Pastors, GHS student to receive King awards

Published: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 3:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 3:49 p.m.

The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a drum major for justice who fought tirelessly to give poor people hope, while also working hard to make education a priority in disadvantaged communities so that those living there could have a chance to realize the American dream.


Apostle Willie and Pastor Linda King of Showers of Blessings Harvest Center. (Special to the Guardian)

And it is with that spirit in mind that the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida Inc., along with Waste Corporation of America, will honor Apostle Willie King and Pastor Linda King of Showers of Blessings Harvest Center with the 2014 Drum Major for Justice Award, and Ladale Thomas, a senior at Gainesville High School, with the 2014 Drum Major for Justice Scholarship.

The Kings and Thomas will receive their awards at 8 a.m. Friday at the seventh annual MLK Prayer Breakfast to be held at the Best Western Plus Gateway Grand Hotel at 4200 NW 97th Blvd. No more tickets are available for the event.

Rodney Long, founder and president of the King Commission, said Florida Rep. Clovis Watson Jr. will be the keynote speaker.

The Drum Major for Justice Award is given to a religious leader who goes outside the four walls of the church to impact the community. The Drum Major for Justice Scholarship is awarded to a high school senior who has overcome tremendous odds to graduate and who will attend college.

The breakfast is held annually to commemorate the assassination of King, who was killed on April 4, 1968, with a single gunshot by James Earl Ray on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis.

Long said the Kings, who will celebrate 38 years of marriage this year, were chosen for their many efforts to make an impact in the community, especially for feeding the homeless at their church located at 2615 SE 15th St.

Willie King said he told God he would feed the hungry when he was praying to God to give him the land and the building where his ministry is located.

"I promised God that I would go get the homeless and the hungry and feed them, and every since we got that building about 16 years ago, we have been feeding the homeless and the hungry," King said.

King said he is now praying to God for the ability to do more than just feed the homeless by developing outreach programs that will assist the homeless with becoming productive members of society.

"Everybody who is homeless don't want to be homeless," King said. "They had a bad break or something bad happened that caused at least 80 percent of them to be homeless."

The Kings also are the founders of the Southeast Educational Enterprise Kingdom Community Center Inc., or S.E.E.K., a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower, educate and equip residents with the tools and resources they need to become successful.

Since 2012, the couple also has overseen the operation of the church's Fostering Opportunities & Cultivating Upstanding Students, or F.O.C.U.S. program, an affordable summer education enrichment program for children and teens that consists of life skills, character education, financial literacy and a little fun in the mix.

Linda King said she and her husband are honored and humbled to be selected for the award.

"Receiving this award means that what we are doing at Showers of Blessings is very important, and we are reaching our goal of having a positive effect on the community," she said. "It is also an important award because other people are seeing the good we are doing in the community."

Thomas has gotten his life back on track after suffering several hardships during his senior year of high school.

He entered this school year hoping to have a great year as a wide receiver on the GHS football team, but he ended up missing the first six games of the season because of back spasms. He thought he had a great chance to get a college scholarship for his football skills, so he was devastated when the injury ruined those hopes.

To add insult to injury, his mother had to leave near the end of the football season to move to Okeechobee to take care of her parents. Thomas said he became depressed and didn't know where to turn for support. His "ram in the bush" came in the form of Darry Lloyd, the spokesman for the States Attorney Office in Gainesville who spends a lot of time mentoring young men in the community.

Since moving in with Lloyd and his family, Thomas has improved his grades, is feeling better about his life and will be attending Santa Fe College after graduating from high school.

He will receive $1,000 from the Drum Major for Justice Award.

"I am very excited and honored to receive this scholarship," said Thomas, adding that he was able to overcome his obstacles because of his faith in the Lord.

"I just trusted in God that he would pull me through," Thomas said.

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