The Philadelphia Tribune, the nation’s oldest and Philadelphia’s largest newspaper serving the African-American community, honored 10 people who have been named Philadelphia’s “Most Influential” African Americans, at a private reception for 400 guests on Thursday evening at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The guest list included elected officials, education leaders, businesspersons, community activists and labor leaders.
“It is a significant opportunity for us, because we are the only people in this town to recognize men and women who make the contributions to this city, and frequently this nation, who go unrecognized,” said Tribune President and CEO Robert W. Bogle.
“And so we made a commitment to make sure we are included - all those who are entitled to equal access and opportunity, and those who make an impression and influence the decisions that make us a better community.”
In addition, Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church, and Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller, pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, received special recognition for their impact on the community at large. The Philadelphia Tribune also commemorated Cheyney University for its 175th anniversary.
“We have been doing this for more than 10 years,” said Tribune Magazine Editor Shonda McClain. “This is a great event for us to honor our own, and to celebrate their accomplishments. These are the people that people don’t always know about - the people in the trenches – that are doing the hard work everyday, and this our way of saying, thank you, and honoring those people for the work that they do and the contributions that they make to our community.”
On Sunday Sept. 16, the Tribune will publish a special edition of Tribune Magazine, featuring its annual list of 10 People Under 40 to Watch, African-American Leaders, and Movers & Shakers of the Delaware Valley, who demonstrate leadership beyond their positions.
If School Reform Commission officials were caught a little flat-footed during a recent community meeting at Enon Baptist Church in which more than 2,500 people attended, then they should be prepared for a Tuesday May 22 meeting at 6:30 at Bright Hope Baptist Church, 12th St. and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
SRC officials can expect the same sort of probing questions they received from attendees during the Enon meeting; only this time several other organizations are taking part, including Occupy Philly, ACTION United and the Service Employees International Union, which represents the majority of school district employees not covered by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
The Bright Hope meeting represents the next in a series of community-orchestrated meetings, in which neighborhood leaders gather with other concerned stakeholders to discuss the School District of Philadelphia’s plan. Although not an officially sanctioned meeting of the SRC, district officials are often invited — and often do attend.
The meeting is bound to revolve around District Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen’s drastic reorganization blueprint, which calls for the closure of 64 schools, the privatization of crucial scholastic and academic services and a complete restructuring of the programs and offices at district headquarters downtown, among other measures meant to bring the district to a state of solvency.
“We are facing an education emergency in Philadelphia. Outside consultants are proposing to destroy the Philadelphia Public School System and cut thousands of living-wage jobs,” said activist Rita Addessa in an email to supporters, which cited other blueprint moves such as turning many of the remaining public schools into private charters. “The proposal does not talk about things that are known to work in improving education: lowering class sizes, [having] a highly qualified, experienced teacher in every classroom, and clean and safe schools.”
Also up for discussion will be District Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon’s own plan for academic restructuring, which will alter not only the way principals run and manage their schools, but the way teachers deliver instruction as well.
“Officials have laid out their plan, and folks are unhappy, but we really haven’t heard a lot about an alternate vision,” said Roland Ferguson, of the Southwest Chapter of ACTION United. “That’s what we are going to do on Tuesday. People not only want to hear about the proposed changes, they want to make sure the needs of their children and their neighborhoods are being considered in the process. We’re going to lay out an alternative to the plan that includes the priorities of the community, parents and students.”
Bright Hope Baptist Church pastor D. Kevin R. Johnson will lead the meeting, during which members of the community will present photos, drawings and essays from area public school students depicting what they believe a good school should look like and include.
School funding is bound to be a hotly-contested issue, especially given Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s recent remarks, where he essentially blamed school districts throughout the commonwealth for fiscal mismanagement; Corbett also claimed that many school districts are sitting on reserves that they could tap into in order to save crucial programs.
School district officials have denied the district has any surplus or reserves, and confirmed that it is still experiencing a budgetary shortfall for the current year — and is still predicting a major gap for the next academic year.
“We reject the notion that there is no money for schools when they are building new prisons,” Ferguson said. “We need our officials to be listening to the community and looking for creative solutions, rather than trying to solve the funding crisis on the backs of students, or by outsourcing jobs.
“The people that work in the schools are parents and neighbors too.”
Joy Linn, 46, a Rittenhouse Square resident, is a single Black female and a member of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church where the Rev. Alyn Waller is the senior pastor. Linn, a motivational speaker and author, is full of optimism and positive energy.
A gifted writer, Linn has a passion for prose.
“My first book was (entitled) ‘Growing Into Your Purpose, Becoming the New You!’ Basically, that book really dealt with the fact that purpose is not exclusive, it’s really waiting to be acknowledged,” she said.
Linn’s philosophy can be thought provoking.
“From the time we are children, we really know what we want to be, but somehow life beats it out of us,” she said.
Earlier this year, Linn issued a 14 Day Positive Attitude Challenge to her family, friends, and virtual friends on her social network sites. This motivational challenge required the throngs of participants to intentionally embrace a specific-daily positive attitude trait (i.e., peace, courage, maturity, humility, motivation, etc.).
Linn said, “It was a refreshing journey,” and reassures that the experience is still reminding her, “how I can live with Godly intent.”
Linn invites others to take the challenge.
“While journaling some things about myself, I realized that through the process of prayer and self-assessment and reflection, they were keys to me understanding myself better,” she said. “As I began to share [my journaling experience] with other people, they seem to find it valuable as well.” After about a year and a half of journaling, it was then that she had the epiphany, “Maybe my journal should become a book.”
Her next book is entitled, “The Purpose Experiment, Six Simple Steps to Jump-Start Your Purpose.”
She said the book is about, “understanding where you been, where you are, and where you’re headed. So that you can authentically know your calling in life.”
Her second book is scheduled for a late September release date, followed by a book tour to promote it.
“I’m really trying to dare people to live a great life,” she said. “I think that the essence of being in the mission of God is adventurous, and it’s exciting. It really pushes you to live a life that’s amazing.”
Linn, an adjunct professor at Eastern University, conducts workshops and motivational speeches for corporations, non-profit agencies, and universities, but her preferred target audiences are church congregations.
For information about Linn’s blog, 14 Day Challenge, upcoming book, seminars, or speaking engagements, contact her at: www.joylinn.com.
Enon pastor sends letter criticizing Pedro Ramos
School district officials have expressed a willingness to work with Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church senior pastor Rev. Alyn E. Waller in response to a letter from the pastor which blasts School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos.
The letter references Waller’s characterization of Ramos as “arrogant” and that he “cannot be trusted.”
“After the turmoil and controversy that surrounded the previous SRC and the School District of Philadelphia’s leaders, several community leaders, including myself, determined that we should be more helpful to you as you worked to get the schools back on track,” read a portion of Waller’s letter. “In very short order, however, many of the same concerns and complaints began to surface. Giving you the benefit of the doubt instead of joining in with the cries of discontent, we assumed the posture of communication leaders. Perhaps you were not hearing/understanding what was being said. To that end, the Enon Town Hall Meeting was set up and crucial questions needing responses from you were developed and very specific questions would begin an honest dialogue and the development of trust that has long since eroded between you and the community.”
Waller was referencing a recent meeting in which SRC members appeared flustered by the probing questions from the community members in attendance.
“I believe Pedro Ramos to be a good man, and I’m engaged in the critique of the process and product, not of him personally,” Waller said, when contacted by The Tribune Friday evening, June 8.
“We know that we have to right size. We recognize that at some point, some schools are going to have to close — demographics have changed in Philadelphia. We recognize public education will not look like public education that many of us in our 40 and 50s grew up with, and so all of that is clear.”
“Reorganization is a necessary part of the health of any institution, and we just want to make sure that this process has been informed by as wide an investment in the community and we don’t think that the best efforts have yet come out in terms of community engagement and trust,” Waller added.
It’s no secret that the SRC is reeling from intense community pressure. It has authored a series of unpopular cuts to staff and school resources, while also making a series of public relations blunders in regard to school closings and the scuttling of several programs.
“I listen to the consequences of your behavior daily as members of my congregation and our community laments the failure of public education and the negative impact on the future of our children. We hear the helplessness in the voices of parents and others who worry about the viability of the city, as the less than well-educated populous tries to make Philadelphia stronger but are ill-equipped to champion necessary change,” Waller’s letter concluded.
“Yes, we can see the consequences of your lack of effective action and stand together to let you know our resolve. We will challenge your lack of effectiveness and marshaling the citizens of this city in ways you have never seen, as we protect and defend our children’s right to a good public education.”
In an emailed response sent by school district spokesperson Evelyn Sample-Oates, officials indicated that they intend to work cooperatively with Waller.
“Chairman Ramos and other officials at the School District of Philadelphia have received the letter and intend to work closely with Reverend Waller and members of the Education Committee from Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church to help the public school students of Philadelphia,” the email stated.
“Our number one goal is to make sure that our children have safe and high achieving schools. The School District of Philadelphia will engage the entire community to transform our schools, realizing that this is a matter that involves the whole city of Philadelphia. We appreciate the feedback from Reverend Waller and look forward to working closely with him and his team.”
Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church celebrated its youth during their most recent service in honor of their recent accomplishment.
The Enon Eagles, the church’s 135-pound Junior Midget Division 2 team, defeated the Bridgewater-Raritan Panthers, 22-16, last Friday for the chance to play in the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in December.
The team and its cheerleaders are going to Disney World to try and win it all, but the Enon congregation wanted to recognize their efforts thus far.
“I’m really excited for the kids and for the whole program. This is our seventh year and to produce an Eastern Region Champion in seven years, that says a lot about the program,” the Rev. Alyn E. Waller said, senior pastor of Enon.
“That says a lot about the program, the coaches, the staff, the parents, the kids and so we’re very, very excited — and so because this is a ministry, it’s not just about the church. It’s about the whole community.”
Waller brainstormed the idea of the Enon Eagles with Redell Crabbe who serves as the church’s athletic director. They wanted an initiative that rewarded good behavior, good grades and an outlet that would support them spiritually, intellectually and physically.
“I believe fundamentally that sports, done right, teaches children and people how to live in the world. It is inherently humanizing and … in the name of Jesus connects people to the ultimate reality which is God,” Waller said.
“We say that we’re unapologetically youth oriented. There’s a war in the streets for our kids. And we’ve got to do what we have to do, and this is our approach. It may not be everybody’s approach, but this is our approach and we believe it’s working.”
Crabbe was just as pleased about the strides that the Enon Eagles have made in just seven years, which has included other championships under the leadership of coach Ray Wright.
“Number one, it’s a tremendous blessing. It’s a testament to the volunteers that work really hard. We always adopted a philosophy where we wanted to grow but not swell … not be able to control or manage what we needed to,” Crabbe said.
“Coach Ray is a tremendous friend and a wonderful guy, loves football — is passionate about football and has worked really hard.”
Crabbe also spoke highly of the commitment that the kids have put into the team.
“As much as the coaches like to think that they’re the reason why the kids are there, the kids are gifted in themselves,” he said.
Wright echoed the sentiments as the proud coach. He said he felt like a proud father as the kids have grown and developed over the years.
“The sky’s the limit for these kids because they don’t give up,” Wright said.
“They are well behaved and they are champions no matter what happens from this point on.”
Wright credited running back D’Andre Swift for helping the Enon Eagles advance.
“He’s special. All these kids are special, but he’s been with us for about 6 years,” Wright said.
“He literally just put the team on his back.”
Swift, 12 years old, was happy to be a part of his team’s success.
“I think I did well because when I started, I was kind of small. I was really small. I wasn’t that good. My coach had to teach me how to be better. I got better as I kept playing,” Swift said.
Swift started playing on the team when he was seven and had high hopes over the upcoming Super Bowl playoff.
“It feels good because we’ve never made it this far,” Swift said.
“I hope we win down there.”
The Enon Eagle cheerleaders will be there for their team as they have been all season.
“They’ve been great. They’ve been with us through the whole step of the way. People don’t think cheerleaders are important but they are,” Wright said.
“They cheer us. We hear them and no matter what the score is, no matter how the game is going, they’re still cheering for us to keep us going and uplifted.”
Monet Bunch, 12 years old, is a cheerleader, and shared her excitement over the trip to Disney.
“We all have a lot of spirit,” Bunch said.
“And even though sometimes we might have our little moments and everything, we still get back on track. We still have fun.”
The Pop Warner Super Bowl National Tournament will be from December 3 to 11.
Congratulations to Aisha Strong and Ronald Murray on their engagement.
Aisha and Ronald are natives of North Philadelphia. Ronald, lovingly referred to as “Ronnie” by the special lady in his life, grew up near 8th and Cumberland and later moved to the Logan section of Philadelphia. Aisha grew up in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia near 32nd and Huntingdon Street.
The couple met at Strawberry Mansion High School. Ronald says 10th grade and Aisha says 11th or 12th grade, but the love story blossoms. Ronald played basketball and ran cross country track and Aisha was a vivacious cheerleader and also ran track.
They shared much in common and instantly became great friends and continued their friendship despite following different paths after graduation from high school. Immediately after high school, Aisha attended Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. Ronald attended a junior college in Mississippi and then Community College of Philadelphia.
Later, the couple met at Shaw University where Ronald was scouted to play basketball. Aisha smiles at this coincidence. It wasn’t until their senior year that they began falling in love. But they didn’t start dating until Aisha graduated from Shaw University.
That’s when their 9 1/2 year relationship began. It was a date night for them and they enjoyed dinner and drinks, talked and laughed and enjoyed their evening. Aisha had no idea that Ronald had previously asked her dad for her hand in marriage and had purchased a ring.
“When date night was coming to an end we headed home and was calling it a night until I was in the room putting on pjs. When I turned around, he was on one knee and he said, ‘I told you I want to spend the rest of my life with you’ and I said, ‘yes, what’s the matter.’ He said, ‘I love you so much will you marry me?’ Anyone who knows Ronnie understands that he is a professional prankster. I said if you open that box and it’s earrings or a coin or an old ring that really wouldn’t be funny. Ronald said, ‘Aisha, I’m so serious’ and I noticed he wasn’t laughing. He opened the box and there it was a beautiful engagement ring.”
She immediately said yes and cried all night because she “couldn’t believe that her dream was finally coming true.
I look forward to writing about their upcoming wedding at Enon Baptist Church during the spring/summer season.
The Enon Eagles football program has certainly accomplished a lot over the last two seasons. For the second consecutive year, the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church’s Enon Eagles have made history by capturing two Eastern Regional Championships in Pop Warner football. As a result, the teams are on their way to the Pop Warner Super Bowl (Division II Football Championships) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The Eagles will play on Saturday, Dec. 1. In the Junior Pee Wee Division, the Eagles will face the Arlington Thunder from Texas. The kickoff is set for 11 a.m. In the Midget Division, the Eagles will play the Bryan Buccaneers from Texas at 6 p.m. Fans can watch the games live on ESPN3. Tracey Thomas is the youth director at Enon Tabernacle Baptist and organizer of the football program. Thomas has seen the team develop over the years. He knows this is a great opportunity for the kids.
“For me, it’s very interesting because I remember when I had 70-pound team in the league when we first started,” Thomas said. “That year we not only didn’t win a game, but we didn’t score a touchdown that season. We were a church team that was joining the Pop Warner League. Even though we didn’t win our first season, we were able to get together with the other team and pray in the middle of the field. It was rewarding in that area.
“Then, as time went on the team got better and the coaching got better and we started winning.”
In addition to the two teams, Enon has a 90-pound football team that will play in an exhibition game. Enon also has a cheerleading team that will compete down there.
Enon’s football program has grown in leaps and bounds. This is the eighth season for the football team at the church. The church has eight teams.
The Enon Eagles Midgets (170 pounders) advanced to this round by defeating the Mo Better Jaguars from Brooklyn, New York. The Enon Eagles Junior Pee Wee team (105 pounders) topped the Sayreville Leprechauns from Sayreville, New Jersey. The Enon Mighty Mites (90 pounders) won locally against Parkside Saints and earned the Liberty Youth Athletic Association championship. The Enon Eagles Midget cheerleaders competed with the top 14 cheerleading groups in the Eastern Regional Championships and placed second in the competition.
Ninety-five students are on their way to Florida by bus from Enon, for three to seven days. The church will pick up two thirds of the cost for transportation, lodging, Disney park tickets and meals. The teams will be chaperoned by Enon Eagles coaches and parents.
“We have about 138 people going down there,” Thomas said. “We’re going down by chartered bus. We’re really excited about the three football teams and the cheerleading team. This also gives us a chance to spread the love of (Jesus) Christ as well.”
There are 64 teams from eight Pop Warner regions. This includes two divisions made up of 32 teams. Enon Eagles competed against teams from New York down to Maryland. The football teams will play on Saturday and Tuesday, Dec. 4. If they win, the Eagles will play for the national championship on Saturday, Dec. 9.
Local pastor was recently featured at the Dell Music Center
The Dell Music Center Summer Concert Series recently held an extravaganza featuring The Clark Sisters, Vicki Yohe, E. Daniels and the Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller Sr., pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.
A familiar face — and voice — in the community, Waller is gaining quite a reputation as a singer.
In 2005, he released a CD titled "With His Permission," and recently performed at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside.
Waller is not only excited about singing for members of his massive congregation who are certain to come out that evening, he is also looking forward to the fellowship of gospel enthusiasts throughout the city.
What can a concert attendee expect to see from Waller in such a setting?
"They'll hear me sing the stuff they hear me sing in church [and] some things that I have written, so it will be more of a 'greatest hits' type thing," he said. "I am excited because it gives me an opportunity to do ministry in a different way, because the impetus for me is not as much about the performance as it is about the opportunity to minister, and hopefully to minister to some people who don't normally come to church.”
Given the tradition of singing pastors such as James Cleveland, Rance Allen and Fred Hammond, who have forged noteworthy careers in gospel music, one might wonder if the engaging and inspiring Waller, who earned a Bachelor's Degree in Music Business (B.G.S) from Ohio University, has similar aspirations.
He immediately put all such speculation to rest.
“I'm living what I want to do, and this is one of the things that the church knows, so we get very excited when I get a chance to do this,” he said. “The Lord has made it very clear to me that I am not to pursue being an artist, so I am not trying to do anything. I'm living my dream. This is all gravy.
"My goal is to be the pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, and serve the Northwest community of Philadelphia," he added. "I am absolutely living my dream, and doing what the Lord has called me to do. When I get the opportunity to do music like this, it's the gravy on the meat, it's the icing on the cake, and I receive it as a gift from God to be used. I'm not trying to do my next CD, I'm not trying to sell a CD. I have one out that came out in 2005, and that's it. I'm not approaching this as a step to anywhere. It's fun. It is hopefully a blessing to people and when it's over, it's over.
"I love it, and I'm free to love it, because it doesn't have to pay a bill, it doesn't have to get me to the next place,” Waller said. “If it happens again, it'll be wonderful. If it doesn't, I will not mourn because it's over, I will smile because it happened."
If there’s a way to celebrate Martin Luther King Day and pay tribute to those who make local neighborhoods the “beloved community,” Mid-Atlantic Health Care and the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church has found it.
Together they kicked off Pennsylvania’s King week, which according to a resolution sponsored by state Sen. Shirley Kitchen, spans from Monday, Jan. 15 to Sunday, Jan. 22. The kick-off event took place at Enon’s Mount Airy campus, 2800 W. Cheltenham Ave. last Wednesday.
Philadelphia NAACP member Helen Green of Germantown felt it was important that the King celebrations include events that showcase community activism. She said her daughter, Cynthia Green of Wyncote, joined the Cheltenham NAACP recently. After being reminded of King’s legacy, she opted to join the North Philadelphia branch, which is near her own mother’s home.
“We really have to continue to keep King’s dream alive,” Green said. “I think we need to have programs like this so that our young people don’t take things for granted. We who are the elders need to come out and encourage them to participate in things like this.”
Cathy Hicks of the city’s Sheriff’s office concurred.
She said though the King Day of Service is helpful, she feels there should be more programs that directly teach about King’s legacy.
“I really want the King Day celebrations to be more like this — where we observe what he has done and then we can go and do service for the rest of the year,” she said.
Among the honorees were C. B. Kimmins, founder of Mantua Against Drugs. “It’s good to know that sometimes someone recognizes what you are doing,” Kimmens said.
For Malik Aziz, accepting the honor from his wheelchair was a proud moment. As one of the founders of Men United for a Better Philadelphia, and now executive director of Exhoodus Network, Aziz said that “10 murders every 10 days” in the city is unacceptable.
“I grew up hearing Dr. King, Malcolm X and the others talking about positive change,” Aziz said. “I tell the young men my story of what I did at 17 years of age. I want to save them from what I did. That’s why I am still working to save our children.”
The other honorees were Lillian Daniels, the Rev. Derrick Johnson and Raymond Gant. Among the guest speakers and award presenters were 13th District Congresswoman Allyson Y. Schwartz, Mayor Michael Nutter, District Attorney Seth Williams and NAACP president Jerry Mondesire. Mid-Atlantic executives Dr. Jana Mallis, Jeff Grillo, Celeste Zappala, Diane Morgan and Dan McCathrey gave remarks. Additionally, Philadelphia’s own Bill Cosby phoned in his comments during the program.
Kitchen read a Commonwealth resolution that she sponsored declaring that from Monday, Jan. 15 until Sunday, Jan. 22, was King Week in Pennsylvania.
“This is a time when Pennsylvania can respect Dr. King’s legacy, and it’s a reminder that Dr. King understood that everyone needed to respect each other,” Kitchen said.
Maureen Fleagle finds solace in the knowledge that her son has given someone else a second chance at life.
Her son, Brian James Fleagle, was only 17 when he died due to a drug addiction on Dec. 11, 2002. Fleagle describes him as being “a great kid” who was athletic, had a great sense of humor and loved family activities.
When Fleagle and her husband were approached about donating Brian’s organs after he was declared brain dead, they didn’t hesitate.
“My husband and I stood there and without even looking at each other, said ‘yes.’ If his death could free someone else to live a longer life, yes we will,” she said.
Brian’s heart, kidneys and liver were harvested and given to those waiting for organs. A few weeks later, the Fleagles received a letter from the Gift of Life Donor Program informing them about the recipients of Brian’s organs. Fleagle kept feeling the urge to contact the recipient of Brian’s heart — a 47-year-old man named B.J. who hailed from Scranton.
“I just wanted to tell him everything about Brian — what his favorite foods were and what kind of sports he was involved in, what kind of things he liked in school and what his family was like,” she said.
Fleagle wrote a letter to B.J., and six months later she received a response from him, his mother and his girlfriend. When the Fleagles met their son’s heart recipient for the first time, it was a very moving experience.
“It was the most incredible experience that I could ever explain — to be able to be in the room with a man whose life has meaning. He’s going on with his life, and it’s because of my son’s heart,” says Flegale.
These days, the Fleagles and B.J. correspond frequently and visit each other twice a year.
“It has been a very healing, humbling experience for me to be able to be a part of this whole process,” Fleagle said.
She shared her story during an educational session hosted by the University of Pennsylvania and the Gift of Life Donor Program. During the “Power of Giving: Organ and Tissue Donation” learning session, ministry leaders were briefed on the organ donation process and encouraged to spread the message about the need for donors to their congregations.
The move to get the faith-based community involved comes at a time when there is a growing need for more organ donors — particularly from the minority community.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, more than 112,000 people are on the waiting list for an organ transplant. Approximately 19 people die every day while waiting for a life-saving organ. More than 6,500 people are waiting for organs in Pennsylvania.
During the session, Amy Craig Martiner, Gift of Life Hospital Services Coordinator, gave an overview of how the organ donation process works. As the region’s organ procurement organization, Gift of Life works with 130 hospitals in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware to make organ donation an option for families.
The process starts when Gift of Life is contacted by the hospital about a patient with a poor prognosis who could be a potential donor. Gift of Life personnel are charged with approaching the families of potential donors to obtain their consent.
Martiner said there are two main types of organ donors — those who have been declared brain dead and people who have died from cardiac death.
She noted that HIV and cancer are the only health conditions that could exempt someone from being a potential organ donor.
Martiner said people have many wrong ideas about organ donation - such as concerns that medical personnel won’t save their lives because they are registered organ donors; the process goes against religious beliefs, or the donor’s body would be disfigured.
Vanessa Duvert, Gift of Life multicultural outreach coordinator, spoke about the need for people from the minority communities to become organ donors. She addressed the link between the high rates of diabetes and kidney disease in the African-American community and the high percentage of Blacks on the waiting list for a kidney. Duvert noted that African Americans represent 44 percent of those who are waiting for a kidney in the Pennsylvania region.
“There is higher rate of success when someone from the multicultural community receives an organ from someone in that community, this is because there are genetic similarities that will make it an easier process for a person’s body to accept that foreign object coming into it,” said Duvert.
“In simpler terms, an African-American organ is going to be a better match for an African-American patient.”
Heart transplant recipient Janet Dennis shared the impact that having a new organ has made on her life. Six years ago, Dennis underwent a transplant after a virus caused heart failure
After receiving the heart transplant and undergoing rehab, Dennis turned to swimming for her physical exercise. This would eventually lead her to become a competitor in the U.S. Transplant Games, Olympic-style competitions for people who have undergone organ transplants. She’s amazed at becoming an athlete in her 50s. She’s netted a number of medals for dragon boat racing, swimming and javelin throwing.
Dennis, 56, has given the medals that she won from the Transplant Games to her donor family.
“Giving my medals to my donor family is so small in comparison to what they have given me. My gold medal is sitting inside of my chest,” says Dennis.
Dennis, who is a social worker, leads a very active lifestyle, which includes volunteering with the Gift of Life, being a spokesperson for Women’s Heart and participating on a local dragon boat racing team.
“I am having the time of my life, and I owe it all to Jesus Christ and my donor family,” she says.
Rev. Alyn E. Waller, senior pastor, Enon Baptist Tabernacle Baptist Church, told the clergy leaders that they are in the position to encourage others to become donors.
“As a pastor, I believe that we have the greatest opportunity to address the issues of stigma and mythology as it relates to this issue of organ donation, but I think it comes from us creating some things — a good conversation about being healthy communities of giving overall,” said Waller.
“So that giving an organ is just another side of giving, because you also give money, because you also give time, because you also give talent.”
The Gift of Life encourages faith-based leaders to tap into its “It’s About Life” grant program. Through the program, grants are awarded in amounts of up to $2,000 to local, tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations and houses of worship that are committed to developing educational programs designed to increase education and donor designations of organ and tissue donation.
Faith-based institutions can plan events such as donor registration drives, donor education workshops, health fairs or organize a candle lighting ceremony to honor donors, donor families and recipients.
People can sign up to become registered organ donors when receiving or renewing their driver’s license at Pennsylvania driver’s license and photo centers.