“Your sacrifices and
dedication to God’s work and your willingness to share His
bountiful blessings has inspired many at Warren and this
community to ‘pay it forward,’” wrote Rev. Otis J. Gordon,
Jr., pastor of Warren in the event’s program.
“Each nomine selected
today has blazed the trail for others in teaching and
serving,” said Debra Jelks, Christian Education Department
This year’s Trailblazer
honorees are: Maurine Simmons; Elmer and Jean McGruder;
Ethel McCollum; Jeanette Bradley; Myrna Gross Banks; Nevaeh
Harris; James Porterfield; Peggy McKnight Wilson, PhD;
Willie Braggs and Councilwoman Yvonne Harper.
Elmer McGruder joined
Warren in 1953 along with his wife Jean shortly after they
moved to Toledo. He was a teacher for more than 30 years
with Toledo Public Schools and, during retirement, continued
work as a substitute teacher.
Jean McGruder, a nurse by
training, raised five children with Elmer and is a
grandparent to three.
Ethel McCollum was born in
Fayetteville, NC and has been a member of Warren since she
moved to Toledo. She was married to Johnny McCollum for 67
years. She has been Warren’s Mother of the Year, a member of
the NAACP, a member of the Membership Training Class, a
chaplain of the Stewardesss Board, supervised the Junior
Usher Board and is still a Class Leader.
Jeanette Bradley is a
graduate of the University of Toledo and has been a Warren
member for her entire life after her move to Toledo. She has
been a member of the Children and Young Adult choirs, a
member of the Steward Board and a Sunday School teacher. She
was a teacher with TPS for 40 years and is a member of Delta
Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc; the So N’ Sew N’ So’s Club, the
Christ Child Society of Toledo and Charms, Inc. She is an
ambassador with the Toledo Museum of Art.
Myrna Gross Banks, born
and reared in Toledo, is a lifelong member of Warren. She
has been a member of the V.I.P. Choir since the beginning.
She has also been part of the Poinsetta Committee, the
Intermediate Usher Board, the Missionary Society, the Food
Pantry and a teacher with the Vacation Bible School.
Nevaeh Harris, born in
2005, has always been a member of Warren, a part of baby
contests as an infant and toddler. She is a member of the
Young People’s Division, the youth choir, the youth usher
board and is a Children’s Ark Classroom Aide. Nevaeh is an
honor roll student and enjoys singing, dancing, roller
skating and playing her viola. She plans to become a doctor.
“When I look back on
everything, my pastor and church family have always been
there and I owe them everything,” said Nevaeh.
James Porterfield, a
native of Anderson, SC and a graduate of Benedict College.
Moved to Toledo after a stint in the Air Force and joined
IBM, retiring after 28 years. He joined Warren in 1973 and
has been active in the Chancel Choir, the Celestial Choir,
the Male Chorus, the Steward Board, the Trustee Board and
the Finance Committee.
Peggy McKnight Wilson, PhD
– writer, mother, grandmother, social worker – is a member
of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and a firm believer in positive
behavior and providing opportunities to allow young people
to access self-growth, education and the ability to fulfill
their purpose in life. She is a member of Family Baptist
Willie Braggs, a member of
Norwood Baptist Church, is a lifelong Toledoan. He graduated
from UT and taught schools with TPS for over 30 years.
Councilwoman Yvonne Harper
has represented District 4 since May 5, 2015.
Harper is a
retired Toledo Municipal Court bailiff. Her other experience
includes serving as the past executive director of the Lucas
County Democratic Party and the long-time, current president
of the Perry Burroughs Democratic Women’s Club
Maurine Simmons was
honored as a Trailblazer posthumously. She was a long-time
receptionist at Senior Centers, Inc prior to her retirement.
The guest speaker for this
year’s Trailblazer Banquet was Rev. Cecil Jerome Graham,
pastor of True Vine Missionary Baptist Church.
The program opened with a
musical prelude by Calvin Hughes & Company. Nate Jackson
served as the master of ceremony and Deborah Washington,
PhD, welcomed guest and honorees.
After Rev. Darlene
Williams, associate pastor of Warren, offered the
afternoon’s prayer, guests were treated to a musical
selection by Deborah Garner of St. Paul Missionary Baptist
Dinner was then served as
the honorees were acknowledged.
After Rev. Graham’s
address, the honorees were presented with tributes and Rev.
Gordon and Chairman Debra Jelks closed the ceremony with