Trustees of Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina (BCH) recognized the 25th anniversary of its president by creating the Michael C. Blackwell Legacy Award and by establishing the Michael C. Blackwell Endowment Fund to help children in perpetuity.
Blackwell, a North Carolina native who became BCH president July 1, 1983, was surrounded by a host of supporters and friends from his past during a worship service and luncheon Sept. 16 at Rich Fork Baptist Church in Thomasville. BCH was founded in Thomasville by John Mills in 1885, and statewide headquarters are there, on the campus of Mills Home.
BCH board chair Jim Goldston said the legacy award would recognize once every five years a BCH employee who exhibits the "calling, passion and desire to serve" exemplified by Blackwell during his quarter century of service. Trustees awarded the initial Legacy recognition to Blackwell.
The Michael C. Blackwell Endowment Fund will exist within the BCH endowment to provide ongoing institutional support. BCH development leader Brenda Gray announced that gifts and pledges had reached $254,854 by Sept.16.
Special elements included an original organ piece arranged by 1944 BCH alumnus Milton Bliss and played by Mills Home Baptist Church pastor Randy Stewart; special music by the North Carolina Baptist singers; a personal address by Pamela Annas, currently a BCH trustee who was a student at Ridge Road Baptist Church when Blackwell led that youth group after graduating from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; a message from Jeremiah by C.F. McDowell, former BCH staffer and currently pastor of First Baptist Church, Laurinburg; and an address by Sharon Allred Decker, a childhood friend and daughter of Dot Allred, a woman Blackwell credits with enormous influence on his life.
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and Larry Hovis, coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, led opening and closing prayers.
In closing comments, Blackwell recognized the contributions to his life by many in the room. He said he now carries a piece of each of them in himself.
"Today, we join hands for children as a part of God's mighty army," he said. "Together, we march forward to claim the Promised Land."
"It is my pledge today that I will walk before you, and I will walk behind you, and I will walk alongside you to bring light out of darkness, calmness out of chaos, and hope out of despair, so help me God," he said.
Blackwell, 66, is the eighth president of BCH and only the second in the past 50 years. BCH serves 1,500 children annually at campuses and single cottages in 16 locations.