12th annual Footprints Service and Scholarship Awards program

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – The 12th annual Footprints Service and Scholarship Awards breakfast got underway Saturday, June 18.  In keeping with tradition, the Epsilon Beta Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. hosted their yearly program that focused on honoring 12 local women for their contributions to the success and empowerment of women through service.

The St. Petersburg Hilton Carillon was packed with community members all set to hear inspirational guest speakers, praise God and applaud as scholarships were given out to deserving youths.

The husband and wife duo of Rev. Michael and Apostle Sheila Griffin played tag team with the Master and Mistress of Ceremonies duties. They kept the program moving with their lively humor and dynamic spiritual conversation.

All of the “Divine Nine” were present and accounted for, with the exception of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, to honor women in public service and government, this year’s theme.

Keynote speaker Pastor Ayakao Watkins of Kingdom Bible Christian Church in St. Petersburg compared the story of Esther in the bible to God’s people today. Through Esther’s faith and courage “God used this minority, this orphan, this woman who was in exile; God used her influence to deliver an entire race of people.”

Pastor Watkins asked the crowd if God could use them. Can God use you to deliver and entire community, race or culture, she asked. “Or have you become comfortable in your suburban life, saying ‘I made it, so can they?’”

She preached that the only way to fight against wickedness and take back everything that the devil has stolen from us is to “walk in unity.”

Admonishing against fighting amongst each other she said, “I’ve always been perplexed how certain cultures come to this land and become prosperous and take over our neighborhood, and our nail salon, and take over our beauty supply shop…because what they did they stopped fighting each other and they came together and became unified.”

The Footprints Posthumous Award was given to Army Specialist Brittany Gordon for giving her life to her country. She was killed in action when enemy troops opened fire on her unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on October 13, 2012, a few days after her 24th birthday.

In accepting the award, her father Cedric Gordon, retired Assistant Chief of Police for the St. Petersburg Police Department, said that when he found out that Brittany was to be honored, tears came to his eyes.

“Not because of the physical award, but because the women of this great organization and this community remembered,” he said, choking back the tears. “If you don’t remember anything else I say, remember that freedom is not free.”

The 2015-16 Epsilon Beta Sigma Foundation Lillie McGarrah Educational Scholarships were given to Nathan Lee Carter, La Bray Gautreaux and Marshaad Scott, and the   Dr. Ann P. Woodard Educational Scholarship was given to Christian Miller.

Kenya Woodard

Kenya Woodard

Kenya Woodard

Born in Gary, Ind., Kenya Woodard’s writing career began at the age of nine when she would remix some of her favorite novels with different storylines and characters. By the time she was a junior at Indiana State University, she had transitioned from fictional writing to writing for the campus newspaper. She abandoned a career as a teacher and pursued journalism.

Fourteen years later, Woodard is still writing. Her bylines have appeared in a number of publications, including The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Ebony and Onyx magazines. She is a current feature writer for the Tampa Bay Times and the Florida Sentinel-Bulletin. She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalist and the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalist.

Woodard has fulfilled a mission of service as a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. since 1999.  She has carried out programming and initiatives of the sorority to help improve the lives of women, youth and under-served communities.

Carrie Brown

Carrie Brown

Carrie Brown

Carrie Brown is a loyal member of the Reach 4 HOPE organization, which is a non-profit organization that feeds the homeless and offers hope for those who do not know Christ.  She helps the organization provide and distribute care packages on a quarterly basis as well as supplies clothing to the homeless and others in need.

She is a member of the Church of God Women’s Connection, which brings together women in the Church of God from all over the United States, Caribbean and Africa. On the state level of the Church of God, she held the office of promoting the church’s literature from the church’s headquarters.

A faithful member of 10th Street Church of God for more than 55 years, she was honored for her service on the Usher Board. Brown was the president of the Women’s Group, and was inducted into the Naomi and Titus 2 Covenant Alliance for her many years of community service.

Ann Burney

Ann Burney

Ann Burney

Florida native Ann Burney retired from the Pinellas County School system after 35 years of service where she was an elementary school teacher, a Title 1 resource teacher, Title I supervisor, recruiter of new teachers and developed curriculum for K-5 Title 1 students.

A belief that “all children can learn” and “learning should be fun,” Burney was among the first group of teachers assigned to integrate public schools in Pinellas County.

She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, South Pinellas County Retired Teachers Association and Phi Delta Kappa.

A member of McCabe United Methodist Church for more than 50 years, Burney has served and volunteered in various ministries and activities, including the choir, church council, finance, planning teams, co-chair of church anniversaries, volunteered on Faith and Action Advisory Board under Hospice, voting polls, church tutoring program and vacation bible school.

Marquina Butts-Fisher

Marquina Butts-Fisher

Marquina Butts-Fisher

A Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Manager for Hardee, Highlands and Polk Counties for the Healthy Start Coalition, Marquina Butts-Fisher currently provides prevention education and empowers teens and families. She previously worked as a counselor at an alternative school for girls ages 10-18 for 10 years.

She is a member of Harmony Missionary Baptist Church where she sings in the Agape choir and is a youth leader for the teen’s group.

Butts-Fisher is a member of several community organizations such as the Polk County Sheriff Advisory Council, Lakeland Junior of GFWC Woman’s Club, Made Men Made Women Mentorship Board member, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Alliance, Tobacco Free Partnership of Florida, Polk Vision, Emerge Lakeland, Camp Fire Friends and Family, Focus on Leadership Class IV.

Her motto in life is a scriptural hymn: “May the work I’ve done speak for me.”

Gwendolyn Glenn

Gwendolyn Glenn

Gwendolyn Glenn

A native of St. Petersburg, Gwendolyn Glenn worked at St. Anthony’s Hospital for many years, holding various positions until she left in 1995 to work in the home health field of nursing. After retiring in 2005, she became a mentor and worked with neighbors and children for close to 12 years. This led her to create the non-profit organization called The Learning Lair.

Opening in 2008, the organization caters to all children, but targets kindergarteners through sixth graders who are struggling and are potential retainees. Operated out of her home, Glenn teaches parents and guardians what they can do to help their children by encouraging them to read to their kids, monitor and limit the time spent watching television and playing video games and encouraging them to get involved in extracurricular activities that have positive effects.

Glenn is involved with the St. Petersburg Black History Brainbowl, and a youth director, church secretary, administrative assistant, church steward, usher choir member, stewardess, a Christian Education and Children’s Church director and a teen ministry mentor at New Faith Free Methodist Church.

Ruby Griffin

Ruby Griffin

Ruby Griffin

President of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. St. Petersburg Alumnae Chapter, Ruby Griffin has served as financial secretary, treasurer, internal audit chair and co-chaired the Dr. Betty Shabaz Delta Academy for young ladies.

She is a board member for One Heart 3 Beats, as well as a board member for the St. Petersburg Alumnae Chapter Educational Services.

Griffin has 38 years of service with Duke Energy where she has received a number of service awards and recognitions, such as the Duke Energy Advantage Award, Certificate of Appreciation for African Americans in Progress and for the Great American Teach In.

Twanna Monroe

Twanna Monroe

Twanna Monroe

Since 1996, Twanna Monroe has educated, tutored and mentored students in the public school system, and even started a non-profit youth development program for children ages five through 18 called CPR Kids, Inc.

In 2010, she opened Infinite Potential Learning Center, a preschool in south St. Petersburg that provides a safe, developmentally appropriate learning environment. Their focus is to present hands-on, stimulating early care and educational experiences that promote each child’s social/emotional, physical and cognitive development.

Monroe is a very active member of the community, participating in various committees and initiatives to advocate for children and educate the public. She is involved in the Concerned Organization for the Quality Education of Black Students School Readiness Committee and a founder of a group of childcare directors seeking to improve quality in early education through networking, education and sharing resources.

Rosa Nesbitt

Rosa Nesbitt

Rosa Nesbitt

Rosa Nesbitt worked as a teacher in Georgia before moving to St. Petersburg, where she taught at North Ward, Campbell Park and Woodlawn Elementary Schools.

She is a member of Bethel A.M.E. Church where she serves on the Trustee Board, Lay Organization and sings in the choir. She also volunteers with voter registration activities and at Maximo Elementary School.

Nesbitt is a member of the National Education Association, the Pinellas County Teaches Association and is a member of Zeta Gamma Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. where she holds several offices.

Angel Williams

Angel Williams

Angel Williams

A Florida native, Angel Williams currently serves as the executive director for Davin Joseph’s foundation, Davin’s Dream Team, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the opportunities available to youth by strengthening athletics and performing arts programs in high school and community-based organizations in Hallandale Beach and in Tampa.

A compassionate and dedicated leader in the community and strives to serve as a positive agent of change, Williams is involved in many projects throughout the community as a volunteer. She served as co-chair of the 30th Annual UNCF All-Star Basketball Game for high school seniors and is currently on the UNCF Leadership Council, South Tampa Chamber’s Education Committee.

Cassandra Williams

Cassandra Williams

Cassandra Williams

Currently serving as president of the Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and the Youth Development Foundation of Pinellas County, Inc., Cassandra Williams works tirelessly in the community. During her administration, the chapter launched its Community Assistance Awards, awarding mini-grants in the amount of approximately $5,000 to five organizations to carry out their community-based program/projects.

Her community service projects include the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, Childhood Hunger Pack & Sack Program, The Longest Day—Alzheimer’s Awareness, American Cancer Society Relay For Life, the backpack giveaway at Childs Park YMCA and Pink Goes Red Day for Heart Health. She is also the chairperson of her husband’s National Guard Unit’s Family Readiness Group, which supports the soldiers and their families.

Andrea Allen

Andrea Allen

Andrea Allen

A St. Petersburg native, Andrea Allen works for the Florida Department of Corrections and will celebrate 30 years as a public servant this December.

She is a member of McCabe United Methodist Church, where she serves as the youth director, and a member of the choir and praise team. She teaches bible study for the youth department, and serves on the Church Council and Worship Committee.

Allen currently serves as the Chapter Basileus of Epsilon Beta Sigma Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. where she is involved in every aspect of the sorority from helping with the Rhoers Girls Club, to meeting with the Philo Affiliate Group. She also serves alongside her fellow sorors in fundraising and outreach efforts.

Brittany Gordon

Brittany Gordon

Brittany Gordon, posthumous

Born October 2, 1988, Brittany B. Gordon is the daughter of St. Petersburg Police Department retired Assistant Chief of Police Cedric Gordon and Brenda Gordon. She graduated at the top of her class from St. Petersburg High School in 2006.

She was an accomplished pianist, basketball player and recreational dancer, but her real passion was helping others. Brittany received an associate of arts degree from the University of Florida before joining the army.

After graduating from basic training in 2010, she spent a year in Seattle before being sent to Afghanistan. Brittany worked in military communications.

On October 13, 2012, a few days before her 24th birthday, she was killed in action when enemy troops opened fire on her unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Army Specialist Brittany B. Gordon is the first and only female solider killed in combat in the Tampa Bay area.

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