Layman family honored at 2nd Annual Art of Building Community
Jul 29, 2019|Written By: Dylan Rosenthal
On a mid-June night when nearly 200 community members gathered at Trinity Presbyterian Church to celebrate and support the work of Abundant Life, Director of Community Engagement Anne Brown presented the Sherman-Rogers Community Builder Award to the Layman family. The honor punctuated the 2nd Annual Art of Building Community’s uplifting program, which also featured original artwork by Abundant Life participants, a raffle for donated works by local artists, live music by the Chickenhead Blues Band, speeches by former program participant Dieira Henderson and Executive Director Nathan Walton, and the premiere of a new video short, “Working together to live an Abundant Life.”
The Layman Family: a decade of service
Mike, Martha, Blake, Gavin, and Mariah Layman have devoted countless hours to the mission of Abundant Life over the last decade. Since 2011, Martha, an educator by trade, has coordinated the annual summer Bible Camp, with her husband Mike and their children serving as counselors alongside teens and young adults from Prospect and local churches. They serve together annually at Christmas Store as well, helping tutoring participants shop for and wrap their gifts. Martha also served as a tutor for multiple years, and Mike has lent his general contracting skills to renovations on both of Abundant Life’s properties, 780 and 782 Prospect Avenue.
“And I think whenever we are doing work at Prospect, all of us have felt like we have [seen] glimpses of the Kingdom of God here.” – Martha Layman
In accepting the prestigious award, Martha spoke on behalf of the family, which now includes Gavin’s wife Heidi. She reflected, “All of the amazing counselors, the teens that joined with my kids as they grew up, who gave up a week of their summer ever year… and took a risk to cross cultural and racial boundaries to… serve kids. It’s a beautiful thing when you’re able to find the thing that God created you to do and it feels like your spirit and your soul is at home and in those moments you feel like you see glimpses of the Kingdom of God here on Earth. And I think whenever we are doing work at Prospect, all of us have felt like we have [seen] glimpses of the Kingdom of God here.”
Alum shares powerful testimony
On a night full of touching moments, former participant Dieira Henderson sharing her Abundant Life story may have been the highlight. Involved for 19 years and mentored to this day by current and former staff and volunteers, Dieira, a preschool teacher and entrepreneur, spoke about how Abundant Life has profoundly shaped her faith and her life. She explained, “The adventures I had were amazing and wonderful, but what I realize now as an adult is that God’s love and his truths were planted in me at such a young age and even though I still had and will have struggles there was and always will be God’s love, hope, and a fantastic support system.”
“If I were to compare the season we are in now, with where we were at this time last year, I would say that those roots we deepened are now allowing us to grow.” – Rev. Dr. Nathan Walton
Milestones and ambitions
After Dieira spoke, Executive Director Nathan Walton shared his vision for the ministry. Pointing out that he had only served in his role for two months when he spoke at last year’s Art of Building Community, Nathan talked about the differences from one year to the next. He told the audience that an image of deepening roots characterized last season, with concrete steps including purchasing an additional house on Prospect Avenue, implementing a strategic plan, and moving our staff offices back into the neighborhood. He added, “If I were to compare the season we are in now, with where we were at this time last year, I would say that those roots we deepened are now allowing us to grow.” Nathan’s examples of growth included the launch of the Abundant Life Fellows program this fall and the re-launch of a more robust program for high school girls.
Thank you to everyone who attended, sponsored, planned, participated in, and donated to make the evening a success! The Art of Building Community raised $37,000 for Abundant Life, money which allows us to walk alongside over 100 program participants annually. You may watch Martha and Nathan’s speeches and check out photos from the evening below. You may view all of our videos from the evening on our YouTube channel.