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Silent Soldiers who help build the society honored at banquet

The 23 honorees of the Silent Soldiers Banquet.

By Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer

The 23 Honorees of the 19th Annual Silent Soldiers Banquet are unfamiliar to most people. Their names aren’t the usual ones that appear in media outlets, or on social media sites. But their works impact the entire society, and effect people for years, were the words and spirit conveyed by the organizers of the Silent Soldiers Banquet, held on Sunday, March 1, at the Premier Banquet Complex, 4480 Heatherdowns Blvd.

Rev. Dr. Cedric Brock, pastor at Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, and founder of the Silent Soldier Banquet, explained to The Toledo Journal how the honorees were selected.

The Silent Soldiers Banquet attracts a diverse group of people, including Judge Tim Kulman of Municipal Court. He informed the audience of the Re-Entry Program that helps individuals gets recalculated into society.

Honorees are chosen by people in the community, family, friends, co-workers, and church members. Those who are nominated do things such as mentor students, give new businesses an outlet to sell their goods, or voluntarily keep churches clean, and comfortable for people to worship. Many of the nominees don’t know who nominated them.

“We want to give them, these hard workers, their flowers now, while they’re still alive,” Dr. Brock said.

Debra Brock, First Lady at Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, performs a musical selection, as her husband, and founder of the Silent Soldiers Banquet, Rev. Dr. Cedric Brock, looks on.

Donnetta Carter was one of the 23 nominees. One of the many things she does within the community to better the lives of others is providing a venue for new businesses to sell their goods, or services.

“When I received a letter in the mail saying I was going to be recognized as a Silent Soldier, I was like, ‘Wow; why me’,” she said. This recognition makes me want to push harder, at something I’m already driven to accomplish,” Ms. Carter said.

Over 600 people were in attendance.

Rev. Sheree Madison-Emery received a phone call saying she’d be honored at the banquet. “I was like, ‘Wow; but thank God I can be a blessing to others,’” she said. Rev. Madison-Emery volunteers at her church, serves as the Chaplin for her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Inc., serves on the school board at Summit Academy, and is a University of Toledo counselor.

The other honorees were Bridgette Byrd, Deacon Alan Crawford, Mother Helen Diggins, Kelly Ewing-Sims, Rev. Avearn Ford, Deborah Gardner, Pastor Roscoe Gilmore, Elsie Harbour, Dr. Mary Hawkins-Mitchell, Betty Houston, Gesiele Hunter, Mother Bessie Luckett, Ethel McCollum, Debra Middleton, Apostle Thomas Mitchell, Barbara Rome, Bishop Christopher Rowell, Michelle Tarrant, Phyllis Wallace, Mother Amanda West, and Elder Kenneth Witherspoon.

Second Baptist Church hosts ‘Evening of Excellence’ featuring Bishop Neal Roberson

By Leah Williams

Second Baptist Church hosted an ‘Evening of Excellence’ featuring Bishop Neal Roberson on Saturday, February 15. Dinner was served in the church fellowship hall followed by a concert in the sanctuary featuring Bishop Roberson, a long-time friend of Second Baptist Pastor Jerry L. Boose.

During the concert, the packed audience howled in laughter at Bishop Neal’s comedic anecdotes but were also visibly moved as he ministered through song, testimony, and the word. Pastor Boose said it was just the kind of evening that he envisioned when God impressed upon him to host an event for all people near Valentine’s Day.

“The whole concept came behind we’re going through so much in this country now and in people’s lives. I just wanted to have an evening where we could get away and enjoy each other [and] have a nice dinner,” he said. “I just felt this would be something good to offer to the community so we could come together and for a little while forget all about our troubles and just focus on what God has done.”

Several men in attendance including Pastor Jerry L. Boose, center, lift their hands in worship as Bishop Roberson ministers during the concert.

Pastor Boose said that when he and church administrator Shirley Williams began to discuss the event, he immediately thought of Bishop Roberson.

“He has been a friend of mine for 20-some years. I used to sing with a group called First Creation, and we met Bishop Roberson on the road,” he said. “And when I thought about this event, my heart went to him because I knew he could bring so much to it. So, it’s been a joy.”

Bishop Roberson sang his original songs including selections from his latest album entitled Shout. He also shared stories about his life and family. Many attendees cried out and were in tears when he gave a powerful testimony of being healed from stage 3 lung cancer.

At the end of the evening, it was evident that Pastor Boose and the planning committee were extremely happy with how the event turned out. Both Pastor Boose and committee member Kay Williams specifically acknowledged church administrator Shirley Williams who they say made the event possible.

“I have to thank Shirley Williams. I gave her the vision and she ran with it and pulled all this together, so we want to thank her,” Pastor Boose said.

Unity Day celebrates MLK through the arts and community service

Unity Day celebrates MLK
UT MLK scholarship recipients. Back from left to right: Emir Moore, Juwaan McGee, Mariah Hutchins, and Josephine Aduba. Front from left to right: Tayana White and Kourtnee Dallas-Robinson.

By Leah Williams

The annual MLK Unity Day Celebration took place this past Monday at Savage Arena on the campus of the University of Toledo. Local government officials, community leaders, clergy, students, and families attended the gathering honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year’s theme was “Dream, Believe, Do.”

In addition to video remarks given by Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, UT President Dr. Sharon L. Gaber, and Ninth District U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, the arts took center stage as university and local talented artists filled the program.

Toledo City Council Member Dr. Cecilia Adams and UT Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Willie McKether.

The band INTUITION featuring Lady K and UT Blue and Gold Pep Band provided pre-event entertainment before emcee and 13ABC news anchor Alexis Means called the celebration to order. After the presentation of colors by the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office, Camille Wilburn of Toledo School for the Arts [TSA] sang the national anthem and Toledo Opera Soprano Alicia Russell sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Later in the program TSA student and vocalist Alana Hicks sang “Anything Worth Holding on To,” and Ms. Russell took to the stage again to sing a moving rendition of the negro spiritual “Give Me Jesus” for which she received a standing ovation.

UT Dancing Rockette M’yan Hudson performs alongside her teammates and the UT Blue and Gold Pep Band.

Dance pieces included selections from the university’s Sistahs in Spirit Praise Dancers and TRIBE African Dance Team whose performance included Ghanaian movements and music. Additionally, TSA students Nia Fleming, Dylan Smith, Bailey Waldon, and Charli Waldon performed a commanding modern dance.

In her original spoken word piece “The Dream That Could,” UT student Laycee Horn spoke of Dr. King’s relentless pursuit of his dream and encouraged the audience to do the same.

“He had one dream, and his dream grew from Christ-giving seed. And in 2020, we are still fighting for his dream,” she said. “They tried to make him think his dream was hopeless and that we would never see equality, but like a true Alpha man he didn’t give up.”

TSA students perform a commanding modern dance during the celebration.

In addition to the arts performances, UT and the City of Toledo handed out MLK scholarships and awards respectively to area high and college students. Dr. Willie McKether, UT Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion awarded scholarships to Emir Moore, Juwaan McGee, Mariah Hutchins, Kourtnee Dallas-Robinson, Tayana White, and Josephine Aduba. Mayor Kapszukiewicz congratulated local high students who won the Mayor’s MLK Essay contest. First place went to Maumee Valley student Zane Reeves.
Before the program closed, a video produced and edited by UT Trustee Will Lucas played on the arena jumbotron. Many were visibly moved by the montage of Dr. King’s speeches and rose to their feet at its conclusion. In one segment, Dr. King spoke about his definition of real love.

“For I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go,” he said. “I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love. I’m talking about a strong, demanding love.”

At the conclusion of the celebration, the audience was invited to join program participants and community leaders in packing winter clothing bags for children in need. The service project was one of many organized in the community to honor MLK Day as a day of service. Both Dr. Gaber and Mayor Kapszukiewicz in their joint video address encouraged the community to engage in service to one another that empowers individuals, breaks barriers, and unites people together in the spirit of Dr. King’s life and lasting legacy.

Savage Family of Kitchen For The Poor remembers Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s accomplishments

Kitchen For The Poor remembers Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

By Michael Daniels
Staff Reporter

For the 45th year in a row, Toledo’s Kitchen for The Poor celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the adjoining LoSalem Missionary Baptist Church, hosted by the Savage family. This tradition was started by the late Rev. Harvey Savage Sr. and has been kept alive by his children. The service is attended by a devoted church crowd, and people from the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as, influential city leaders.

As always, this year’s program not only lifted up the name of Dr. King but they also praised the name of the Lord Jesus and God.

The service began with a welcome from Harvey Savage Jr. Executive Director of The MLK Kitchen for the Poor. He was followed by Minister Nadine Hadley, who offered the opening prayer and Minister Bryann Rogers, orchestrated the praise and worship portion of the service.

The Conductor of the Service was Minister John F. Savage, who was followed by the LoSalem praise dancer, Aleah Williams, Liyah Benton, and Janiya Fail. Guest speaker for the day was, Minister Kenneth Campbell.

The theme for Minister Campbell speech was, ‘Changing the Generation’ he said “What I mean by Changing the Generation is instead of always looking down on the generation below us, we need to reach out as the older generation and guide them. We expect our young people to do better things than they are doing. We the want fathers to father better and mothers to mother better. Yet in all reality we missing it as the dreamers, we haven’t taught them what they should be.”

He quoted  Joel 2:28, “And it shall come to pass afterwards, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” Minister Campbell further stated, “We the older generation are the dreamers and we owe it to the younger generation to reach back and show them the correct way to go in 2020. We must also show them more love because the Bible says ‘love changes all things’.”

After the service, everyone lined up outside the church to participate in a symbolic march around Savage Park to honor the many marches and the works of Dr. Martin Luther King. The march ended  and everyone was served a lite lunch enjoying the fellowship of those who attended the service.

When asked why they still do this service every year.

Harvey Savage Jr. said, “We do this to essentially keep Dr. Kings Dream alive. If we look at the teaching of Dr. King it is all about humanity and us coming together, and everybody sharing in the wealth of this nation. We want to be a part of that wealth, but if no one is standing up for it we won’t go anywhere as a people.”

He noted, “In this community, right here, 38% of our children live in poverty and we need to straighten this out. Unfortunately, the mode in this country is pretty polarized and negative. If we want to improve this situation we must come together. This is one of the things that Dr. King taught us and this is what we must do. That’s why we continue to do this service every year so we don’t forget Dr. King and his teachings,” he said.

Kwanzaa celebration is meant to last year round

Gracie Williams watches, as Lamarion Gordon, grandson of Diane Gordon, lights the unity candle during this year’s Toledo Kwanzaa celebration.

Journal Staff Writer

Although the Kwanzaa celebration was recognized from December 26-29, at Martin Luther King Academy for Boys, 1300 Forest Ave., organizers, the Toledo Kwanzaa House, wanted participants to know that it’s meant to be practiced year round.

Katrina Barnhill, saxophonist, performed for 80 people during the first night of Kwanza.

First celebrated in 1966 by the founder, Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa is built upon seven principles that are celebrated around the world. Those principals, which are Swahili, are Umoja, unity, Kujichagulia, self-determination, Ujima, collective work and responsibility, Ujamaa, cooperative economics, Nia, purpose, Kuumba, creativity, and Imani, faith.

Before beginning any Kwanzaa celebration, the eldest member of the gathering is first asked permission, by the organizers, if they can begin the event. Once given the go ahead, various forms of creative expression occurs, such as spoken word, song, praise dancing, music, eating ethnic foods, and brief speeches on the principal of the night.

During the Karamu Feast, those in attendance are given cups of water to drink, as they shout out the name of a descendant, or influential African, or African American in history, or in their personal life.

Alice Grace gave a presentation on how slaves would use quilts to tell stories, or covertly send messages to each other.

Don Lynn, a committee member of the Kwanzaa House, told The Toledo Journal the cultural celebration has been celebrated in Toledo since its inception by Diane Gordon. Mr. Lynn said the principals extend beyond the seven days of celebration, and all those who attend are encouraged to incorporate them in their daily lives to be applied for the benefit of self, and the community.

He said that although Mrs. Gordon wasn’t able to attend that night, her spirit was felt due to the participation in the celebration by her grandchildren Lamarion, 12, who would light the unity candle, Mi’Yonnah, 12, spoke on the importance of celebrating Kwanza, and Serenity Gordon, 9, would recite the poem, “Hey Black Child,” by Useni Eugene Perkins.

On the Conga African drums are Kewape, left and Donald Lynn, committee member of the Kwanza House.

Vernieda Pringle, whose grandson has the principal, Imani, as his middle name, celebrates yearly.

“I like it because it teaches real culture. I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I do my best to not only celebrate Kwanza, but apply the principles in my daily life,” she said.

Owner Camille Harris Spreads Holiday Cheer at her All for Kids Annual Christmas Luncheon

From left to right: John Perrin Jr., Jaden Coffey, Lotus Wilson, and Brittany Smith pose during the holiday luncheon

By Leah Williams

On December 20, Camille Harris, owner and operator of All for Kids, LLC, held her Third Annual Christmas Luncheon for her staff, families, and senior citizens at the Spencer Township Neighborhood Center in Holland, Ohio. 

Seniors attend the luncheon from left to right: Sister Mattie Taylor, Clynell Robinson (seated) and Jackie Bedford.

All for Kids, LLC is 5-star rated licensed early childcare center that services children 6 weeks to 5 years old. Their 5-star rating comes from the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) rating and improvement system, which recognizes 5-star facilities as exceeding quality program learning standards as well as licensing health and safety regulations.

Ms. Harris said that the annual event is just one way that she thanks her families for entrusting All for Kids with their children’s care and preschool education. 

“‘Tis the season to give back – without the family and community support, All for Kids would not have made it. This is our 7th year, and I’ve been blessed in different avenues, and I just felt that I needed to give back,” Ms. Harris said.

Originally, she said the childcare program started in 1999 in her home as Ms. Camille’s Daycare, but she soon realized that it was time to shift to a center-based learning facility. So, in 2012, she founded All for Kids, LLC and now services over 40 children with a full staff.

“The parents are wonderful,” Ms. Harris said. “They send their precious babies to me, and I have a very big duty to make sure that they’re loved, nurtured, safe, and [prepared] for kindergarten.”

All for Kids, LLC is housed in the Spencer Township Neighborhood Center along with other community programs including an Area Office on Aging satellite program that offers daily lunch and activities for area seniors. Ms. Harris said that she often brings children from her program to the other end of the center to visit the seniors and thought inviting them to the luncheon was a natural progression.

The All for Kids Staff. Standing from left to right: Ora Boykin, Caitlin Shoemacker, Devin Rivers, Keshell Morris, and Candae Graham. Kneeling or sitting from left to right: Hannah Lawhorn, Catelyn Ruscoe, Camille Harris, and Lonyae Kynard.

“The integration of the children with the seniors, it brightens their day,” she said. “We make field trips. We have a winter wonderland, and we sang carols to the seniors and they just loved it, so why not include them.”

Senior Charlotte Westley said she was delighted to attend the luncheon along with some of her bingo buddies.

“I was raised out here in Spencer Township, and I’m here because of the children. It is my first time being here with [them] and since all my children are grown, and I have great grandchildren and great great grandchildren, I thought I’d like to be with the community kids,” Ms. Westley said.

A father holds his daughter as they work on a fun activity before lunch at the Third Annual Christmas Luncheon at the Spencer Township Neighborhood Center in Holland, Ohio.

In addition to a catered soul food lunch, Ms. Harris had activities for the families to do together before she introduced her staff and thanked them for all their hard work. Sister Mattie Taylor offered the opening prayer and a door prize giveaways rounded out the festive family event.

Organization launches initiative to financially rebuild inner city C.E.R.P.P hosts banking class

C.E.R.P.P hosts banking class

By Jurry Taalib-Deen
Journal Staff Writer

Abdullah Ali, founder of Tarbyyatt ul Haqq Ministries, has a plan for the inner city of Toledo. He wants to financially educate as many young people as possible, while simultaneously, purchase properties to provide affordable housing to those areas.

Abdullah Ali, left, introduces the bankers of Woodforest National Bank; Bobbie Jo Elder, branch manager, and Kitiana Snoderly.

He began moving in that direction when his organization, C.E.R.P.P, Community Extraction Relocation & Protection Program, hosted a financial literacy program, conducted by administration from the Woodforest National Bank. Held on Wednesday, January 8, at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam, 722 E. Bancroft, Mr. Ali believes one of the keys to independence starts with financial literacy.

Some of the topics discussed during the interactive program, included the difference between banks, and credit unions, managing a savings, and checking account, how to use, and get the most out of prepaid cards, and understanding the difference between reloadable cards, and debit cards.

“Establishing, and keeping an active account, as well as building credit, are a few of the best ways to better your situation,” Mr. Ali told The Toledo Journal.

Bobbie Jo Elder, branch manager at Woodforest National Bank, said they would also be teaching on how to access credit reports, and increase credit scores.

“Although technology has made everything easier, including banking, there are a lot of people who don’t understand how to use that technology to their benefit; so we help people access that benefit,” she said.

Pamela Banner found out about the event on social media. “This is a really good event. Everyone should look at ways at educating themselves on finances. And even though this is a free event, I would’ve paid for it, if it wasn’t free.”

Future ventures, of the non-profit organization include pairing young people up with professionals so they can shadow them at their place of employment.

C.E.R.P.P also has other ventures aimed at bettering the community; one of which is includes distributing food at their food pantry.

“My other goal includes purchasing, and rehabbing properties in order to provide good, and affordable housing to those living in the inner city,” Mr. Ali said.

For more information, Mr. Ali can be reached at 419.975.8618.

‘God’s House International Worship Center’ holds Dedication Service

Those who participated in the Dedication Service of Toledo’s newest church,’God’s House International Worship Center’ were (standing L-R) Pastor Chris Hanley: Glenwood Lutheran Church, Dr. Stanley L. Scott, Elder Alice Williams: G.H.I.W. C, Rhonda Weber-Walker Trail: Co-Pastor of G.H.I.W. C., Pastor Eugene Harris: Rock of Praise C.O.G.I.C., Dr. Ronald O. Walker Trail; Sr., Th. D.: Pastor of G.H.I.W. C., Elder Karen Trail: G.H.I.W.C., Colia Harris: First Lady of Rock of Praise C.O.G.I.C, and Reginald Trail, with (seated in front) recipient of the Eagle Trailblazer Award, Dr. Pat McKinstry of the Worship Center.

By Michael Daniels
Toledo Journal Staff Reporter

In this late date, when so many mainstream churches are on the decline, Pastor Dr. Ronald O. Walker Trail; Sr.Th. D., said, “God Almighty has inspired me to start a new church.” So, along with his wife and Co-Pastor Rhonda Weber-Walker Trail, who has also inspired the two licenses, certified, and experienced theologians, did just that. On Sunday, September 1, 2019 they held their first service in the Collingwood Presbyterian Church at 1208 Collingwood Blvd., their new temporary church home.

One month later, on Sunday October 3, 2019, a new chapter in Toledo’s Afro-American Church history began with the ‘Dedication to the Ministry of the Lord’ in the city’s newest church, ‘God’s House International Worship Center,’

An excited Dr. Trail said, “This church is all about God and not about us. We feel we can help the churches that are already here and we want to partner with those churches that are actually doing something to help God’s people and people in general. We want people to come to know Jesus Christ. All those who are disenfranchised, disconnected, and dislocated now have a place to come where they will feel wanted, needed, and loved.”

Co-Pastor Rhonda Weber-Walker Trail and Pastor Dr. Ronald O. Walker Trail; Sr., Th. D. rejoice with praises to the Lord during the dedication of their new church, God’s House International Worship Center.

He added,“At ‘God’s House International Worship Center, we teach the principals of the Bible and want people to know the Bible so they can grow spiritually. Our concern here is spiritual growth and not so much on entertainment, but the learning the word of God is the most important thing.”

The actual dedication service began with the singing of hymns by the congregation and an opening prayer and remarks by Pastor Dr. Ronald O. Walker Trail; Sr. This was followed by the reading of the Scripture by Elder Alice Williams.

Next, Co-Pastor Rhonda Weber-Walker Trail introduced and defined The Eagle’s Trailblazer Award to the congregation. The Eagle’s Trailblazer Award, which is in its first year is an award that is given to a person, who is recognized for the work they’ve done in the city, to help others. The award comes from the Trailblazers Association who chooses the recipient of the award. This year’s recipient and the first person to receive the award was, Dr. Pat McKinstry, Pastor of the Worship Center Church.

Dr. Pat McKinstry is presented the Eagle Trailblazer Award by Dr. Ronald O. Walker Trail; Sr., Th. D. the Pastor of ‘God’s House International Worship Center.’

 After the reading of the definition Dr. McKinstry was presented her award by Pastor Dr. Ronald O. Walker Trail.

Moving right along it was time for the dedication of the church into God’s service lead by Dr. McKinstry. First Elder Karen Trail read aloud the church’s bio, Mission Statement, and vision statement for the future. Then Dr. McKinstry and several other visiting pastors commissioned, prayed and asked Gods blessing for the church and laid  holy hands of anointing on Pastor Dr. Ronald O. Walker Trail and Co-Pastor Rhonda Weber-Walker Trail. Afterwards, the two exhilarated pastors lifted up their hands to sky and praised the Lord for his goodness and mercy.

To finish the day, the two newly anointed pastors conducted an Ordination of Minister Karen Trail and Elder Alice Williams into the church’s ministry. The service ended with remarks from visiting ministers and closing remarks of gratitude and thanksgiving from Co-Pastor Rhonda Weber-Walker Trail.

She said, “God laid it on my heart the mission of ‘God’s House International Worship Center,’ as well as, a few other things I’m formulating. He wanted us to start a ministry that teaches the word of God and to teach and give understanding to the saint on how to operate in the word of God. We not only want to have an impact inside our church but outside the wall of the church as well. We want all to see God’s glory manifested in their own personal lives and that is our purpose. We teach people to not only to hear the word but to also to be doers of the word of God in their life.”

‘God’s House International Worship Center’ has service every Sunday at 12:00 noon the Collingwood Presbyterian Church, 1208 Collingwood Blvd and the public is invited to come. They also have Bible Study every Wednesday at 6:30 pm at the same location, For more information call the church at 615-983-1007.

Over 500 Local High School Students Attend UT Human Trafficking Conference

Members of the Young Women for Change student organization at Toledo Early College High School.

By Leah Williams

The University of Toledo hosted over 500 local high school students from public and parochial schools on Wednesday, September 18 as a part of their Annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference.

The conference, which celebrated its 16th year, has welcomed high school students to campus for the last six years. Anna Schramm, Research Assistant at the University’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, said that conference organizers were purposeful in creating an opportunity to address teenagers.

Educator Leah Hudson, center, with students from Jones Leadership Academy attending the conference.

“Six years ago, when we decided to start the high school day, we realized that these were the people we were really needing to get in front of because they’re the ones who are confronting this issue; their friends might be dealing with it, they might come in contact with it,” Ms. Schramm said. “So, we really wanted to make them aware of [human trafficking] and then hopefully they learn something and take it back to their schools and spread the word.”

The day for the high schoolers started en masse with a Human Trafficking 101 session presented by Kizzy Williams, a Toledo area social worker and victim advocate, who provides legal advocacy services to victims of sex and labor trafficking. During the session, Ms. Williams spoke to the students about relationship warning signs, victim grooming, and how predators use social media to target vulnerable youth.

Kizzy Williams presents Human Trafficking 101 during the conference.

Among the sea of students and teachers in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium was Community Activist and Educator Mona Al-Hayani, who attended the conference, with nearly 50 students from Toledo Early College High School. This included members of the Young Women for Change student organization who will be presenting along with Al-Hayani in November at the Ohio State House for the Ohio Human Trafficking Prevention Youth Summit.

“It’s so important to have students come to conferences talking about human trafficking and the risk factors and how social media plays into tracking vulnerable youth,” Ms. Al-Hayani said. “Our students think that they’re invincible. Conferences like this makes them see that they are vulnerable.”

Sarah Sahmarani, senior student and president of Young Women for Change at Toledo Early College, said it was important for students to attend the conference especially for those who identify as female. Ms. Sahmarani said that young women needed to be active in the fight against human trafficking.

Mona Al-Hayani poses before the morning breakout sessions begin.

“It’s really important to empower women and girls to stand up and realize that they have a voice and can make a difference. They can make a change and stand up for themselves,” she said.

Following the opening group session, the high school students’ day rounded out with pre-selected breakout sessions, lunch, and the naming of winners from both the spoken word and visual art contest.

Art contestant and Maumee High School junior Jadyn Greisiger wrote that her digital art piece was meant to highlight the misconceptions that all human trafficking victims are female and victimized by strangers. She said that many victims are males and most people being trafficked were manipulated and abused by people they had come to be in relationship with on some level.

“Sadly, things such as ‘You have nowhere else to go’ or ‘No one else will love you’ and even physical abuse are used to keep the victim captive and vulnerable,” Ms. Greisiger wrote. “I tried my best to show that sex trafficking and abuse isn’t always as black and white as many people view it to be.”

The final two days of the conference were sold out and the University of Toledo saw nearly 1200 people attend 75 breakout sessions that focused on diverse topics including research, direct services, legal and law enforcement, and survivor stories. Dr. Celia Williamson, Distinguished University Professor and director of the University’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute said the following in a statement to the press.

“We are proud so many people want to learn about human trafficking. Our conference brings sex and labor trafficking out of the shadows and helps end abuse. More than ever before, we have the opportunity to educate, collaborate, and save lives,” Dr. Williamson said.

Annual 50+ Sports Classic Draws Hundreds of Northwest Ohio Athletes

Billie Johnson, right, and Melanie Grohowski light the event torch at the Opening Ceremony.

By Leah Williams

The 25th Annual 50+ Sports Classic sponsored by the Area Office on Aging and YMCA of Greater Toledo took place on Saturday, September 14 across multiple venues in Toledo and Maumee. The opening ceremony was held at the Wolf Creek YMCA. 

Athletes and their families gathered bright and early at the flag pole in front of the YMCA to celebrate the upcoming day’s events. Mr. Cole spoke of the power of healthy living and community as he emceed the program that included brief speeches, a youth hip hop dance, and the lighting of the torch by Area Office of Aging Director/CEO, Billie Johnson and Wolf Creek YMCA District Vice President Melanie Grohowski.

Stephanie Marable, far left, leads the pack during her 100-meter dash heat

According to event organizer Justin Moor, Vice President of Planning and Program Development at the Area Office on Aging, the Sports Classic was the vision of Director Billie Johnson and an incredible testament to aging well.

“This is a really inspirational day where we see positive images of aging – shattering a lot of myths people have about what it means to be age 50 and better,” Mr. Moor said. “In the past, we’ve had 50-year-olds dunking, 90-year-olds running the 100-meter dash, and everything in between, so it’s a really great day.”

An athlete leads the pack in his heat during the track and field competition

Over 200 athletes, ages 50 plus, participated in the classic on Saturday. The participants competed in over 10 sports including bowling, tennis, golf, track and field, swimming, pickle ball, and basketball. Each sports competition was divided into age groups and awards were given to the winners within each age grouping.

When asked about the importance of the event to the athletes and community at large, Ms. Johnson said that, the event was so important in motivating retirees to engage in activities that improve their overall health.

“We are delighted to promote health and wellness and this is what this is all about – to get our 50 plus population out here to be a role model for other retirees in our community so that, we can be healthy, live long, and be as independent as possible,” Ms. Johnson said.

From left to right: Justin Moor, Tom Cole, Melanie Grohowski, Billie Johnson, and Henry Johnson.

While the organizers had their reasons for sponsoring the event, the participating athletes each had their own reasons for competing as well. Terri Wolf, age 60, received a flyer in the mail about the event and said she saw it as a great opportunity to challenge herself at the precipice of a new decade in her life.

“I had a hard time turning 60 so I decided I’m going to go do this. This looks really fun, and I love being active. And so that’s what got me into it, and I’m doing it again in Albuquerque, New Mexico as well.”

Stephanie Marable, 52, said her youngest daughter was the catalyst for her participation. “My daughter forced me. She bullied me,” laughed Ms. Marable who won her heat in the 100-meter dash.

“My daughter runs at University of Cincinnati, and I always used to push her so she said ‘Oh, you’re going to do this mom’ so I did,” Ms. Marable said.

Renard Oliver Sr. woke up nursing a hamstring injury but pushed himself to compete to honor his childhood friend whom he reconnected with at last year’s 50+ Senior Classic.

“I came today in honor of my friend, who passed away 6 months ago, Charlie Ollie who the last time we were here had a great day. He earned 6 or 7 medals, and I hadn’t seen him in about 15 years so I had to be here today for him,” Mr. Oliver said.

The competition started at 8:00 a.m. and continued well into the afternoon. Interested athletes 50 years and older are encouraged to begin training for next year’s competition now, which participant Stephanie Marable said is a great way to stay fit, have fun, and meet others in the same age range who are doing the same.