylvia Roberts of Paradise Holiness Church; Brennen Peacock of First United Methodist Church; and Michael Arnold of Brewton’s Peace and Goodwill Baptist Church — delivered brief addresses and offered prayers.
Crook delivered a powerful message on unity, calling for a “fundamental solidarity of love and purpose” and recalling the slain Civil Rights leader’s plea for unity among people of all races and all walks of life.
“Where there is unity, there is strength; where there is strength there is progress,” he preached. “My football coach used to tell us that a kicking mule cannot pull, and a pulling mule cannot kick. There has to be some unity.”
He pointed out that unity is lacking at all levels of life, drawing a chorus of amens after several of his points.
“There has to be some unity in our community; there has to be some unity in our schools; there has to be some unity in our churches; there has to be unity in my house, your house and the courthouse,” Crook said. “And, last but not least, there has to be some unity in the White House.”
After Roberts delivered a short address on peace, telling the crowd that, “before we can have peace in the community of Atmore, we have to have peace within ourselves,” those in attendance enjoyed a buffet breakfast of bacon, sausage, eggs, grits, biscuits and gravy.
Once everyone was seated and well into his or her food, the unity prayers continued.
Peacock spoke on wisdom, leading into the heart of his theme with a brief discourse on King’s legacy.
“I look around and I see some faces that may have a little more personal experience with the journey we’re talking about today,” he began. “I don’t mean that necessarily by color of face, but more by color of hair. There are some folks here that have traveled this path for a while, and I come into this as an inheritor of a legacy, one that was handed to me.
“It’s easy to say that Dr. King handed us a legacy, but that legacy was handed to him first. Before he was the leader of the Civil Rights movement; before he was a doctor of letters; before he was a pastor — he was a Christian. That is what led him to the places he went.
“We are all inheritors of a legacy. I hope we are able to hand off that legacy with satisfaction to those who come after us.”
A highlight of the gathering came when Gray, on behalf of CCA, presented two “MLK Making a Difference Community Service Awards,” one to Voncile Stallworth and one to Janice Peterson of Just 4 Kids clothing store.
“I’ll tell you something about Ms. Voncile,” Smith said. “I’m not going to give her the microphone because she can out-talk me. She is such a grand person, and most people know her. We think she is the grand dame of Atmore.”
Gray then explained that Stallworth has “helped so many people … she’s been a legend in this community.” The award, Gray said, was in recognition and appreciation of “distinguished service, loyalty and devotion to the ideals and principles of our organization.”
Ms. Stallworth spoke for several minutes, taking the microphone and avoiding several attempts by Ann Powell to gently take it from her while soft laughter filled the room.
“Thank you, and I mean that from my heart,” the award-winner said. “My motto has always been, ‘If I can help somebody along the way, my living will not have been in vain’.”
Peterson later came to accept her award, which was for her efforts in helping procure the free school uniforms CCA has given away for the past 20 years.
“For years and years, if we’ve needed this or that, she has gone into her inventory and got it,” Gray said.
Peterson said she was glad that God has put her in a position where she could help, and that He had made other help available to her.
“I thank God that he gave me the opportunity that I can be around and help children,” she said. “I could not do what I do at Just 4 Kids if it was not for the banks, churches, the credit union and the people who care about kids. I have been blessed, and I’m glad I can be in that position.”
Roland Hall, Wellness Manager at Health Actions Physical Therapy, delivered a brief address to close the event.