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Black Men of Greater Springfield finds a new way to honor one of the group’s founders

SPRINGFIELD — The Black Men of Greater Springfield group held their annual Unity Grant Award ceremony Friday evening and selected Mattie Jenkins as the first recipient of the Art Jones Community Service Award.

“Art Jones was a founding member of Black Men of Greater Springfield 30 years ago,” said My-Ron Hatchett, vice president of the group and chair of Friday’s event. “He passed away last year. He was at the forefront of youth development in Springfield, coaching youth basketball and being active in the Boys Club.”

Hatchett said Jenkins has been a community leader for decades.

“She is a fixture in our community,” he said. “Even before she lived in Springfield, she was at the forefront of the civil rights movement. She grew up in Alabama and participated in the Montgomery bus boycott in 1958.”

“She was inspired when she personally heard Dr. King’s message to go out and make the world a better place,” Hatchett said.

Jenkins worked for United Technologies for many years and retired as a mechanical supervisor. Hatchett said retirement gave her time to pursue other passions.

She coached softball and received the Coach of the Year award, serving on the McKnight Neighborhood Council. She began volunteering at DeBerry Elementary School as a lunch mom and as a member of the grandmother program.

She was later asked to become the school’s first parent advocate and school engagement specialist, where she continues to volunteer.

“Mattie Jenkins exemplifies the spirit of service and dedication,” said Hatchett.

In addition to the Art Jones award, the club presented its Unity Grant Awards to 21 community organizations.

Hatchett said grants are distributed from a variety of funding sources, including state earmarks, and called out several new organizations that received grants.

“One is a fairly new organization called The Royals Inc.,” he said. “It is run by Alicia Brown, an English teacher at DeBerry School, and is designed to help young women develop their confidence and self-esteem, resilience and empowerment.”

Another, “Seeds of a Father,” is run by Kevin Green. Hatchett said it recognizes that many households have only a mother.

“His organization helps promote fatherhood for absent fathers in an effort to get them more involved with their children and their families,” he said. “Help them with tools and advice to negotiate that relationship.

Hatchett said One Village Inc. is designed to help high school students and seniors prepare for the workforce. Hosted by Hatchett’s daughter, Tashea Jenkins, One Village Inc. works with youth to help identify career paths and explore interests and talents.

Hatchett said Black Men of Greater Springfield awarded 21 grants to local organizations this year, ranging between $500 and $1,500.

Other recipients: Brotherhood On the Move, Hickory Street Harambee, ING and Company, Indian Orchard Citizens Council, It’s Your Turn, Men of Honor, Mig’s Youth Development, New Year Better Us, No Small Victories, Noble Warriors, Olive Tree Book Store, Pan African Historical Museum USA, Primus Mason Economic and Sustainable Development, Sam Goody Aces, Serving our Students, Wake Up Movement and Youth Educational Training Inc.

The Friday ceremony was held at the Raymond A. Jordan Senior Center.