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Warren AME Church Third Annual Trailblazers Banquet

Sojourner’s Truth Staff

The Warren AME Church Christian Education Department hosted the church’s third annual Trailblazers Banquet on Saturday May 25 and honored the past, the present and the future by recognizing the contributions of a number of members of the church.

“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 chairman.

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 Church.

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 Church.

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 their remarks.




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Revised: 06/06/19 21:31:10 -0400.

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