By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
VINELAND — The Greater Vineland NAACP awarded Life Worth Living founder John Fuqua with the inaugural Richard T. Smith Leadership Award at its Fall Luncheon held with the nonprofit Manna From Heaven on Sunday.
Angelia Edwards, president of the local NAACP chapter and Manna From Heaven cofounder, told Front Runner New Jersey.com that naming an award after Smith, longtime president of the New Jersey State NAACP Conference, was long overdue.
“Richard has been all over New Jersey for years helping people; some he knew and some he didn’t know,” Edwards said. “We felt it was appropriate for his home chapter to name an award after him.”
In finding someone who would serve as a standard bearer for the award, Edwards said Fuqua, a native of Bridgeton who has dedicated his life to helping young people — particularly at-risk youth — was at the top of the list.
“John is out there making it better for young people, bringing gang bangers and dealers together and showing them a better life,” she said.
Fuqua said on Facebook that he was honored to receive such recognition in the name of Smith.
“Much love and respect to Angie Edwards, Manna from Heaven and The NAACP for recognizing me as the first recipient of the Richard Smith Leadership award,” he said. “To my amazing wife MrsSheek Fuqua for being there at the most crucial times of this journey and really supporting a black man in a world that was not designed for us to win.
“To my little/big brother Eddie Bartee: I can write a book on our relationship but this all started in apartment #56 when mom dukes said, ‘Make your brother your best friend.’ To my Life Worth Living team, this award is ours! We have experienced some highs and lows, but our story is just getting started.”
Manna From Heaven, which feeds the poor in the Bridgeton area; and the NAACP recognized numerous community leaders, including Cumberland County Commissioner Victoria Lods, Vineland School Board member Cedric Holmes, Vineland City Council President Dr. Elizabeth Arthur, and Inspira executive Robin Walton.
“It was an honor to receive the business award today but as I always say and truly mean, I do nothing alone,” Walton said on Facebook about the honor. “There is always Inspira’s great leader and my dear friend, Amy Beaulieu Mansue and a group of committed team members at Inspira Health along for the ride for so many issues, obstacles, initiatives and ideas and a hard-working, wonderful and supportive husband quietly picking up whatever I can’t fully juggle.
“I am grateful for partners in this work, who have become friends and family, John Fuqua, Richard Todd Edwards, Victoria Groetsch-Lods, and who are committed and doing the work straight from their hearts everyday. Also Senator Michael Testa and Assemblyman Antwan McClellan – District One who work so hard for the people of LD1 and answer every time I call with a need.”
Others recognized were Sharon Brown, Richard Williams, Joll Lombardo, Dr. Mariana Elwell, Pastor Jerome Brown, Susan Schrader, Kim Schalek Downes, Donna Clark, David Hanrahan and Chuck Franlinger.
Local businessman Richard Todd Edwards served as the master of ceremonies. Martha Price, the cofounder of Manna From Heaven, also attended.
The NAACP also recognized the late Ella Boykin, who was “one of our dearest, dedicated and most beloved members,” a statement by the organization said. Boykin was known for her service at the local, county, and state levels.
Along with her service with the NAACP, she was active with the New Jersey Association of Black Educators, and the City of Vineland Planning Board.
Edwards said wanted to give special recognition to Arletha Lane, Yvonne Sapp, Judy Watty Jones and Rhuby Mozelle for their help in making the event a success.
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