AWF Lay Leader Plays Key Role in MLK Memorial

published 2/8/2012

As we celebrate Black History Month, probably the most notable leader in the Civil Rights Movement is now properly memorialized in our nation's capital thanks to one of our outstanding leaders in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Mr. Frank Jenkins, III, a member of Metropolitan United Methodist Church, where he serves on the administrative council as well as several conference committees, was appointed to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation’s board of directors upon its formation in 1998 and has served from inception to dedication as chairman of the audit committee. 

This memorial took over 28 years to accomplish and its history is worth noting. A small group of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated members developed the idea for the memorial in 1983 to honor their Alpha brother, Dr. Martin Luther King. A year later, they presented their idea to the General Convention of Alpha Phi Alpha and the Fraternity embraced the memorial as a national project. Sadly, the idea was not embraced by the American public for several years so the plan was tabled. 

Diligent Fraternity members continued behind-the-scenes work in the 1990s where the dream became a reality. Under the leadership of Alpha Phi Alpha's 29th General President, Milton Davis (a Tuskegee, Alabama attorney), the United States Congress passed, then President Bill Clinton signed legislation authorizing the Fraternity to establish a memorial in Washington DC dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Later in the decade it was established that the memorial would be located in the National Mall where other significant leaders of our country are memorialized such as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and war veterans; a place for the brave few.

On May 28, 1998 the Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Incorporated was founded. This organization was solely responsible for the planning, building and fundraising of the memorial. At this point, two Montgomery leaders were appointed to help guide the committee. Attorney Tyrone Means and Frank A. Jenkins III of Montgomery donated valuable time to lend their expertise to this committee. As mentioned, Jenkins, a CPA, served as chair of the audit committee and Means was legal counsel. Jenkins expressed his gratitude for this honor by saying, "On behalf of the board of directors of the Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Incorporated, I thank all of our brothers and sisters from the United Methodist Churches and from around the world for the contributions to the completion of the Memorial."

General Motors generously initiated the fundraising campaign with a grant of $10 million in 2001. The 31st General President of Alpha Phi Alpha, Harry E. Johnson, Sr., implemented a new fundraising plan to raise $120 million.

906 design entries were submitted from 52 countries. ROMA Design Group of San Francisco, CA was granted the project. Their design incorporated four themes Dr. King embraces which were Justice, Hope, Democracy and Love. Countless approvals by the National Capital Planning Commission, the US Commission of Fine Arts and the National Park Service were required during the design process. A celebratory groundbreaking finally happened on November 13, 2006 with three presidents in attendance (then President George Bush, former President Bill Clinton and future President and then US Senator Barack Obama). Master Lei of China was announced as the sculptor on January 15, 2007. On June 5, 2007, the Foundation announced that the McKissack/Turner Construction/Tompkins Builders/Gilford Corporation Design-Build Joint Venture was selected as the contractor for the project.

In 2008, the National Park Service, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the Commission of Fine Arts granted full, final design approval for the project. The construction permit was signed by Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar on October 29, 2009. Construction finally began along the Tidal Basin in December of 2009; thirteen years after legislation approving the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was signed!

The actual development phases of the memorial from construction until completion—which took almost two years—were mobilization; infrastructure; art work and landscaping. What made the Memorial come to life were the donations from people from all backgrounds. Seven-figure checks to envelopes with one-dollar bills combined to form this phenomenal structure that represents the struggle for equal rights. The Memorial has raised $117,000,000 of the requested $120,000,000 as of October 16, 2011.

President Obama had the honor of speaking at the dedication of the Memorial on Sunday, October 16, 2011.

It was a small dream of six Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Members that took 28 years to accomplish. Nobody knew it would take this long. But Dr. King strongly believed in dreams, no matter how hard they were. He had one, too.

*Based on information from the August 28, 2011 Commemorative Program



Nellie Burge Announces New Executive Director

published 2/6/2012

The Board of Directors of the Nellie Burge Community Center proudly announces the appointment of Debbie Dobbins as the new Executive Director. Ms. Dobbins brings to this position 25 years experience with nonprofits and over twelve years in senior management. She directed an outreach office with the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, TX, and was the COO for the United Methodist Children’s Homes in Alabama. She holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington and Master of Education from Texas Tech University. Ms. Dobbins is experienced in program development, working with at-risk families and children, working with nonprofit boards and initiating and fostering partnerships with state and community agencies.

Ms. Dobbins will lead the initiative to open Mary Ellen’s Hearth at the Nellie Burge Community Center. Mary Ellen’s Hearth will be a residential program for homeless women and their children. Mary Ellen's Hearth offers hope, help and healing to homeless women and children throughout the River Region. It offers hope by providing life skills training and providing transitional housing. It also offers healing through Christian love and support. The goal of Mary Ellen’s Hearth is for 80% of the families to leave within two years...their dignity and self respect restored...prepared for a life of independence. For more information about this program, call (334) 264-4108 or visit us at

Working Women’s Home Association Grant Presentation L/R Scott Key--NBCC Board President, Winnie Stakely—WWHA Board President, Susan Patton, Board Member, Debbie Dobbins—NBCC Executive Director.



The Best Advice I Ever Received

published 1/27/2012

(Dr. Herb Sadler) - The best advice I ever got in my ministry came from the father of Bishop Mike Watson. I was a 25 year old recent seminary graduate and had just been appointed as Associate Pastor of First UMC, Dothan. Excell Watson was a wise man and great church leader (Mike was still in high school!). I asked Mr. Watson, "What are lay folks looking for in worship?" His reply was succinct and memorable. "Good preaching and good music." That's it.

I heard that advice 45 years ago and it's still true. Styles have changed some, but preaching that is understandable and helpful and music that is inspiring are still the key ingredients in worship that changes lives.

There is nothing a pastor can do that is more important in his/her effectiveness than to work at getting better at preaching. The Academy for Congregational Excellence has two offerings presently that are designed to help good preachers get even better, one in Dothan and one in Montgomery. They are designed to gather 10-12 clergy together one day a month for a year under the coaching of a proven, excellent preacher.

It is the intention of the Academy for Congregational Excellence (ACE) to begin preaching groups in other parts of the conference as well. If you have the passion to be an excellent preacher, let me know, so we can design a learning community for you and your clergy colleagues or check the events section in the conference newsletters for upcoming "Preaching Excellence" events.

The ACE Mission: Effective Leaders, Fruitful Churches.

One Great Hour of Sharing Hits Home

published 1/25/2012

(Amelia Fletcher, AWF Disaster Response Coordinator) - A mantra of disaster work is that “ All disasters are LOCAL.” In that vein, UMCOR’s funding is unique to each disaster and it depends on the assessment and willingness of the grassroots communities to manage their own disaster. The contributions sent to UMCOR advances are dedicated 100% to the cause of that advance. No overhead is ever taken out of those funds.

Once a year the church is asked to support the office staff and physical operations of UMCOR. One Great Hour of Sharing is the only request that asks for congregations to dedicate their funding to “keeping the lights on” in the UMCOR office. Without that office and the continuity of operations, the response arm of the church would wither and die. As United Methodists responders, we certainly have carved our presence worldwide and our caring for humanity on our behalf should not be hindered by lack of funding for operations.

In just the past decade, the Alabama-West Florida Conference has been the beneficiary of the strong support of UMCOR and their disaster relief staff and funds. From the Ivan and Katrina hurricanes to the current Gulf Oil Spill and Super Outbreak Tornadoes of April 2011, the aid from UMCOR has been offered in an immediate and reliable way, and with expertise.

In 2010-11, UMCOR funding supported the recovery of the Gulf Oil Spill. In disaster world terms, this was not a Katrina. However, the economic and emotional impact on the communities was perhaps just as deep. As volunteers, it gives us a sense of satisfaction to be able to tarp a roof or rebuild a house, but the intangible damage from a man-made catastrophe put responders at a loss for knowing how to help. UMCOR provided the guidance and insight for initiating the Alabama-West Florida response. The conference grant helped to supply resources for a variety of recovery projects: a food panty, two children’s recovery camps, family support programs, workshops for community staffs to work within the economically and emotionally depressed area and resources for people with a sudden loss of income to meet the individual needs of their family. Thousands of individuals along the Gulf Coast have been helped thanks to the UMCOR grant.

Charles Walters, Disaster Coordinator for Tornado Recovery in the AWF Conference, has been on the front lines of recovery in an area hit hard from the Spring 2011 storms. “UMCOR has been instrumental in the AWF UMC Conference in both disaster preparedness and disaster recovery. UMCOR has supplied our current disaster team in Livingston through training and support, bringing to our office both organization and professionalism. They have led training programs on spiritual care, case management and emergency response and also developed a program called connecting neighbors, which is a class that will help a church body be more informed of the sequence of events following a disaster and the steps that they can take as a community to prepare for it,” he said.

One Great Hour of Sharing is a vital offering that allows UMCOR to be at our front door when we need them most. Prayerfully consider giving to this worthy offering on March 18. To order your free One Great Hour of Sharing resources, click here



Safe Sanctuaries Training Presented By Author Joy Melton

published 1/25/2012

Seminar To Help Develop Policies And Procedures For Reducing Risk Of Abuse In Churches And Organizations

On February 21, 2012, First United Methodist Church of Pensacola will host Rev. Joy Melton, author of the United Methodist Church’s Safe Sanctuary Policy on protection of children, youth and vulnerable adults. Rev. Melton has worked with hundreds of congregations and organizations to help develop comprehensive abuse prevention policies and procedures for implementation in ministries involving children, youth, and adults. Two training opportunities, lasting two hours each, will take place on February 21st at 1:00 PM and again at 6:00 PM. Childcare is available during the evening session only. The seminars will take place in Wesley Abbey on the campus of First United Methodist Church of Pensacola. First United Methodist Church of Pensacola is located at 6 East Wright Street on the corner of Wright and Palafox Street in beautiful downtown Pensacola. The seminars are free of charge and open to the public. All staff and volunteers of organizations, churches and non-profits that deal with children, youth or vulnerable adults are encouraged to attend. Rev. Melton is a United Methodist clergyperson and an attorney. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Christian Education from Pfeiffer College in North Carolina; a Master of Arts degree from Scarritt College in Nashville, Tennessee; and a Law Degree from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a partner in the Atlanta law firm of Hinds & Melton, LLC. She is also the author of Safe Sanctuaries: Reducing the Risk of Child Abuse in the Church and Safe Sanctuaries for Youth: Reducing the Risk of Abuse in Youth Ministries. In her books and training seminars she defines abuse and its many types, common indicators, legal requirements for reporting abuse, and also provides guidelines for screening and hiring workers and volunteers. In addition she outlines basic procedures of safe ministry with children and youth and outlines a congregational plan for responding to allegations of abuse. You will not want to miss this important training event for your church or organization.

If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview, please call Jeb Hunt at 850-748-1257 or email Jeb at

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