By Bon Tindle,
Unite Contributing Writer
Lto R: Rob Pickett and Wes Pratt
Springfield, MO— The 6th annual Minority In Business Heritage Award Ceremony was held March 15th at the Doubletree Hotel. Attendance was in even greater numbers than last year, and several new faces filled the room. A formal dinner was served, and gentle jazz music by Shaun Munday set an elegant, mellow tone for the evening.
President Wes Pratt talked about the history of the Minorities In Business Heritage Award Ceremonies. He focused on the growth and improvement in the Springfield area, and spoke of entrepreneurship and networking, two founding principles in the mission statement. “Without your hard work, this would not be possible,” he said.
Pastor Damon Duran led the room in prayer, and there was a moment of silence to observe other religions in keeping with the spirit of diversity that accompanied the theme of the evening. In his prayer, Pastor Duran asked that the people succeed so that their blessings could pave the way for future blessings.
Dr. Richard Todd, an associate professor at MSU, sang a solo to kick off the evening. He chose Climb Every Mountain, and his rich voice and trained vocals brought it to life. The room applauded and hostess Martina Sally began introducing the presenters for each category.
The Community Service Award was presented to Sidney Needem, a known advocate for education and development within the minority community. Needem reminded the audience that Park Days raises money that helps local students attend college. Needem is also closely associated with the Boys and Girls Club and took a moment to celebrate their accomplishments in mentoring and improving the lives of children within the community.
The Advocacy Award was given to Gwendolyn Marshall. Among many accomplishments, she is the Springfield Public Schools Specialist of Cultural Diversity. “Miss Gwen” as she is affectionately known, was called “a spiritual mother to many others” and crossed the room to a standing ovation. “It has always been my goal to serve this community,” she told the room. She was also instrumental in starting and overseeing the Black History Summer school. Thanks to her efforts, the curriculum will be incorporated into Springfield Public School’s summer school program. Marshall told the room of her many years working with youth and the benefits and struggles that come with her calling. The room stood again as she returned to her seat.
BluStyles Barber Shop took the Small Business Award. Rod Pickett accepted the award, but gave a nod to his team for helping BluStyles become the success that it is. “Teamwork is what has kept us growing and moving,” he said in his acceptance speech. “It is due to the hard work of these gentlemen here and the support of our community that makes the difference.”
The Achievement Award was presented to Abraham McGull. McGull told the importance of work ethic, and told a story about his youth that defined his sense of work and community. A current Assistant U.S. Attorney, McGull learned to care for others and work hard mowing lawns. His mother sent him to help out families and though he never asked for a dime, McGull learned the value of caring and putting his work into a greater good. McGull is a retired U.S. Navy commander and was the Media Operations Chief in Baghdad. He worked as the Department of Defense as a resident legal advisor. Without a lifetime of exemplary work ethic, discipline and the concept of community, he would have never reached his full potential. He has seen much of the world and brought his perspective to the awards. “I’ve seen so much of the world and I can tell you, the United States… it just doesn’t get any better than this,” he said to a round of applause.
President Wes Pratt spoke once more, reminding the crowd of the purpose and goals of the Minorities In Business awards and highlighting the successes in 2015. Previous winners were acknowledged by Joe Robles, and the honor was given to all winners, current and previous for their accomplishments in business and community contributions.