Feature Photo of Albert Porter (R) speaking to Men of Iron awardees at the Father’s Day luncheon in Vineland on Saturday, June 12. Photo by AC JosepH Media
By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
VINELAND — The Men of Iron Father’s Day Brunch on Saturday, June 12 displayed the diversity of men reaching deep into the community the make a difference in various forms, from elected officials to youth sports leagues leaders.
The quaint crowd gathered at the Carl Arthur Center for the festivities. Respected long-time educator Albert Porter, of the Vineland African American Community Development Corp., said the program presented a chance to recognize men who taken their own time to make a difference for others. The event truly represented the community.
The VAACDC’s mission is to create and preserve healthy communities where people live and work and seek ways to improve the quality of life for the neighborhoods it serves.
The Father’s Day lunch highlighted many leaders who are working with youth at the grassroots level, guiding them to positive outcomes and having them take advantage to what life has to offer.
Each honoree said a few words when they received their award.
*Raynard Gross, a landscaper and t-shirt designer, also works with young adults with autism and behaviors. Gross said he spends most of his time in Delsea Gardens trying to positively impact the youth in the neighborhood.
“I do a lot of things in the community,” Gross said. “I grew up in Delsea Gardens. I realize what it’s like in those type of communities. We don’t have a strong male presence. What I decided to do was try to bring that strong presence to Delsea Gardens and just try to make a change.”
*J.T. Burks, the force behind the well-known youth nonprofit Positive Vibes, which holds a wide variety of events from sports camps and leagues to mentor sessions, and more. He is also a community organizer and often talks about his time as an at-risk youth as his link and desire to give back.
“That’s kind of how I believe in the community; that grace, mercy and understanding, giving back,” Burks told the audience. “The reason why I do so much for the kids in the community is because I was once an inner-city kid with a lot of issues. A lot of people see you as who you are now, but that took a lot of advocates and people praying for me and people being patient with me. I just lead from the perspective of what I went through.”
*Rev. Clayvon Fonville is with Restoration Revival Ministries and unit director of Elwyn New Jersey.
“I just want to say it’s important to sow seeds, because reaping is much greater than the seeds you lay,” Fonville said, describing his rise in the workforce starting as a teenage volunteer to unit director and a youth and his faith. “I’ve learned in this life that there’s two different types of leaders. There are pharaohs and there are Moseses. In the job that God has placed in my life, I always want to be a Moses. For the young people, I want to let them know no matter where you live, there is purpose inside of you.”
*Rev. Darrel Clark Sr., who does Bible study at Bridgeton’s Union Baptist Temple and serves as an AAU boys basketball coach, said he took on that task when he saw talented youth not getting an opportunity to grow their skills.
“This past year, we won the Pennsylvania state championship,” Clark stated, who said his organization gave away six scholarships to players this year. “Who said these kids can’t get along? They can get along but they just need some leadership. Four of the six scholarships are going to kids attending college and two are going to trade school. We wanted to make sure they go on and better themselves.”
*Fairfield Township Committeeman David Gonzalez serves as vice president of District 2 of the American Federation of Government Employees. He spent a career in corrections before retiring and coaches youth as well.
“My life is a simple life as a God-fearing family man and I just work hard,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted to set an example for my children and I wanted this to give back to my community, so I got into coaches because I always loved sports. Sports helped me get out of high school, I was really not motivated in high school but I made it out and it was sports that helped me stay motivated.”
*Jonathan Morris is vice president of the 14-Under Bridgeton Midget Football League and works as a truck driver. A self-professed man of few words, Morris’ wisdom proved golden to the audience speaking of his own personal experiences.
“My mom worked two or three jobs while I was growing up, so I try to do that for my kids,” Morris said. “I had kids when I was young and couldn’t finish playing football in high school, so I try to deter my kids from doing that. I’ve been coaching in the Midget League since probably . It makes me proud to see a lot of those kids graduate high school and now they have kids and they listen to me. That’s why I keep doing what I’m doing.”
Rev. Samuel Hull at St. Paul Baptist Church in Clayton served as the keynote speaker for the event. He focused on the title Men of Iron and stressed the need to work together because “iron sharpens iron.”
Hull said becoming a father completely transforms a person’s life and their mission.
“Before Father’s Day, life was lived for self,” Hull said. “After Father’s Day, life is lived for others. In various cultures, the father has three primary goals — the protector, the provider and the disciplinarian. The roles of the father are simple and straight forward, but they aren’t easy.
Hull said research shows that a father who is active in his child’s life do better in almost every aspect of their lives and every social gauge, including cognitive and educational achievement.
“A good father loves his children, but he doesn’t let them get away with everything,” Hull said.
“We must take responsibility for their wellbeing. We inherited the title of dad not because of our blood relationship but because of our caring relationship.”
Keron Harris served as the master of ceremonies for the event while Asia White, a senior at Vineland High School, shared a musical selection. Atlantic County playwright, artist and author Ty Lewis also shared his thoughts on Father’s Day and his work.
Soul of the Sea restaurant catered the event. Rev. Anthony Scott serves as president of the Vineland African American CDC and Khalan Pendleton CEO.
Porter said the Vineland African American CDC will host three first-time home buyers workshops on July 11, Oct. 10 and Dec. 12 featuring Lakeesha White, business development manager at NJHMFA, Lisa Luster, realtor Yogesh U. Thakur and Sacha Borrero, sales manager for AFN. Porter said for more information, call 856-982-6296.
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