By Edward Henderson
As Armand King took the stage to make the final remarks at the 2nd Annual Paving Great Futures Fundraiser Gala last Thursday, an image of 5 young men was projected on the screen. They stood confidently dressed in suits, their youth and exuberance beaming in the photo. King, 14 years of age when the photo was taken, would later inform the crowd that he was the only one left alive from that photo.
“I was so wrapped up in doing the event, I never got to plan what I was going to say at the end,” said King. “The picture recently hit me because the last brother in it died just a month ago. Hopefully the picture resonated with someone there in the audience … When you look at that, you get a better feel of why we’re doing this and why there is a need for Paving Great Futures.”
The organization provides aid to at risk individuals to help them gain employment, become entrepreneurs and become positive leaders in their communities. Community members ranging all ages and professional disciplines attended the event held at Bayview Baptist Church to celebrate and support the fundraiser. The mood was festive, as many familiar faces and smiles decorated the room.
“One of the aspects that turned out to me was the demographics of the people that were there. We had the current gang member younger mentee to the politicians, heads of organizations and everyone in-between. We like to throw different components in the mix for a reason. That event in itself was a mentoring session. To be able to see us to lead something like that and be amongst the corporate leaders and vice versa. For them to mix and mingle with different crowds is good.”
Awards were presented and members from the organization gave updates on what they accomplished during the year while also giving everyone a taste of things to come.
Part of Paving Great Futures’ training and development programs for youth is to teach them the culinary arts. Attendees got a chance to sample some of the food prepared by participants in the program, showcasing their skills and what they’ve learned so far.
“Often times with our youngsters, they’re judged and a lot of prejudice is put on them because of the pre conceived notion on what the certain type of individual is until they are exposed and educated on who they are. We did that Thursday.”
Funds raised during the gala will go towards supporting Paving Great Futures’ upcoming events and programs.
This Christmas, Paving Great Futures will re-visit the 14 families they sponsored for Thanksgiving to provide a holiday meal and presents for them. On January 10th, their third C.H.A.M.P class begins. A ten week training course under their Culinary, Hospitality, Administration Management Program.
To learn more about Paving Great Futures, visit www.pavingreatfutures.org