The past year and a half has been trying for all of us, some more than others. But a blessing that came out of this time of deep reflection was the idea for the Willona Stallings Award for Excellence in Community Innovation. During the pandemic, we were all working around the clock just to stay on top of the latest reports along with figuring out how to reach people, how to educate people, how to stay connected, and most importantly, how to keep our faith. We saw firsthand how so many faith communities got creative in the ways they addressed this emerging health crisis and it inspired us. We knew that we wanted to figure out a way to honor and recognize the diligence and hard work that were making a real impact during this unprecedented time.
This past Sunday, July 18, 2021, we presented our inaugural 2021 Willona Stallings Award for Excellence in Community Innovation to Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship, Inc. (CFCF) and health lead, Miranda Lashion Bolton. The name of this award honors Willona Stallings as our first director of Partners in Health and Wholeness. It was her vision that led to its launch in 2010 as a flagship program of the North Carolina Council of Churches. Because of Bishop Dr. George Jackson’s vision and Miranda Lashion Bolton’s behind the scenes work, we were impressed by Citadel’s multi-platform media campaign, “Get the Shot!”, which launched to educate their community, particularly Black and Brown folks, about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Below is a quote from Citadel’s 2021 PHW Mini-Grant application:
“The Black Community in Thomasville, NC needs factual, straight to the point messaging from authentic voices concerning vaccine availability, accountability, and affordability. Rumors and gossips have served to distract the community from life-saving medical services. We will use multiple mediums including, but not limited to: US mail, radio, TV, Public Service Announcements (PSA’s), Facebook, Instagram, Tik-Tok, phone calls, Zoom, etc. Our ultimate goal is to encourage Black and Brown people to trust the science and get the vaccine as soon as possible.”
During worship on Sunday, CFCF gave out $15,000 in scholarship awards to rising college students. They also had a great guest minister, 21-year-old JaQuez Johnson, who gave a moving sermon titled “I can, I will, watch me” to inspire all the young people in attendance. Finally, as we were presenting the two awards, the congregation surprised PHW with the Social Action Award for our commitment to enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of North Carolina. We were truly humbled to accept.
“We are so proud to be partners with the North Carolina Council of Churches and to be in fellowship with Partners in Health and Wholeness,” stated Bishop Dr. George B. Jackson, of Citadel of Faith Christian Fellowship, Inc., after worship service on Sunday morning. “There is work all over North Carolina to be done, we just made a small dent in our community. We are really pushing hard for our people to get the shot. I have done too many funerals and had too many friends pass away from coronavirus. You can show up at Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, and other locations and just say, “I need the shot,” and you will save your life and someone else’s life.”