For immediate release:
Oct. 29, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS - State Rep. Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary) was presented the Dr. Johnice Joyner Gospel Music Alive N.W. Humanitarian Award at a review and tribute event on Oct. 25.
The award has been given throughout the country since 2002 to exceptional individuals who have demonstrated great achievement for their communities and their fellow citizens. Smith was this year’s only Indiana recipient.
Joyner said Smith was an obvious choice for the award.
“I’ve always admired Rep. Smith and his deep love for the people of Gary,” reflected Joyner.
“I have known Vernon for many years. He has been tremendous for the children of the community with his remarkable work with the African-American Achievers Youth Corps, Inc., and the Back-to-School Jamboree. His leadership role in the refurbishment of the historic Glen Theater was critical to the success of the project. And, of course, the dinners at Thanksgiving and Christmas that he sponsors for those who need a good meal and the fellowship of their sisters and brothers has positively changed many lives. Dr. Smith’s good work will forever live in the history of Gary as well as in the hearts and memories of the citizens.”
Smith said he felt honored and humbled by the award.
“One never expects to be recognized for charitable works in his or her community,” said Smith. “I am truly grateful to be honored with the award. The volunteers who help with the various events are my heroes. They dedicate their time and talent. Some even make donations of food, money and product to make the events successful, like the upcoming Harvest Feast at the New Shiloh Baptist Church on Nov. 21. We’ll have gospel music performances and a traditional Thanksgiving meal with all of the trimmings. What I have found over the years is that the St. Francis prayer is accurate, ‘It is in giving that we receive.’ And we receive blessings in abundance when we help others.”
In addition to the Harvest Feast, Smith puts on the Spirit of Christmas Dinner, also for the poor and those who have no one with whom to share the holiday. In addition, he is the mentor and founder of the African-American Achievers Youth Corps, Inc., which does numerous charitable projects throughout the year, including the Good Friday Cleaning of senior citizens’ apartments at the Al Thomas Hi-Rise Apartments in Gary.
In the fall, Smith, who is the Interim Dean of Education at Indiana University Northwest, sponsors and organizes the Back-to-School Jamboree. Throughout the many years of their existence, all of these events have become popular traditions for numerous families in Northwest Indiana.