BEACON - It’s been over six years since the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, passed away, but his giving spirit continues to live on.
All throughout her youth and into her adulthood, Deanna Brown-Thomas witnessed not only her father’s passion for music, but for people - particularly those in need. She watched him give back with his annual Turkey and Toy Giveaways. She further noted his support for the creation of music via his contributions to programs and schools that supported such creative quests. So, when her father passed on in 2006, it was only fitting that Deanna keep that helping light shining by establishing the James Brown Family Children Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization, created to celebrate James Brown as well as carry on his legacy of giving. Initially limited to the group’s home base of Augusta, Georgia, the Foundation has since spread its influence to Connecticut, and most recently, New York. Its impact was felt on Tuesday morning at Beacon’s Springfield Baptist Church. Here, Brown’s Foundation teamed up with the Southern Dutchess Coalition, Inc. and, with the assistance of 20 local organizations, selected 25 deserving family recipients. A turkey, along with gift certificates, were presented to representatives from each group, who in turn would deliver the items to the families. For Deanna, the tradition of giving runs deep.
"Dad was a huge giver, always there to help someone. He always remembered where he came from, growing up poor," said Brown-Thomas, whose resume includes radio and television personality, actress, entrepreneur and humanitarian. "When he passed away, we just had to continue what he started.
Reflecting further, Brown-Thomas added, "Today, we are here to bless those with a turkey; we are also here to show love. Please turn to the person next to you, and tell them you love them."
It was those types of warm gestures and bonds that transmitted throughout the Church on Tuesday morning. The appreciation for the day’s happenings could be spotted everywhere. One of the turkey recipients was Mazie Johnson, the oldest living person in the City of Beacon and a member of Southern Dutchess Coalition since its inception 34 years ago. Her daughter, Connie Perdreau, was on hand to claim her mother’s bird.
"She has been talking about this turkey for days; she’s just so happy to be recognized," said Perdreau. "Both she and I are just so elated God has blessed her to live so long and have all of her faculties; aside from being in a wheelchair, she can do just about everything else, including a lot of reading."
Another person selected for a turkey, Marilyn Lunsford, was able to go to Springfield Baptist Church and get her turkey directly from the Godfather of Soul’s daughter.
"This turkey means so much to me," said Lunsford as she eyed the bird. "I’m so very appreciative; I’m going to cook it for my family, friends and whoever else wants to come by and enjoy it."
Ms. Brown-Thomas wasn’t the only celebrity on hand at the Giveaway. Issa Pointer, daughter to one of the Pointer Sisters and an acclaimed singer in her own right, lent her powerful vocals and support to a cause close to her heart.
"It’s important to give back to the community, and show them that we understand and that we care," said Pointer. "Our fans are everything, and they support us, so we need to support them as well."
The need for that support is stronger than ever. In the aftermath of such natural disasters as Hurricane Sandy, along with the still unstable economy and overall uncertainty that plagues many in our area, the event took on an even greater meaning.
"We are in desperate need, living in an evil world," exclaimed Reverend Ronald O. Perry, Sr. of Springfield Baptist Church. "If we can take time out of our schedules on a Tuesday and be a part of something like this, where there is so much joy and hope, that’s what counts."