MOUNT VERNON – Nearly 300 guests gathered at First Baptist Church of Lyons on Feb. 5 for Brewton-Parker’s second annual Warren C. Crawley, Sr. Gala. Celebrating African-American History Month and the diversity of the community and the church, the evening honored the legacy of Warren C. Crawley by providing funding for scholarships for students in need.
AWarren C. Crawley was an ex-slave and a vital figure in the history of the college. In 1904, Crawley encountered several local churches that dreamed of establishing a Christian school in the community. At the time, these churches did not have sufficient acreage to establish the school, so Crawley, in a Christ-like act of reconciliation in a segregated time, donated five acres of his own land. These five acres comprised one-third of the original tract and enabled the foundation for Union Baptist Institute’s inaugural campus. This campus would later become Brewton-Parker College. Crawley made this astounding contribution knowing that the strict segregation of the pre-civil-rights South would prohibit his own grandchildren from enrolling.
Over a century later, BPC’s campus now flourishes with a diverse student body that consists of 45 percent minorities, an unimaginable diversity during Crawley’s lifetime. In recognition of his humanitarian deed and in honor of his heritage, BPC initiated the annual gala in 2017 to raise funds for the construction of a new male dormitory. Due to the outstanding support of the local community and foundations, BPC was able to raise sufficient funds to begin construction on the Warren C. Crawley Commons, which currently has a projected completion by May 2019.
United for the Next Generation
With the completion of the initial capital campaign, the planning committee for the gala set out with a new theme and mission for the 2019 Gala: “United for the Next Generation.”
“We believe this theme reflects the pathway that the current generation is taking,” stated Beverly Robinson, a member of the planning committee and associate provost at BPC. “By uniting for the next generation, we are setting an example for the students and community while highlighting the importance of diversity.”
Aligning with the message of unity, the event raised funds for the Warren C. Crawley Scholarship, a scholarship designed to help students who, after completing the financial aid process and exhausting all other options, find themselves in need of additional support. Each semester, BPC provides a quality, Christian education to a variety of underserved students from low socio-economic backgrounds. Through the Warren C. Crawley Scholarship, BPC hopes to alleviate the stress of these financial needs and enable students to reach beyond their current circumstances and continue their studies at BPC.
During his address, BPC President Steve Echols explained that some students are just a flat tire away from having to drop out of college. He thanked the attendees for their many kind acts of charitable support in the community but highlighted how a seemingly small gift to this fund could make a drastic difference in the lives of students.
Honor for the Past and a Challenge for the Future
In addition to raising funds for this new scholarship, the event also celebrated diversity by honoring influential personages in the southeast Georgia region for the contributions they have made in their communities. The 2019 Honorees included Herbert “Hub” Dudley of Laurens County (posthumous), Jimmy Jackson of Laurens County, Sherrie and Waldo Moody of Bibb County, Andrea Hinojosa of Toombs County, H.W. Miller of Toombs County, Greg Johnson of Toombs County, Michael Williams of Toombs County, and Patricia Dixon of Montgomery/Toombs County.
During the program, Robinson shared each honoree’s background and expounded on the work they have achieved in their communities. Each guest of honor was also presented with tokens of gratitude, including a commemorative placard highlighting each honoree. The event also featured a performance from BPC’s Unity Choir and a personal testimony from current BPC student, Jada Ivy.
BPC was honored to welcome Fred J. Luter, Jr., as the special guest speaker for the evening. Luter has the distinction of being the first African-American president of the largest protestant denomination in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention. In line with the night’s theme, he challenged those in attendance with an inspirational message of unity, direction, and purpose – unity for the goal of getting the work done, direction for the goal of knowing what needs to be done, and purpose for the realization of the work’s importance.
The work to which Luter referred is the work of the ministry. This work never ends, which is why he called for more laborers – more workers – in the mission field. As a way to participate immediately in this great work, he challenged those in attendance to contribute to the Warren C. Crawley, Sr. Scholarship. By doing so, he explained, donors would help transform the lives of students financially, academically, and – most importantly – spiritually. The more students that walk the halls of BPC means the more students that have opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ.
A Night to Remember
“It was an uplifting event that proves if we look toward the future as people united in purpose, we can make a difference,” stated Linda Page, one of many attendees that night. “That difference has to begin in our own hearts, from which a love for all in our communities will begin to take shape as we work together and move out to the far reaches of our world. As our pastor said not long ago, the great divide is no longer race or ethnicity. It is education. Local colleges such as BPC help provide the opportunity to those who could not go otherwise due to background, lack of familial support, or simply personal responsibilities to home and family.”
Page continued, “I will carry the speaker’s message in my heart and mull it over every day in my mind so that I might strive to make a difference, just as BPC made that difference for me.”
Plans are already being made for the 2020 Warren C. Crawley, Sr. Gala.