Not even a global pandemic could stop Abundant Life’s 3rd Annual Art of Building Community benefit, but it did force the normally in-person event online. Nearly 100 viewers logged onto Facebook Live on June 9 to enjoy the hour-long program hosted by Andrea Copeland-Whitsett. Among the pre-recorded segments, Director of Community Engagement Anne Brown presented the prestigious Sherman-Rogers Community Builder Award to the Cramer family on a Zoom call.
Honoring the Cramer family
Founded in 2018, the Sherman Rogers Award honors individual(s) who work to build and transform the Prospect Avenue community into one which reflects God’s abundance. Mike, Lori, Brittany, Ashley, and Cooper Cramer have devoted over a decade of service to Abundant Life. They began serving as a family at Christmas Store in 2009, and Brittany and Cooper have served as tutors. Additionally, through her work directing Young Lives, Lori has supported teen moms in Prospect and their families.
Following Anne’s presentation, Lori reflected on how her children began serving at Christmas Store as children themselves. “The kids have done everything: from when they were little, play[ing] outside with kids waiting to shop, to moving up to wrapping in the attic, to actually shopping with kids, and they have loved all of that.” She continued, “We love your heart for Prospect and the people who live there… It is just a joy and a privilege to partner with you in that neighborhood that we have been in for well over ten years now.” Congratulations again to the Cramer family!
Acknowledging the other pandemic: systemic racism
With the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd fresh on everyone’s minds, Executive Director Nathan Walton addressed systemic racial injustice and the need to lament and repent. Elementary Programming Coordinator Angel Feero and Abundant Life Fellow Jonathan Knabe performed a rousing rendition of Elevation Worship’s “Do It Again.” Additionally, Abundant Life dedicated a 2019 performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” from the 17th Annual Fifeville MLK Day Celebration in memory of the countless Black people who have been murdered through unjustified use of force.
“[Abundant Life] helped me see potential in myself that I didn’t see before. It gave me the hope that I have purpose in my life. I didn’t let the environment that I was raised up in define who I am.” – Paul Fry III
Ending on a high note, Prospect native Paul Fry III shared his story of joining Abundant Life’s tutoring program as a first grader in 2001. For 13 years, he progressed through Abundant Life’s tutoring, life skills, and mentoring programs. A member of STRIVE’s first graduating class, Paul worked full-time, got married, and became a father while he was a full-time student at Radford University. In December 2019, he became STRIVE’s first college graduate!
Paul reflected on Abundant Life’s influence on him: “For me, Abundant Life has made a huge difference in my life. It helped me see potential in myself that I didn’t see before. It gave me the hope that I have purpose in my life. I didn’t let the environment that I was raised up in define who I am. Because I beat the odds and I remain humble through it all, and I beat all the statistics that was held against me.”
Over $30,000 raised for ministry in Prospect
Thanks to the generosity of sponsors, local artists who donated works to the art auction, and donors, ABC raised $30, 578! These funds allow us to continue walking alongside over 100 of our Prospect neighbors, even during a pandemic. You may watch video of the Cramers’ award presentation and Paul’s alumni story below. You may view all of our videos from the evening, including the full length ABC, on our YouTube channel.