For 26 years, members of Oak View Baptist Church in Irving have spent Thanksgiving Day serving Irving. Although the church could not serve hot meals this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, teams of volunteers assembled and distributed more than 600 gift baskets to apartment complexes throughout the city. The gift baskets were designed to feed a family of four and consisted of ham, boxed and canned goods, fruit, rolls and cookies. Volunteers also packed 250 sack lunches for the homeless. “I see a great impact that Serving Irving has, because you can interact more with the people in our community, and they see that the church is alive,” said Roy Soto, missions pastor at Oak View Baptist Church. “We are not just saying Jesus loves you with words but with actions.”
Michael Evans, immediate past president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, was elected mayor of Mansfield in a Dec. 8 runoff election. Evans, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, is the first African American to hold that position. He has served as president of the school board for the Mansfield Independent School District. He is a regent of Baylor University and trustee of Tarrant County College.
Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio presented the Spirit of Health Award to the San Antonio Food Bank. Cody Knowlton, president and CEO of the foundation, presented the award to Eric Cooper, president and CEO of the food bank, which is celebrating 40 years of helping people in need. The food bank assisted 120,000 families a week since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio presents the Spirit of Health Award annually to organizations and individuals who have a remarkable impact on health within the foundation’s eight-county service area. The award recognizes organizations or individuals for their community leadership, compassion and dedication. In addition to the award, the San Antonio Food Bank also received a $500,000 grant from the foundation to expand its e-referral system, which connects families with critically needed services and care. The Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio awarded more than $8 million in grants this year to more than 100 area nonprofits for health-related causes.
Baylor University erected bronze statues on the McLane Stadium Plaza recognizing two former students who received the Medal of Honor for their heroism in World War II. U.S. Army Corps Col. John Riley Kane, who flew 43 combat missions, led his bombers in a mission known as Operation Tidal Wave to bomb the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania on Aug. 1, 1943. Clouds hampered the low-level, long-range air raid, but Kane led a successful attack against a prepared Nazi defense in a grueling 2,400-mile round trip mission. By the time his bomber turned back, he had lost an engine and been struck more than 20 times by anti-aircraft artillery. He circled the bomb site until all of his squad was clear of the fight, a decision that burned up his fuel and caused him to crash-land in Cyprus before reaching his home base in North Africa. Kane received the Medal of Honor nine days later. U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Andrew Jackson “Jack” Lummus Jr. led his rifle platoon in a daring charge on Japanese fortifications on the island of Iwo Jima on March 8, 1945. He ignored grenade blasts and a shoulder injury to knock out three enemy strongholds that were preventing his platoon from reaching its objective. After this show of bravery, he was mortally injured when he stepped on a land mine. Despite the loss of both his legs, he continued to shout directions to his men, pushing them to keep going until he was carried off the battlefield. Lummus died from his injuries later that day and posthumously was awarded the Medal of Honor. A gift from A. Haag and Millette Sherman of Houston made the statues of Kane and Lummus on the Baylor campus possible.
Howard Payne University recently hosted The ARK (Advocacy, Respect, Kindness) Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Shelter’s annual candlelight vigil honoring victims of domestic abuse, celebrating survivors and emphasizing the community’s commitment to ending domestic violence. Bonnie Gosnell, a survivor of domestic violence, spoke about her experience with domestic violence and how she overcame it. Other speakers discussed domestic violence in the community and how The ARK responds to it. The vigil ended with the lighting of candles and a moment of silence to remember victims. The annual vigil on the HPU campus always includes The ARK’s “empty shoes” display, with each pair of shoes representing a Central Texas individual who died as a result of domestic violence. “Domestic violence is a social problem that affects both men and women of any socioeconomic class, culture or ethnicity,” said Rachel Derrington-Bourke, assistant professor of social work and director of HPU’s social work program. “As a community we can commit to ending domestic violence by increasing awareness, assisting victims and their children and teaching individuals how to recognize healthy relationships.”
East Texas Baptist University conferred undergraduate degrees on 104 students and graduate degrees on 26 students during socially distanced ceremonies on Dec. 5. Students were allowed to choose their participation style, either in-person or virtual. ETBU President Blair Blackburn presented the President’s Award to Denedra Taylor, who graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. She is a member of Psi Chi international honor society, Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society and Alpha Chi National College Honor Society. She also was a volunteer coach with the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Pines and a peer mentor. She also was part of the ETBU women’s basketball program.
In response to ongoing concerns about COVID-19, Wayland Baptist University will offer “homecoming@home”—a virtual homecoming celebration for alumni and guests on Feb. 19-21. The event will include options to connect alumni using technology as well as offer some traditional parts of the weekend virtually. Moving class reunions and other gatherings to the Zoom teleconference platform can mean more alumni will be able to participate since the challenge of travel is removed, said Teresa Young, director of alumni relations at Wayland. A “Homecoming in a Box”—filled with gifts to help alumni and their families enjoy the weekend events together and exhibit their school spirit—will be mailed to the first 200 alumni requesting one. Several traditional homecoming activities will be available for viewing online, including the alumni award recognition on Friday evening, Feb. 19, and the Athletics Hall of Honor induction the following morning. Sporting events will be livestreamed on the athletics website. The Legacy on the Links Golf Classic will help generate additional funds for the Alumni Loyalty scholarships, and the virtual Pioneer 5K Fund Run will allow running or walking enthusiasts—or those who aspire to be—to compete for awards wherever they live and support the university at the same time.