Salem County MLK breakfast encourages people to help youth in the community
By Alex Young, South Jersey Times, January 19, 2015
In his keynote speech at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship & Awards Breakfast, Rev. Dave Bailey Sr. tried to channel Dr. King and think of what the civil rights leader would say if it were him speaking at the event Monday morning.
Bailey said King's major concern would be the nation's young people.
"What in the world is happening to another generation of young people in this nation," Bailey asked. "He would remind us in the church, in law enforcement, in school and in politics not to forget that young people need to feel secure, they need to feel safe. ... They need to feel as though there's someone in this world that will tell them they are safe, and it's going to be all right."
Religious leaders, community activists, elected officials and other joined together Monday at Salem High School for the 24th annual scholarship & awards breakfast.
The event — hosted by Mount Pisgah AME Church and sponsored by the Partners of Salem County (PSEG Nuclear, Franklin Bank, DuPont Chambers Works, The Memorial Hospital of Salem County and the South Jersey Times) — honors people in the community who have carried out King's message and raises money for scholarships that benefit students at Salem High School.
Anne W. Henry, who gave the statement of purpose for the event, said on Martin Luther King Day, people shouldn't ask what he did, but what they are doing now to remember him and his mission.
"His dreams, his hopes, his life are written in books and in movies, and his footprints are left on the sand of time," she said. "Let's not ask what he did. Let's ask ourselves what I am doing, what you are doing, what we are doing to keep Dr. Martin Luther King's dream alive?"
Three people were honored at the breakfast for doing just that.
The first, Janice Corbin, has been in education for more than 20 years and has been the family and consumer science teacher at Salem High School for eight years.
She was honored for her dedication to her students, not only in the classroom but in the extracurricular activities she advises. In addition to advising the school's Knit Wits craft club, she volunteers her skills as a professional seamstress to make costumes for the Oakwood Summer Theatre. She is also the mom/manager of the Salem Community Youth Choir.
She said she learned from her mother when it comes to helping her kids, whether they're hers, kids at the school or kids in the organizations she helps with.
"I believe I follow her example of always supporting my children," she said. "I only do what she taught me."
The second honoree was Valerie Spence-Lacy, who was recognized for her community activism, as well as her leadership in various groups and boards throughout the county, including the Salem County branch of the NAACP and the Woodstown-Pilegrove Regional School District.
She offered her own thoughts on what King would say if he were to speak at the event Monday.
"If Martin Luther King was here, he would say 'we could do better,'" she said. "I challenge you to make today a better day. ... Make the next day better than the day before."
The third honoree was Salem High School Football Coach Dennis Thomas. He was honored for his mentorship of his student-athletes, and for leading the team to the state championship game this season.
He said building the football program is all about helping provide students with the best education possible no matter what their background.
"If a child comes to me an says they are thirsty or they are hungry, who am I to turn my back on them just because they don't look like me or act like me," Thomas said. "I just need to make sure I love others as I love myself. That's a key factor missing in society today."