The Dundalk Eagle: Lacks Luncheon Honors Community Leaders
Oct 8, 2018
It was a sold-out crowd for the third annual Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group (HLLG) Luncheon, held last Friday at Fleming Senior Center in Turner Station.
Community leaders, elected officials, religious leaders, residents and friends gathered to remember late Turner Station resident Henrietta Lacks, honor outstanding community members and raise funds to benefit HLLG’s work.
Lacks has become increasingly well-known in recent years. A Virginia native, she and her family moved to Turner Station seeking a better life and work at the steel mill. Though she died of cervical cancer in 1951, she became “immortal” after her cells were harvested and used in medical research. That cell line — known as HeLa — has been used in many of the most important medical advances in history. They continue to be used in medical research today.
Founded in 2011 by Turner Station community leader Courtney Speed, HLLG has worked to promote and extend Lacks’ legacy in the community and across the state, country and world.
Among the projects being promoted by the group is an effort to fund a wax figure depicting Lacks for Baltimore’s National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. Funds raised during last week’s luncheon will benefit this effort.
A portion of the proceeds will also benefit CCBC’s Henrietta Lacks Endowed Scholarship. Created in 2012, the scholarship awards STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students — with a preference for local students — at CCBC.
To date, CCBC has awarded $16,500 worth of scholarships to 23 students, and raised $35,000 for an endowment to support future scholarships.
CCBC president Dr. Sandra Kurtinitis was on hand at this year’s luncheon.
“Our first name is ‘community’,” Kurtinitis said of the college’s local involvement.
She added,” We are a part of Turner Station.”
The luncheon also honored four individuals who are making a positive impact in the community.
Juanita Morton was recognized as Woman of the year.
A longtime community volunteer, Morton and her husband, James A. Morton II, built the James A. Morton and Sons funeral business.
She has also been active in the Turner Station Development Corporation, the Turner Station Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and St. Matthew United Methodist Church.
Pastor W. Eric Johnson of Union Baptist Church was honored as the 2018-2019 Man of the Year.
Serving the Union Baptist congregation since 2004, he is also a committee member of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center’s Healthy Community Partnership, a board member of the Turner Station Family Discovery Center and a member of the Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group and the Baltimore County and Vicinity Ministerial Alliance.
The Rev. Vaughn C. Greene, president and founder of Vaughn C. Green Funeral Services and Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services, was honored as Business Owner of the Year. In addition to his business, Greene is pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church.
Also honored last Friday as Theodore Mack, former chair of the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture. He is a member of the board of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum and the Maryland Historical Society, a founding member of the Northern Arundel Cultural Preservation Society, chair of the Annapolis Heritage Commission and serves on the President’s Committee for the Morgan State University Choir.
The luncheon also featured many distinguished guests, including members of the Lacks family and several elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-7) and state Del. Adrienne Jones (D-10), community leaders, including Turner Station Conservation Teams president Gloria Nelson, and friends of HLLG, such as Great Blacks in Wax founder and president Dr. Joanne M. Martin and Halifax County Industrial Development Authority executive director Matt Leonard.
Also attending the event were Dr. and Mrs. Roland Pattillo. Dr. Pattillo studied under Dr. George Gey, who originally propagated the HeLa cell line. He later became close with the Lacks family, even purchasing a headstone for Henrietta Lacks’ grave.
The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Kamila A. Alexander of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.
For more on HLLG activities, visit www.henriettalackslegacygroup.org
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