Written by Pat Grace Friday, 27 January 2012 00:00
The Gospel Brunch just gets better each year and the first snowstorm of the season did not deter people from attending the fifth annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Gospel Brunch held Jan. 21 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock. The entertainment is local and fantastic.
Master of Ceremonies Rhonda Ware’s opening remarks were followed by a warm welcome from Economic Opportunity Council (EOC) Board Member Adrienne Vaultz. At each gospel brunch a film of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is shown and this year, later in the program, a second video was viewed—just a snippet of the documentary put together by Dedrick Johnson and Lloyd Means who both grew up in the Manhasset /Great Neck area. The audience was riveted and disappointed moans were audible when the short clip ended too soon. But Spinney Hill: The African American History of Manhasset and Great Neck was available in the lobby for $20 for those who wanted more. The film, based on over 20 fascinating interviews, took two years to complete and has an important story to tell.The Manhasset/Great Neck Economic Opportunity Council EOC and Adventures in Learning sponsor the Gospel Brunch which raises funds to support the year-round educational and recreational programs operated for children and youth at the Hagedorn Community Center on High Street in Manhasset.
Young members of both Christ Church and Shelter Rock Church volunteered as servers and as the audience enjoyed a robust meal the entertainment began.
The Hoops on the Hill Children’s Choir was wonderful, followed by a spirited and humorous singing of a beatitude by the Christ Church Chapel Choir. Ashley Liverman sang her heart out and the First Baptist Church of Great Neck Praise Team had everyone clapping. The Praise Team consisted of Yvonne Ellison, Herman Ellison, Nigel Lewis and Adrienne Vaultz with Nigel Geddon on piano.
Joy and Andrew, St. John’s University, sang several duets, and their voices blended beautifully. Their words, “the economy is down, thank you Lord for taking care of me,” delivered with a refrain of many a “thank you.” Between songs Joy provided commentary, “Today we’re all sitting here together and back when Martin Luther King gave his speeches that wasn’t happening.”
The crowd couldn’t get enough of The Royal Priesthood of First Baptist Church of Great Neck who had the entire room smiling and swaying in their seats. Members included: Minister S.J. Simpson, music director/vocals; Elder Cornell Martin, drums; Brother Johnny Eagle first and second tenor; Minister Herman Ellison, first and second tenor; Brother Willie McMiller, keyboard/vocals; and Deacon Herbert Lee, leader/vocals.
MC Rhonda Ware kept the program running smoothly, and noted after the Royal Priesthoods’ rousing (Satan can’t) Steal My Joy, that the common thread of the afternoons vocal selections was that no one can steal your joy recalling that even the Hoops on the Hill Children’s Choir sang, “I believe I can fly.”
Angel Branch, EOC, presented an award to Robert Keizer, an alumnus of the Adventures in Learning program and a 1999 graduate of Manhasset High School where he is currently employed as a teacher assistant. Keizer thanked all for attending the brunch to support the programs, saying he had high aspirations when he attended the programs as a youth and he wanted those children coming along in the programs today to have better opportunities too, to be able to achieve their dreams.
In honoring Carrie Senzer, Ms. Branch said Carrie does not show up once a year, but is someone they can count on all year long. Ms. Senzer graciously accepted the award and said all were there to honor Martin Luther King. Involved in the North Shore University Hospital Adopt a Family program she said when it began hospital employees reached out to 35 families and this year reached 185 needy families over the holiday season-and, working in concert with Stephanie Chenault, the program reached 69 families in the Manhasset/ Great Neck area.
Kurt Kiess, Adventures in Learning, made the closing remarks and thanked everyone for braving the wind and snow to make the fifth annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Gospel Brunch the resounding success it was.