By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor
The annual African American Festival Prayer Breakfast – the start of the weekend’s celebration – was held on Friday, July 23 at the new Glass City Metropark Pavilion and the event was the start of a coming out party for the community after almost a year and a half of isolation.
About 150 guests, including city and county elected officials, joined the staff of the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union (TUFCU) to honor some very special contributors to the success of the financial institution and to surprise one very individual for her guidance in that success over the past quarter century.
Suzette Cowell, CEO and treasurer of TUFCU, opened the breakfast event by introducing Frances Smith, mistress of ceremonies. Then followed an opening prayer by Pastor Timothy Pettaway Sr, of Walk the Word Church; a prayer for the city and leaders by Pastor Timothy Clark of Harvest Christian Center and a prayer for the churches by Pastor Otis Gordon of Warren AME Church.
After the first round or prayers, Cowell introduced the morning’s honorees: Zahra Aprili Collins, Michael Day, Sr and Bishop Larry G. Mack.
Collins, program manager for TUFCU, identifies and pursues resources vital for the fulfillment of TUFCU’s mission as a community partner in assisting members achieve economic empowerment. Collins joined the staff of TUFCU just as the COVID-19 pandemic started and immediately dealt with the Small Business Development Center, the Minority Business Assistance Center and the Small Business Administration to ensure that local business owners had access to resources and funding through the C.A.R.E.S. Act
When not at TUFCU, Collins is active in the Toledo community as the head volleyball coach at Scott High School for both boys’ and girls’ teams; vice president of the Scott Alumni Association board of directors, chairwoman of the Association’s Scholarship and Hall of Fame Committees.
Day is part of the second generation to lead the House of Day Funeral Service, active in the family business since the 1970s. He was joined by his sister Cassandra Day-Moore. His childhood vision later led to the construction of the building on the corner of Westwood and Nebraska, a facility with 10,000 square feet.
Now the staff includes Day’s wife, Allison Ford day, a licensed funeral director, and their son, Michael, Jr., their son, Brian; Brian’s wife, Kim Marshall Day and Cassandra’s son, Perry James Moore.
Bishop Mack is the senior pastor of Greater Dreams Church with two locations in Ohio and Michigan. He has been ministering the Gospel worldwide in global conferences, university campuses and has hosted numerous television shows on the Total Christian Television Network which reaches 172 nations and more than 73 million people.
For Cowell, the next part of the morning’s event came as a total surprise since it had not been part of her planned program.
The staff organized a tribute to her in honor of her leadership for 25 years of the credit union she also founded.
Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz brought a commemorative plaque from his office; Toledo Council Members Cerssandra McPherson, Vanice Williams and Tiffany Preston-Whitman, EdD brought one from City Council and Lucas County Commissioners Tina Skeldon Wozniak, Pete Gerken and Gary Byers brought their own. All of these elected officials paid tribute to Cowell by recounting her achievements within the community and, in some cases, noting the impact that her stewardship of the credit union had had upon them personally.
State Rep Paula Hicks-Hudson, former Toledo mayor, was also on hand to add her own recollections of the achievements.
This year’s African American Festival coincided with the 25th Anniversary of the credit union and much of the morning’s tributes spoke to that history and the ups and downs of those 25 years. Having overcome a rocky start, TUFCU has experienced an explosive growth over the past six years while moving into its own building, courtesy of Dick LaValley and the Foundation he leads. Now with almost 5,000 members and assets of over $10 million, the credit union’s upward trajectory has been phenomenal.
Guests had breakfast – catered by Decadent Catering By Audrey, Audrey Ransey, owner – after the tribute to Cowell.
After breakfast, Pastor Pettaway offered a prayer for TUFCU; Minister John Jones of Christian Temple Baptist Church, a prayer for the youth and Pastor Michael Key of Peoples Baptist Church, a prayer for the festival.
Metroparks’ Felica Clark, gave the breakfasters a little understanding of the Metroparks’ plans for the future and Lisa Key, co-pastor of Peoples Baptist offered the closing prayer.