The International Potluck supper sponsored by Unity in Community in honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King Day drew a roomful of people to the James P. Austin Community Center, last Thursday night.
Since 2004, UIC or Unity in the Community has met once a month in downtown Lake Wales. Originally the pet project of a Leadership class from the Lake Wales Chamber of Commerce, the UIC “promotes unity among the different racial and social backgrounds within the community,” UIC President Howard Kay explained. Along with Dorothy Wilson, Linda
Kimbrough and Pastor Jeff Kantz of First United Methodist Church, the UIC works on projects to bring the community together.
Mayor Gene Fultz described the UIC in more detail. “Lake Wales has had a turbulent history,” he said. “This program has been very successful. It’s all about trust; UIC has brought that trust back to Lake Wales.”
Part of the meeting is having a meal together. Students from the Lake Wales High School Orchestra provided entertainment during the meal.
But UIC isn’t just about meeting together once a month and having a meal. Eugene Kendrick, the assistant principal at Lake Wales High School, had several things to share with the audience.
The subject for the evening was mentoring young people, and Kendrick made it a point to reach out and try to recruit members of the community. “For the past three years we’ve had a program called Highlander Bridges, pairing students up with teachers in an effort to help give a positive influence,” Kendrick said. In addition to his recruitment efforts, Kendrick
presented an award to Kim Thomas, one of the mentors at Lake Wales High School, for her exceptional drive and willingness to help the students. “It’s a heart issue,” she said. “It’s not just a job, it’s something you love. God has given me this gift, and I love helping other.”
After the award presentation, Kendrick introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Tommy Shaver. Dr. Shaver is a professor at Valencia, a minister and published author. Kendrick and Shaver played on the UCF football team together in college, where Shaver also mentored Kendrick. “I am a mentor, because someone mentored me … it was just a natural process. I just decide that I wanted to be a mentor, I evolved into one.” Shaver addressed the importance of mentoring.
“A lot of times, it’s the missing puzzle piece in a young person’s life,” he said.
“Mentoring is intentional, influential and transformational. Both parties must be committed,” he added.
After ending his presentation, Shaver opened the floor to some question and answer time, addressing comments from the community, and even some of the students from Lake Wales High School.
Positive influences can be hard to come by, especially for high school students who are struggling to discover who they will be as an adult. For the members of UIC, this meeting helped them to discover a need in their community, and another way for them to come together to improve the lives of everyone in Lake Wales.