More honors for ‘Energizer’ clergy

Albert White, former director of government and community relations at GRU, waits to speak as S. Yvette Carter introduces him during the Gainesville Regional Utilities Community Energizer Breakfast.

ELISE GIORDANO/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 1:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 1:14 p.m.

Role models, change agents, community activists, compassionate, selfless and courageous were some of the words used to describe four Gainesville faith-based leaders who were individually honored with the inaugural GRU "Community Energizer Award" during the month of October, which is National Clergy Appreciation Month.

And last Thursday, they were honored as a group at the Gainesville Regional Utilities Community Energizer Breakfast.

Recognized for their work in the community, the honorees are: Bishop Larry Dennison, of Compassionate Outreach Ministries; Michele Dix, first lady of PASSAGE Family Church; the Rev. Dr. Geraldine McClellan, pastor of Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Kevin Thorpe, pastor of Faith Church.

The nearly 70 men and women who attended the breakfast at the Thomas Center heard a powerful keynote speech delivered by Albert White, community activist and former director of government and community relations at GRU. The prayer was offered by Minister Timothy Jones, assistant pastor at Open Door Ministries. S. Yvette Carter, community relations coordinator at GRU introduced White and brief remarks were made by the honorees.

Nona Jones, director of government and community relations at GRU, said the award was created to recognize faith-based leaders who go beyond their ministerial duties to make a difference in the Gainesville community.

"GRU's mission includes providing safe and reliable utilities, but beyond this, it is our mission to enhance the quality of life in Gainesville," Jones said. "This award was established to honor members of the clergy who also enhance the quality of life in Gainesville beyond their ministerial duties. We are honored to honor them."

In his opening remarks, Gainesville Mayor Pro Tem Randy Wells said the honorees are community leaders who lead by example.

"You are role models we want our children to follow," Wells said. "You challenge us to think, care and act for what we know is right."

White said the Energizer award is about positive changes and being a change agent. "A community energizer sometimes makes people uncomfortable with change," White said. "Pastors remind us from the pulpit to change our ways."

During his speech, White shared an event that he said jump-started community activism for him and his wife, Ora White. He said they were students in the 1960s in Greensboro, N.C., when Ora White, on her first day of work for the North Carolina health department, was told she hadn't been hired. "It was a sad, sad day," White said. "We made a vow that when we graduated and made a salary, we would help everyone we could."

White spoke about sacrifices made by agents of change in the churches and he quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "King epitomized the energizer and it cost him his life," White said. "You (honorees) have been selected because you let your light shine in the community. You get out of the four walls of the church and into the community."

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