SALEM— "Never let anyone take your dream away."
Third District Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro told those at the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards and Scholarship Breakfast Monday that no one can stop us on our road to achievement.
But he warned that we must also realize that we can't always achieve those dreams on our own.
"We all are faced with challenges and you might not know what the outcome will be, but when you have people in your corner you are going to be OK," Taliaferro said.
This is the 25th year that historic Mt. Pisgah A.M.E. Church has hosted the event. The Partners of Salem County — The Memorial Hospital of Salem County, PSEG Nuclear, DuPont, Franklin Bank and the South Jersey Times — now sponsor the event.
The event is an opportunity for those who give back to the Salem County community to be recognized. Over the years many have been recognized.
The 2016 honorees include Ruth Ann Carter, Matt Hassler and Minister Horace Kinlaw.
Carter, who is retired from The Memorial Hospital of Salem County and The Arc of Salem County, is a Salem City councilwoman representing the East Ward.
Carter has a bachelor's degree in theology and is a licensed evangelist in the A.M.E. Church. She is also a members of the local chapter of Friends of Education.
Hassler has been employed by PSEG Nuclear for 35 years. He has held many coaching positions throughout the years.
Born and raised in Salem, he has a strong commitment to the community, serving on the Stand Up For Salem Board of Directors, is a Housing Authority commissioner, helps with city cleanups and plays a key role in the Salem Magic of Christmas Parade. He is also the creator of SWAG – Souls With A Goal — which has held community events including the attempt to break the world record for a line dance.
Kinlaw, of Carneys Point, is a member of the Hopewell Baptist Church where he serves as an associate youth pastor, teaches adult Bible study and is the founder of the Alpha J Omega Youth Organization.
In continuing his ministry to children, Kinlaw is the new pastor/chaplain at Ranch Hope in Alloway Township.
Taliaferro, who was the event's keynote speaker, has a personal story has been one of triumph. A Penn State football player, he broke his neck during a game and paralyzed. His chances of ever walking Again were slim, he was told, but he overcame the odds. He went on to graduate from Penn State and now works for Bristol Myers Squibb.
Last year he was appointed to fill a vacant Third District seat and then in November was elected in his own right. He became the first African-American assemblyman to ever represent the Third District which includes all of Salem County and parts of Cumberland and Gloucester counties.
Taliaferro recalled as he laid in his hospital bed he looked for inspiration.
The words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped him through, he said.
"I really never faced any adversity in my life," he recalled (being paralyzed) was the first time.
"His (King's) words, his wisdom got me through the toughest time of my life."
He also knew that many people were pushing for him.
"The thing I knew I had going for me was my family, my friends. I knew I was going to be OK."
Taliaferro reminded those in the audience that King believed "everyone can be great because everyone can serve."
He also said that each day we must keep moving forward, learning and doing so "day to day we are not going to be the same person."
"I am no different than anybody in this room," Taliaferro said. "I have been blessed in my life to have been surrounded by many great people. There are so many people who have made a difference in my life and not a day goes by that I don't think about those people."
"It's only right that I give back. I can never give back all that I have been given, but what I try to do is make this place just a little bit better."
Also recognized at the event were the winners of the Salem Main Street Martin Luther King Essay Contest.
The essay topic this year was not King, but Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
From 500 entries, four winners were chosen — John Fenwick School second-grader Khabeerah Adams, Salem Middle School fifth-grader Aaron Vaughn, Salem Middle School eighth-grader Dashon Bundy and Salem High School sophomore Jahyde Maynor.
Proceeds from the annual event go toward student scholarships through the Salem County Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Foundation.