Legacy Awards shines spotlight on community superstars

Sen. Darryl Rouson and Empath Health President & CEO Rafael Sciullo



ST. PETERSBURG – The Legacy Award Dinner held at Empath Health last Saturday honored four African-American men for their distinguished service and dedication to the community. Award recipients Elder Samuel Davis, Senator Darryl Rouson, Ben Shirley Sr. and Bishop Preston Leonard were all on hand to receive their awards.

Senator Charlie Crist capsulated the significance of the award dinner in a few short phrases: “In my way of thinking, civil rights are important, maintaining them is important and fighting for them as I know Senator Rouson has is just as important.”

Mayor Rick Kriseman spoke about Elder Samuel Davis, who won the Legacy Award in Education. The mayor visited Davis at Largo Middle School and St. Petersburg

High School and experienced the elder’s passion for educating young people firsthand.

“One of the things I know about Sammy…this is a man who loves these kids, and his whole life has been about these kids,” said Kriseman.

Rouson won the Legacy Award for Community Service, and was introduced by Pastor Frank Peterman, Jr.

“What I love about Darryl is his fight for people,” said Peterman.

The pastor of The Rock of Jesus Missionary Baptist Church especially admired Rouson’s fight to rise through the political ranks to represent his home city and now the entire Tampa Bay area.

“Darryl did one better, and he became the senator from this area,” Peterman said.

Director of Sanitation Ben Shirley Sr. received the Legacy Award for Public Service. He was honored by Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and former Mayor Rick Baker who presented the award.

“Sanitation is about garbage, and if it doesn’t work, people think about it acutely,” said Baker, as he segued into one of the unworkable situations that Shirley helped remedy.

One of the open lots in the Childs Park community was being used as a dumping ground for garbage. Eventually, the city, with Shirley’s help, found out the culprit who had been dumping was driving all the way from North Pinellas County.

“So we were able to follow the vehicle, get the tag number, find the vehicle and impound it,” said Baker.

The last Legacy Award recipient for 2017 was Bishop Preston Leonard, who has pastored Christ Gospel Church for the last 59 years. Joran Oppelt of Interfatih Tampa Bay introduced Leonard as a man of strength and character.

“I’ve been privileged to hear his story,” said Oppelt. “A story about growing up in St. Petersburg, this town during a time of segregation, and separation, and depression…his story humbled and transformed me.”

Soloist Deneen Wyman raised everyone’s spirit and received a thunderous standing ovation for her rendition of “There Is Power In The Name of Jesus.”

Keynote speaker Loretta Monroe-Calvin of Calvin Consulting and Impact 2020 spotlighted the importance of soldiers and their tendency to focus on what needs to be done instead of fretting over what they will get in return.

Monroe-Calvin biblically anchored her talk on a conversation between Paul and Timothy. Her secular angle was drawn from a saying by Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is often missed because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

In the final analysis, she encourage every generation present to be willing to roll up their sleeves, work and push each other forward.

The Legacy Awards is part of Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival that began last month in Hillsborough County.

Empath Health, The Weekly Challenger, USFSP, Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival and The Power Broker magazine all sponsored the event.

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