Adoptive parents awarded with Golden Heart honor
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Brandon Clayton stood at the podium inside a dining hall at the Civic Center and made a bold statement about his four adopted sons.
“One thing I can promise you; the jail cell won’t see them,” he said proudly. “Colleges and universities will know them by first names and society will remember them.”
The same couldn’t be said of Clayton, as he was growing up in Jacksonville after his mother sent him from Newark, N.J., to live with relatives. He was angry with an uncertain future.
Today he admits that only by the intervention of a higher power he managed to turn his life around. He earned a masters degree from FAMU and worked at several schools in Leon County before becoming an assistant principal at Lone Star Elementary School in Duval County.
“If you were to ask a social scientist about my juvenile demographics on paper, he or she will tell you I wasn’t supposed to make it,” he told the audience. “I should have been in prison or dead by now.”
That’s the fate that Clayton obviously is on a mission to save his sons from. He told his story as an adoptive parent, as did four others who received the Golden Heart Award at a gala hosted by One Church One Child (OCOC) this past Friday night.
The event came on the heels of One Church One Child being named the Organization of the Year by the Capital Outlook.
Not only was the gala a platform to recognize the honorees and raise funds for the organization, but organizers used it to recruit foster or adoptive parents. More than 800 children are in the system, said Dr. Kimberly Thomas, who heads up the board, which oversees five north Florida counties.
“They are just looking for someone to love them,” Thomas said. “They are looking for someone to open their heart. They are looking for someone to say, ‘we welcome you into our family, you are a part of us.’ These children are crying out looking for you. You are the missing link tonight.”
In addition to Clayton, OCOC awarded Heather Rosenberg, Mildred Bryant, Dr. Vivian Wilson and Karen Condry. Each of them shared stories about their adopted children.
In Condry’s case, she and her husband, Everett, have shared their home with at least 30 children. They began taking care of children as guardian ad litem before deciding to take their empathy to another level.
“The plan wasn’t to foster, but after you get kids in your house and you see the challenges that they have, you feel you can give them a loving, stable environment that maybe helps them become productive adults,” she said.
The need for adoptive parenting reached such a high point in Florida that former Gov. Bob Martinez decided to start One Church One Child in Florida. The legislature passed the One Church One Child Corporation Act in 1990.
The OCOC concept was founded by Catholic priest Father George Clements in Chicago. He approached Black churches to take the lead in getting their congregations to become foster or adoptive parents. The concept is now being practiced in several states throughout the country.
“It cannot be a good country, city, state or church if children are not first,” said Rev. R.B. Holmes, pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church who Martinez appointed as the first president of the organization in Florida.
Holmes’ sentiments during a 10-minute sermon that he gave as keynote speaker, was echoed by Clayton.
“I’ve learned that with children,” he said, “if you love them and pour into them you can become a parent.”