By: Tony McCray
Milk and Honey Outreach Ministries reached a significant milestone in its program development services goals and objectives with a groundbreaking for a new Community Educational Center on northwest corner of “E” and Desoto Streets across from the historical Fricker Recreation Center. The date was Friday April 21st when the financial and programmatic supporters of one of the best “grassroots youth programs” in Escambia County gathered in prayerful and ecstatic backing of the visionary Sonya Culliver, the non-profit’s only Executive Director since its launch in 1992. For many in attendance the Milk and Honey Outreach Director Reverend William Gulley’s sacrifices and community work was mentioned in the same breath of the accolades given to Culliver.
An Impact 100 second grant over $100,000 was awarded to Milk and Honey’s efforts to establish a beachhead of “Investing in Our Children’s Educational Future” as described by Culliver to the Gulf Coast Voice during an exclusive interview. “We need to expand our afterschool program! We need bigger classroom space for our 9 to 12 year old’s in the afternoon”. Impact 100 believes in the Milk and Honey experience for the low-income African-American community on Pensacola’s Westside.
County Commissioner Lumon May paid his respects and accolades to Milk and Honey in his comments about growing up on the Westside and enjoying the Fricker Center experience through his grandmother who worked at the center for 32 years as a custodian. His testimony revealed an elected official who cannot forget his roots of where he grew up because his grandmother who he loved and respected also supported the Fricker Center youth programs. Therefore, he went on to volunteer, coach, and support youth programs to this day. “When people say, there is not a return on human capital, well, that is false! So today, I want to welcome all of you to this groundbreaking and I want to thank Milk and Honey for staying the course, because you could have given up a long time ago! Sonya, you keep on fighting!”
Mrs. Meri Azmar, the President of Impact 100, made her comments on the program representing 1,077 members. She stated, “We are so proud to be a part of this project. This is the type of high impact project that makes the members of Impact 100 rejoin year after year. We have actually funded two grants to this organization which is a testament to the strength of this non-profit”! Justin Pierce, Pensacola Parks and Recreation Director, made his comments of support followed by Police Chief David Alexander. Chief Alexander reminisced on his growing up in Morris Courts in Unit 25 and how now he represents the pinnacle of law-enforcement in Pensacola, Florida. He spoke of how proud he is of Sonya and the program, because he remembers her sitting through many presentations on non-profit funding opportunities year after year.
If this powerful listing of speakers was not enough up to this point in the program, Dr. Henry Roberts, the former Senior Minister of Pensacola First United Methodist Church and the President of the Sacred Heart Health Care Systems Foundation, was next on the agenda and brought an uplifting message of community renewal of the human spirit that will not be soon forgotten. He stated in his spiritual oriented presentation, “All of us have a part to play, yet there are individuals that have the passion. They have been given the passion by God. I do not have to tell you that that the vision and dreams of that young teenager that grew up in this community, Sonya Culliver, and Rev. Gulley, that is the story today. That is what we are celebrating”! The Milk and Honey website confirms Dr. Roberts testimony: “For 25 years, we are still standing on the promise of our founder and executive director, Sonya Culliver, to want for and give our children and youth the best so that they can become strong adults who live their fullest potential. It’s that simple”.