February’s community calendar is filling quickly as activities surrounding Black History Month shape the celebratory horizon, both now and into the future.
This week alone, activities have been announced by the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, the Bradley County Branch of the NAACP, the Church of God International Black Ministries and several organizations within Lee University.
Others are on the way. And one of the most recognized, and heavily attended, is the annual Scholarship & Mentoring Banquet hosted by 100 Black Men of Bradley County Inc. Scheduled for Saturday, March 8, this year’s communitywide festivity will commemorate the civic-minded organization’s 20th anniversary.
This year’s theme is, “Twenty Years in the Making: One Mission, One Cause and One Vision,” according to Ronald Arnold, 100 BMBC president.
To help celebrate the occasion — which Arnold described as being “all about the kids” — a prominent Cleveland educator and pastor will deliver the evening’s keynote address. He is Bishop Guilford R. Hill, known to most as “Ron,” who serves as pastor of The Church of God Sanctified.
“To have a local speaker of Ron Hill’s power will be wonderful,” Arnold stated. “To celebrate an occasion this special, we needed someone who can really provide a boost. Believe me when I say, Ron will provide that boost.”
Arnold called the retired educator a “perfect fit” as keynote speaker for the annual Scholarship & Mentoring Banquet.
“That’s because he is an advocate for the children,” Arnold stressed. “Anybody with a heart for the kids ... they’ve got my heart too.”
Arnold, who has heard Hill speak in prior community engagements, praised the orator’s skills.
“He is an excellent speaker,” Arnold said. “He gets right to the point.”
A Knoxville native who moved to Cleveland in 1969, Hill is a retired educator whose successful career spanned 33 years in Cleveland City Schools. He spent 18 years as a classroom teacher, three years as an assistant principal at Cleveland High School and 12 years as principal of Blythe-Bower Elementary School. He retired from the city school system in July 2009.
Currently, Hill serves as a field experience supervisor of student teachers for Lee University.
Since 1981, Hill has served as pastor of The Church of God Sanctified in Cleveland, where he and his wife, Dera Ann, have led 33 years of activities and worship. Prior to accepting the Cleveland post, Hill served as pastor of The Church of God Sanctified in Madisonville.
He is a member of the Board of Bishops and the Ecclesiastic Board of The Church of God Sanctified Inc. From 2008-12, he served as the overseer of the Southern Region for the church. In this position, he was responsible for the work of 22 churches and 40 ministers.
In April 2013, he was appointed director of the Christian Education Department for ministers and laity for The Church of God Sanctified. In December, he was certified by the Institute of Leadership Deployment of Chattanooga as a Purpose Discovery Specialist and a City Strategist.
Another side of Hill is his commitment to the Cleveland and Bradley County community. One example is his longtime allegiance and volunteerism with Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland Inc. At Habitat, he has served in multiple volunteer roles, and also served a 6-year term on the organization’s board.
Hill served on the board for the Family Resource Agency for four years and worked as an advisor for the Bradley County Juvenile Court judge.
Currently, Hill is a member of the Cleveland/Bradley County Teachers’ Credit Union board and also a board member of CASA, an advocacy group for young people within the local court system.
Hill is quick to stress, “I love the Lord and my lovely wife. I gladly acknowledge to all that I am a blessed man.”
Arnold encouraged area residents to attend this year’s Scholarship & Mentoring Banquet. It kicks off at 6:30 p.m. and will be held in the Deacon Jones Dining Hall on the Lee University campus.
Tickets are priced at $60 per person and can be purchased from any 100 BMBC member or by calling the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce at 472-6587. The evening will include a professionally catered meal, musical entertainment, special presentations, recognition of sponsors, brief addresses by a handful of past 100 BMBC scholarship recipients, and Hill’s keynote.
Arnold said he is especially excited about the coming banquet because it represents two decades of community service and determined work by some key organizational members.
“This is the culmination of 20 years of hard work, and especially from guys like Donald Humes and Avery Johnson, who have dedicated their lives to our organization, to this community and most importantly to our community’s children,” Arnold noted. “Men like Donald and Avery, and many others, have spent their lives educating other people’s children. Now I call that love in every sense of the word.”
Arnold also credited the work of Tony Blair Jr., 100 BMBC vice president, who chairs the organization’s well-respected mentoring program. Not only do organization mentors work with children (ages 11-13) individually, they also meet with mentees every Friday morning at Cleveland Middle School. Currently, more than 20 students are being mentored in the CMS-based program. Each Friday gathering includes guest speakers, many of whom are role models for young middle school children who are seeking a path in life, Arnold said.
The CMS mentoring initiative will be featured in a future edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner during the newspaper’s ongoing coverage of Black History Month.
Currently, 100 BMBC is providing scholarship assistance to 23 students.
The 100 BMBC’s current slate of officers for 2012-13 includes Arnold, president; Blair, vice president; Norman Smith, secretary; Michael Benson, treasurer; chaplain, the Rev. Edward Robinson Sr.; Avery Johnson, historian; John Barham, corresponding secretary; Drew Robinson, general counsel; Charles Swafford III, parliamentarian; and Donald Humes and Andy Hudgins, sergeant-at-arms.
General membership includes Lawrence Armstrong, Phil Bazel, the Rev. Aubrey Ector, Oscar Kelley, Alphonzo Martin, Jonathan Porter, Levi Scott, Abu Swafford and Rodney Wright.
Not only does the annual Scholarship & Mentoring Banquet recognize mentees, scholarship recipients and corporate sponsors, it also serves as a principal fundraiser. The organization continues to seek new sponsors. The 2014 fundraising goal is $100,000.
Sponsorship levels include Bronze, $2,000 to $4,999; Silver, $5,000 to $9,999; Gold, $10,000 to $14,999; and Platinum, $15,000-plus. An Iron Level also exists for $500 contributions.
Arnold pointed out sponsorships sold at the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum levels will receive a corporate table at the banquet, advertising in the program, recognition at the banquet and a memento from the organization. All corporate sponsors above Bronze Level will receive eight complimentary banquet tickets. Cost for program ads are business card, $100; quarter page, $150; half page, $250; and full page, $500.
“The work of 100 Black Men of Bradley County is a year-round endeavor, and working to shape the lives and to mentor the minds and hearts of our children is a life-time commitment,” Arnold said. “That speaks to the importance of our annual banquet whose proceeds make so much of this possible.”
He added, “We invite anyone in the community — regardless of race, gender, culture or creed — to join us, and to celebrate 20 years of bringing the future to our children.”
As it has been since the 100 BMBC charter in 1994, the group’s principal motto remains, “Breaking cycles ... Reaching out ... Reaching back.”