Posted on 12/27/2013 at 03:40 PM by YMCA of Greater Des Moines
Scroll down to learn more about the three honorees for the 2nd Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast award recipients.
About The Event:
The 2nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast
When: January 20, 7:15-9:30 a.m.
Where: Parents Hall in Drake University's Olmsted Center
27th Street and University Avenue, Des Moines 50311
For information on how to attend the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast call the John R. Grubb Community YMCA at 515.246.0791
Tickets: $30 Individual | $300 Table of 8
King encouraged his congregation to seek greatness, but to do so through service and love. We want all who attend this breakfast to be inspired to MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
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This year's keynote will be Suku Radia, CEO of Bankers Trust in Des Moines. Our award honorees are Vernon Johnson, Jamel Crawford and Allia Foley. Read below to learn more about each of them.
Name: Allia RaeLynn Foley
Parents: Clyde and Denise Parker
Residence: Urbandale, Iowa
School: Urbandale High School
Bio: Allia RaeLynn Foley was born in Houston, Texas and moved to Iowa at the age of three. She has two siblings – Paris JaRae Foley, 20 and Alvin (AJ) Foley II, 16.
Allia grew up in a Christian home. She enjoys volunteering, dancing, playing basketball, music, singing, drama, running track, and weight lifting. Allia plans to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. and would like to study Psychology, Criminal Justice, or Criminology. Eventually, Allia would like to be a criminal profiler working for the FBI.
Honors/Awards: NAACP ACT-SO State Winner – Dance 2013, National Honor Society 2013, National Hispanic Honor Society 2013, Miss Black USA Talented Teen Congeniality 2011, Miss Black Iowa Talented Teen 2010-2012, Honor Roll 6th grade to present, Academic and Varsity Athletic Letters 2011, Mary Ann Spicer Academic Award 2010, Veola Perry Community Service Award 2010, Student Senate 2006-2009, Urbandale Middle School (UMS) Award Winning Show Choir 2008-2009, 1st Place Vocal Solo Competition 2006.
Community Service: Make a Wish Foundation, UHS Community Service Day, UMS & UHS Food Drives, UMS Boxes of Love for Military Families, Union Baptist Church (UBC) Thanksgiving for the elderly and needy, UBC Sunday School Secretary, Central District Choir, 3P Community Choir, elderly assistance, and feeding the homeless.
Organizations: NAACP Youth Council (Current President), New Beginning Discipleship Ministry, Union Baptist Church, Delta G.E.M.S., Miss Black Iowa USA, and Miss Black USA
Winning Motto: “In life we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.” ~Maya Angelou
Peer Message: Life is sometimes unfair and we may experience defeat, but we can never give up or let anyone stop us or block us from achieving our fullest potential. We should always keep God first, because He provides all of the tools that we could ever need and more to accomplish anything that we wish to achieve.
Jamel Crawford currently is a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God and serves as Lead Pastor of New Life Center in Des Moines, IA. He also serves as Head Boys Basketball Coach at East High School in Des Moines. Jamel has been married for 4 years to his wife Melissa. Jamel was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 15, he moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has lived in Des Moines, IA since 1998. Jamel graduated from Central Bible College (CBC) in 1998 where he received a degree in Bible Theology. He also played for the men’s basketball team at CBC and was a 4-year starter. Following college, Jamel served as a Youth Pastor at Metro Assembly of God in Des Moines. Jamel has also received a certificate in Non-Profit Leadership from Drake University. He worked at the YMCA of Greater Des Moines for over 10 years, where he served as the Executive Director for 5 years. After serving at the YMCA, he served as the Interim Executive Director at the Evelyn Davis Early Learning Academy. Jamel is also pursuing his Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership at Evangel University.
Jamel currently serves on the African American Leadership Forum’s Family Group, Neighborhood Finance Board of Directors, Evelyn Davis Learning Academy Board, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Leadership Team at East High and serves as Board Chair for Royal Family Kids Camp, a camp for abused and neglected kids in foster care. Jamel has a passion to see young people realize their potential for a productive future and give them the tools to reach their potential.
One of Jamel’s highlights was creating a youth conference for youth through the YMCA of Greater Des Moines called “Flippin Tha Scrypt”. The conference is designed to help youth write and in some cases re-write the life script that been written for them. Over the years Jamel has worked with several neighborhood associations to help provide positive youth activities in their neighborhoods. He has also worked with other community organizations to find out productive ways to help youth to become better citizens. Jamel enjoys speaking to youth throughout the Des Moines area.
For over 40 years prior to his retirement in June, 2008, Vernon C. Johnson has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans his entire career. His commitment and dedication have made a positive impact on our community and state. He has earned a reputation for his wisdom, courage, and compassion. He’s known for identifying the needs of young people, and finding ways to help meet those needs, even when there is no funding available for them. Many times, he provides or finds free services for these kids.
Vernon grew up in a small community in rural Texas, where he witnessed first hand the cruelty of racism. As a boy, he participated in Freedom Marches, and was the target of fire hoses, dogs, and the sticks and stones of angry mobs. He stayed in Texas until his graduation from Wiley College —with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology and Physical Education. He then came north, first to Minnesota, where he played with the Vikings football team, and then to Des Moines, Iowa.
His football career was short-lived; his passion for helping others wasn’t. He found that, regardless of his background in science and athletics, he wanted to turn that passion into a career. He began his work with Iowa Children’s and Family Services, where he first was a foster care caseworker, and eventually became Director of Residential Treatment. He started Iowa’s first group home for African-American boys, and later developed and directed Iowa’s first group home for African-American girls.
Catherine Williams, then a social worker with Iowa’s Department of Human Services (DHS), became Vernon’s mentor. She found him caring, committed, and humble in his success. Ms. Williams sent many of the children under her care to Vernon’s group homes, because, “I knew they’d get the kind of support and care they needed to redirect their lives.” She also sent young people who were about to be placed in the child welfare system to Vernon first—so that he could council them and help them to avoid placement altogether. Ms. Williams and Vernon worked together as she continued to rise in the DHS, until she retired as Deputy Commissioner. Vernon remained at Iowa Children’s and Family Services for over 20 years, until he was recruited to Orchard Place to start a program for delinquent youth. That program was to eventually become the PACE Juvenile Center at Eighth and High Streets in downtown Des Moines.
Under Vernon’s leadership, PACE grew to serve well over 2,000 children and young adults, male and female, each year. Most of these young people were adjudicated; many were below grade level and many had dropped out of school altogether.
But it’s been only a few years that the PACE program could claim its own building. In 1989, his car quite literally was also his office. His work with young people who were not succeeding in school led him to understand just how many young people with behavioral problems there were in Central Iowa. So he, with the support of Orchard Place’s board of directors, expanded PACE programming to help all those young people whose behavioral problems made it impossible for them to stay in their traditional school settings. Under Vernon’s direction, PACE began working with young people who’d been adjudicated delinquent, and therefore needed day-time supervision.
Perhaps Vernon’s greatest gift to the community is his willingness and ability to respond to the community’s changing needs. In 1997 he recruited an African-American to start an on-site program for treatment of minorities struggling with substance abuse. In 2002, at the request of Juvenile Court Officers, he started a weekend detention program for nonviolent offenders at Camp Dodge, to provide an alternative to Polk County Youth Detention Center. Today, PACE’s continuum of services addresses such diverse issues as delinquency, truancy, academic deficiency, and poor social functioning. PACE programs have helped hundreds of young people—and some of their parents—to acquire their GEDs.
But his work at PACE tells only part of Vernon’s story and his commitment to community. In 2002, Vernon assumed a temporary directorship of Tiny Tots, to ensure that the working poor of Des Moines had quality childcare while Tiny Tots underwent a change in leadership. In the same fashion, at the request of United Way of Central Iowa, he took over as temporary leader of the Willkie House, an after-school program for inner-city children, while its board searched for a full-time leader in 2003.
It was also Vernon’s leadership that resulted in a collaborative effort of inner-city nonprofit agencies. Under the umbrella of “The Directors Council,” (TDC) this group works within the enterprise zone—which includes the most at-risk neighborhoods in Des Moines. The Council, of which Vernon is an Emeritus Founding Member and served as its First Chair, the chair, works together to improve the quality of life in the inner city through access to better jobs, partnering with area businesses for job training and internships, keeping children in school, and ensuring that people have access to affordable healthcare. The Annie E. Casey Foundation has partnered with the Directors Council through its Making Connections initiative. Under Vernon’s leadership the TDC applied for a successfully received funding through the Office of Senator Tim Harkin for the collaborative community work of the TDC and the department of Labor for two separate multi-year renewable grants for prisoner re-entry and family reunification.
Three years prior to his retirement, Vernon became involved in a Minority Youth and Family Initiative. The program design was a collaboration of the Directors Council and other provider organizations, pooling their resources to address risk factors associated with juvenile delinquency in African/American Youth. These risk factors include family management problems, substance abuse, education, poverty and poor community connections. The project was family focused serving families where one or more family members were DHS involved. The goal of the program was to empower the family as a unit to deter future involvement with either DHS or the court system. The program purpose was to intervene via services to the entire family unit. The program has become a statewide model and the Department of Human Services now utilizes multiple agencies throughout the state for its implantation.
In all of his work, Vernon strives to remind colleagues that there is one true way to help disadvantaged people, and that is to guide them toward sustained self-sufficiency, through access to better paying jobs, education, healthcare, and community support. He provides a voice for many who otherwise would not have a voice.
Vernon’s many honors include KCCI’s Leading the Way Award, the NAACP Award for Community Contributions, the Community Service Award of the Black Ministerial Alliance, the John R. Grubb Partner with Youth Award; the I’ll Make me a World in Iowa Heritage Legacy Award; the Ames Branch NAACP Distinguished Service Award; the ISDC Award of Excellence; DMACC Dreammakers Award; Des Moines Area Religious Council Outstanding Service to Youth Award; Jack and Jill of America for Outstanding Service in the Community; and the “Man of Valor” Award from St. Paul AME Church for Outstanding Achievement in Creating Hope and a Future.
Vernon often does public speaking and is featured in panel discussions regarding the needs of Iowa youth and minorities. He is known in the community by many as a mentor. He works regularly with faculty from Simpson College addressing careers working with youth and the diverse population.
He is currently serving or has served on the Attorney General’s Juvenile Justice Commission, the Name Each Child steering committee, the Healthy Polk Steering Committee, The Greater Des Moines Partnership Project Destiny Human Services Committee, The Human Services Planning Alliance, the Polk County Housing Trust Fund, and the National Association of Black Social Workers. He is a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and St. Paul A.M.E. Church.
Finally, Vernon is a proud husband to Teree Caldwell-Johnson, and devoted father to four children, Vernon, Jr. William, Baley and Baxtyr.
In reflecting on Vernon Johnson’s work in this community and indeed this state, there is no question that his accomplishments reflect not only demonstrated committment but sustained and impactful efforts to meet the needs of at-risk youth. While most people believe that the four most significant words spoken by Dr. King are “I have a dream” Vernon would beg to differ. “For me, the four most significant words spoken by Dr. King are “Now is the time’ and I have taken it upon my self to act, even in the face of adversity, to bring about the system change necessary in meeting he needs of the youth of this community and this state.”