Community Service Award Recipient: Rev. Valarie J. Houston, gifted preacher, teacher, administrator, workshop leader, evangelist, writer and pastor. Her life experiences in teaching gifted and SLD students in the Polk County School system have allowed her to be sensitive to the needs of God’s people.
After 18 years, Pastor Houston stepped out on faith and accepted a full-time ministry position. She received her first appointment to Mt. Olive African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, Trilby, FL; the second appointment was to St. Paul A.M.E. Church, Ft. Meade, FL.
Pastor Houston has held many positions within the A.M.E. Central Conference and received many awards and accolades throughout her time in ministry, including being recently named Pastor of the Year 2012 by the Central Florida Conference of Lay Organizations.
She has preached many revivals and women’s conferences. In September 2001, she was assigned to Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church in Sanford, where she currently pastors. Her membership has grown from 58 to 600.
Her Ministry meets the needs of God’s people with 52 active boards, auxiliaries and ministries. She is an active member of the Sanford community and was a leader during the crisis in Sanford surrounding the Trayvon Martin shooting.
Pastor Houston is married to Rev. James Louis Houston; they are the delightful parents of a blended family of 4 children and 12 grandchildren. Pastor Houston gives all the glory to God for the things He has done in her life and helped her do for others. It is her belief that a radiant smile all the time will keep the Spirit of the Living God flowing through you.
The Brotherhood Award Recipient: Turner Clayton, Jr., President of the Seminole County Branch of the NAACP for more than 25 years. He serves as First Vice President of the Florida State Conference of NAACP. He has served his community for more than 25 years in the field of law enforcement and corrections and received certifications in drug enforcement training.
He has a Commission on Police Officers Standards and Training Certificate and Counsel of Correction Standards Certificate. He is a member of Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church and serves as Church Treasurer, member of the Steward Board, President of the Sons of Allen Chapel; he has served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and sang in 3 other church choirs.
He serves as President of the Seminole County Voters League for over 18 years; President of the Prof-Ed Investment Club; member of the Concerned Citizens of Seminole County; and Board member of the Sanford Goldsboro Front Porch Council. He has received many community awards, including the Daisy Palmer Community Service Award, NAACP Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, NAACP Earl E. Williams Memorial Award, Orlando Times Service Award and the Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church Meritorious Christian Service Award.
Turner received national attention in 2012 in calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. He has held several town hall meetings, appeared on national TV, held press conferences and held a huge protest march and rally that brought national figures to the City of Sanford.
He owns and operates Freedom Tax Service and Business Consulting in Sanford for over 15 years.
The Humanitarian Award Recipient: Sanford City Commissioner Velma H. Williams. Commissioner Williams worked in a multitude of educational positions. Her entire life has been devoted to community service. Her involvements boggle the mind for she is a ball of energy; she is just like the mythical phoenix.
She currently serves on many boards and committees, i.e., Executive Board of the Sanford-Seminole Chamber of Commerce, Commission Liaison Alternate to the MetroPlan Orlando Development Board, Florida Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, Chairperson of the NAACP Education Committee, and the Governor’s Goldsboro Front Porch Council, where she serves as consultant.
She provides mentoring for individuals from all walks of life, races, religions, gender and ages. Her mentoring services expand from middle school to high school and college level students.
She was elected to the Sanford City Commission in District 2 in 1997, and has been re-elected and currently serves. She was the first woman elected and the first African American woman elected to the Sanford City Commission. In 2003, she was appointed Vice Mayor and is the first African American to hold that position in the City of Sanford.
During her tenure on the City Commission, Sanford has experienced an unprecedented period of renewal, renovation and revitalization, including paved streets, new street lights, sidewalks, stormwater system, parks, police substation and a community resource center located on West 13th Street in District 2, which is named in her honor, the Velma H. Williams Community Resource Center.
She often stresses that she has a greater need to make a difference than to make history. She has been married to Mr. Edgar Williams for 45 years; they have two sons and two grandchildren. She is a member of Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church in Sanford.
• The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., has a long history of reading to children. In 1937, delegates attending Delta’s 14th National Convention, under the leadership of President Vivian Marsh, voted to implement a Library Project.
The Sanford Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. continued this project at Goldsboro Elementary School on Wednesday, Dec. 19. The Education Development Programmatic thrust, reading to students in their service area, hopefully will instill an appreciation for learning and listening while expanding their abilities to imagine.
This year’s Christmas story read to third graders at Goldsboro was entitled, There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Bell. Members who read to students were Sorors Sheila Steele, Shenique Gilbert, Eurilynne Williams, E. Terrell Tillman, Berta Robinson, Gracia Miller, Julia Bronson and Ruth Walker.
• Anom Ministry Resource Center, 1515 W. 15th St. in Sanford, is offering an Open Door Program weekdays as follows: from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., adults may come and have access to the internet; and from 3 to 5 p.m., an after-school program is available for children of all ages, offering help with homework, and life skills.